Death and Change Death as a Result of Confronting Societys Ways

Performing deviant actions may lead to the death or failure of an individual as a result of societys inability to accept the changes enabled by these forms of behavior.

Literature and film present examples of the death or failure of deviant actors as can be seen in Platos The Apology and David Ross Pleasantville.

In Platos The Apology, Socrates dies due to his different conception of the virtuous life during the time of the Ancient Greeks.

In Ross Pleasantville, David experiences a metaphorical death as he realizes that the world of Pleasantville offers a dystopia as it delimits a persons practice of his autonomy.

The concept of deviance is generally understood to refer to the infraction of some rule. Deviant behavior, in this sense, is an act of going against a particular normative or substantive rule in society. The normative theorys conception of deviant behavior, for example, defines deviance as a behavior that is contrary to the norms of some social unit (Gibbs 484). This definition of deviant behavior is based on two assumptions (1) deviant behavior differs from one social unit to another as a result of the differences of the norms across different social units and (2) deviant behavior is dependent on norms (Gibbs 484). As opposed to this definition of deviant behavior, the labeling theory of deviance defines it as behavior that people so label as deviant (Gibbs 490). Such a definition is based on the following assumptions (1) deviance is not an inherent property of an individual (2) deviant behavior is dependent on what the conforming members of society perceive as contrary to the existing norm. The similarity between both definitions of deviance can be traced to their view that deviant behavior is dependent on the norms of a particular social group. Now, if it is indeed the case that deviant behavior is always connected to the norms of a particular social group and if norms are shared conceptions of appropriate or expected actions which are learned through interaction or membership within a social group, one can state that deviant behavior may also be learned and adhered to as a result of the endorsement. Such a claim is presented by the differential association theory. According to the theory, motivation to engage in deviant behavior is a function of exposure to norms that endorse the deviant behavior rather than  norms that decry such behavior in the course of membership group interaction (DeLamater 460). In most cases, the former theories on the subject provide more appropriate explanations for instances wherein individuals are persecuted due to their deviant acts. In line with this, the following discussion extrapolates on the effects of deviant action in enabling social change. The discussion is based on the argument that deviant actions, as can be seen in the acts of Socrates in Platos The Apology and David in Gary Ross Pleasantville, when performed during instances that a society is not open to change will initially lead to the death or failure of the deviant actor.

The death or failure of the deviant actor is a result of societys unwillingness to trade its customs and practices to new ones as it may initially cause minor upheavals of both thought and action within its social unit. An example of this can be seen in the case of Socrates in Platos The Apology. Within the dialogue, Plato traces the persecution of Socrates based on the accusations that he corrupts the youth as well as defaces the gods (425-429). In response to these accusations, Socrates argues that what he merely preaches is the path of living a virtuous life (Plato 436).  He claims,
All I do is try to go about and try to persuade you, both young and old, not to care for your bodies or your monies first, and to care more exceedingly for the soul, to make it as good as possible  virtue comes not from money, but from virtue comes money and all other good things for mankind both in private and in public. (Plato 436)

Since Socrates beliefs contradicted the norms of Ancient Greek society during the period, he was sentenced to death. His death however was not in vain as his teachings were kept in Platos dialogues and continues to provide a guide for living a philosophical life until the current century.

In the same manner that Socrates died to protect his beliefs and practices which were deviant beliefs and actions during his lifetime, David of Ross Pleasantville experienced a metaphorical death as he realizes that his initial utopian vision of Pleasantville were highly misguided as he realizes that the place hinders the practice of freedom. Within the film, David realizes that the black and white universe of Pleasantville represents a highly dualistic conception of morality wherein actions can either be good or bad and nothing else. This distinction however changes as the original inhabitants of Pleasantville deviate from their typical actions and their designated characters. Consider for example that Betty realizes that there is a life available to a housewife other than completing ones household chores. In line with their deviation from their characters, the world of Pleasantville acquires color along with its citizens. Despite the positive changes within the town, the perpetrator of these changes also experienced a metaphorical death as he chooses to leave Pleasantville due to his recognition that despite the colored world in the screen of Pleasantville, the place remains as a location whose unity and coherence requires the existence of specific norms in order for it to function well in reality.

As Friedrich Nietzsche argues, it is difficult to live in a world without norms since these norms set the social order in society, the problem however is that these norms also restrict our capability to practice our autonomy (Nietzsche 279). Given this restriction, an individual is forced to choose between subservience to the social order or freedom from this social order. Ultimately, it is the choice between these two actions which defines ones life. This in itself is implicitly stated by Yamanoue Okura, in An Elegy on the Impermanence of Human Life, as he claims, We are helpless before timeD  Which ever speeds away   D  This is the way of the world D  And, cling as I may to life,D  I know no help  (45-46). By emphasizing the limits to human life, Okura points out that it is important to distinguish from the onset the beliefs that one chooses to live by since these will ultimately define the quality of ones life. In the case of both Socrates and David, although they succumbed to death as a result of their decision to deviate from social norms, one may claim that both of them lived meaningful lives and inspired others to live meaningful lives. Their death however is a result of societys initial inability to recognize the importance of their beliefs in actions for human development.


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