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Abhiram Lohit

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What are the pros and cons of living in a subculture?

We are all, to some extent, part of communities that form subcultures that are in the underbelly of what is called "mainstream" culture.

For example, the gay community, Mormons, ethnicity-based cultures without any openness to others, etc.

Most often an individual engages in such communities just like he visits a membership club. However, quite often this community becomes more of a life than the life "outside" that enclave or enclosure.

Are there advantages of doing that? In some cases we hear of the ghetto, and related social issues like poor education opportunities, perceived propensity for crime, etc. Similarly for gay people. What are the disadvantages?

Is it possible that what we call "mainstream" culture is itself such an enclave that is prejudiced against too much diversity, and thus banishes the "others" into tiny pockets?

I may not have elaborated on the deeper aspects of this question, but would love to read comments that can do that.

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  • Jul 13 2011: The biggest problem I see with subcultures is polarization. It's a vicious cycle: one the one hand, the group becomes a target for other groups because they do band together and identify themselves similarly; on the other, once the group has been targeted, it huddles closer together in a them-versus-us defensive phalanx, united by a common enemy. Sometimes, particularly for at-risk subcultures like the ones you mentioned (the LGBT community, Mormons, ethnicities), safety in numbers can be a really useful thing, but when those numbers perpetuate attacks? Somewhat less so.

    I'm tempted to think that mainstream culture doesn't exist--we're each weird in our own way, until normal looks weird. I can't honestly think of a place I've been where I've looked around and thought "mainstream!"
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      Jul 14 2011: "I'm tempted to think that mainstream culture doesn't exist"

      I would have to question that. Even accepting the fact that everyone is weird in their own way, there is always the 'ways of the most of us' versus the 'ways of "them"'. In most cases mainstream implies larger numbers. For example the elite rich in New England are, well, elite and rich. But they're still not "mainstream".

      Is it ever possible to not have ANYBODY like anybody else?
      • Jul 14 2011: You're right, Abhiram--on second thought, maybe my first impulse was a little naive. I love the idea that no one will ever exactly fit a stereotype, and that even people who do appear mainstream have hidden interests. Maybe it's true on some level, but for all practical purposes, of course mainstream culture exists, and is ruled by a sizable majority.

        However, I also like to think that it is possible to not have anybody like anybody else. While very little of what we say, think, or do is original, we each combine it in a unique way, like genetic code. Again, being practical, that might not be apparent in everyone, or even anyone. And I'm being romantic again. The greater and more down-to-earth applications of this, I think, are that while in day-to-day life people may act the same, when it comes down to specific, stressful situations or choices, those individual differences are going to determine how people act, and therefore who they are on a very profound level.
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    Jul 13 2011: Insight.

    You are aware of the mistakes of mainstream culture and you want to change this.

    You dare to be different.
  • Jul 11 2011: Another aspect could be to question why these mainstream/sub cultures exist.

    I think, especially in today's day and age, a lot of people are closed off. It is harder to make friends, to find partners and to find people that are trustworthy. If people are pushed to the side of a subculture, they may find comfort in forming or joining a new one. People that are pushed to mainstream society will most likely have had traumatising experiences from it.

    Understanding the world we live in is crucial to our early development. Whether we perceive society to be safe will evoke traits such as trust, generosity and kindness. On the other hand, seeing the world with a negative, damaging persona will only result in that child being more withdrawn from society. Insecurities given to us from our development and the surroundings which our parents subject us to, will subconsciously slowly contribute to ones personality, thoughts and feelings on the world.

    Having studied sociology and psychology a little, I think that peoples outcomes are, on many occasion, a result from their relationships with people and the world for an early age. For instance, in psychology, it has been said that peoples sexual orientation are sometimes indicated from their early relationship with their mother/father. It is when people can not find acceptance from mainstream society, that they find new places to call 'their community'. It is from situations such as this where leaders such Hitler (at first) were able to be so successful; he got to people when they were low and gave them some sense of belonging .

    Subcultures, mainstream cultures and cults are all just a reflection of our environment because, at the end of the day, everyone wants to feel wanted, and accepted, by someone or something...
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    Jul 1 2011: I really can't imagine living a normal mainstream life. Subcultures are wonderful for creating a more diverse world, and giving people a better sense of belonging. As long as one realizes theirs a world outside of there little niche of the world they will be fine.
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    Jul 1 2011: Living in central Canada all my life, I think one big reason for the ethnicity-based communities is because new immigrants don't know the language so they choose to go where most of their kind have gone.
    Besides the convenience of being able to understand at least some of the people around you, I can imagine that fundamentalists don't want to have their kids around people with "inferior" religious beliefs.

    Cons - Less open-minded to different subcultures = more prone to stereotype and be stereotyped.

    Pros - There is a part of us that likes the group vs group mentality due to a long history of tribalism. This isn't necessarily a pro in most cases, but if it didn't feel so good we wouldn't see it as much.


    Where I'm from I don't even know what to call mainstream anymore. All I know is that Lady Gaga and Katey Perry make music that's very popular, but when it comes to clothes, sports etc. it's all a blur. There aren't even any well defined cliques in schools.
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      Jul 11 2011: Hi Dan, thanks for your reply. I guess both the immigrants and the people who're already there must work together to sort of blur the boundaries.

      Your observations on music and clothes and school culture are interesting.
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    Jun 30 2011: my problem is once any culture establishes its norms, they generally are no open to acepting new norms. and im not too far from you, enjoying this heat? hahaha
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      Jul 1 2011: Thanks!

      I'm waiting for more overcast skies. Not used to the heat... :)
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        Jul 11 2011: ah, atm its not over 100 , thats a good day. lol