My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 26 December 2011

Goth, Subcultures and Conformity

I originally published this on Dec 18th, 2008, on a previous blog, but over 3 years on I still find it applicable, especially as I still get the accusation that I'm failing to be nonconformist by conforming to a subculture, as if I actually adhere to the conformist/nonconformist duality nonsense.

I read a blog entry that now seems to have moved, or ceased to exist, originally at Subculture.Blat. I can no longer remember reading it, and appeared to be mostly in agreement at least at the time, although my opinions may have since changed and I can't remember what it was I previously agreed with, but there is one point I objected to. It is not paradoxical that we Goths look for acceptance in a Gothic community while distancing ourselves from the mainstream.

Most of the Goths I know are neither trying to deliberately distance themselves or deliberately join a group. Most Goths are Goths because they like the fashion, music and lifestyle.

Some Goths do make a point of rejecting the mainstream, of putting distance between themselves and wider society. I do. I have found popular culture vacuous at best, and dangerous at worst, and would like to have nothing to do with it. That is not to say that all people in mainstream society are bad people, they are not, it is just that mainstream society is centred around ideals that are often the polar opposites of my own, such as materialism, celebrity worship, consumerism, selfishness and instant gratification.

This rejection of these conventional ideals is not a purely Gothic phenomenon. It has been passed down through all the various subcultures from the Romantics onwards. It is why subcultures exist. Yes, some subcultures have replaced these 'mainstream' faults, and I do think they are faults, with faults of their own, but the thread of realisation that living a self-serving life of materialism, greed and instant gratification is a path to ruin has been kept. Some of these subcultures have changed the world. Modern society, modern conventional society as well as modern subcultural society, has been forever changed by the hippies of the 1960s, for better and for worse.

But rejection of the mainstream does not mean rejection of any form of society. We may have been outcasted by ordinary society, and we may have deliberately distanced ourselves from ordinary society, but this does not mean we do not want to be in a community, and do mot value altruism, friendship and participation in the wider world. No, all it means is we do not want to be a part of a culture whose values we reject, and are quite happy to form subcultures, and interact between various subcultures, in groups that are almost contemporary tribes formed by common ideals, fashions and mini cultures rather than by nationality or heritage.

It is not that we reject being accepted, it is that we reject being part of the majority, or at least this is true for me. It is not that I think myself "better off alone", just better off away from the annoying banality of the ordinary, away from an empty popular culture and a society that is consuming itself. Rejection of one group does not mean a rejection of the idea of groups. It also does not mean we want the mainstream to hate us. Actually, I, at least, would like to see popular society accept Goths as part of the world, and take on positive values from all the subcultural and counter-cultural communities.

Goths who are desperately trying to be as alternate as possible, with the sole intention of being as different as possible from everyone else are not the majority of Goths, and it is not a case of just trying to avoid conforming to anything. Most Goths realise that they are conforming to what is expected of Goth, and most of them aren't doing it to fit in, they're doing it because they genuinely like it. I still wear colours occasionally, and I listen to folk and classical music, and I don't think it makes me any less Goth, I think it just makes me more me...

I don't like people who deliberately try to be as different from everybody else as possible, trying to distance themselves and reject everyone, usually because they have been rejected by everyone, dressing "to shock others... ...forcing the world to recognise them, but refusing to be a part of it", simultaneously crying for attention and pushing the world away. It does not seem to me a mature way to deal with the situation. I acted like that when I was about 13 or 14, and it does no good. Thankfully most of those people, like me, grow out of it. Thankfully most of them grow to have enough true self-esteem to not require such social coping strategies.

I may be openly walking a different path to the mainstream, but I do not do so out of bitterness and a desire for attention. I do so because that is the road I wish to walk. I accept that I am human, completely human, and I do not think holding something in common with other human beings a fault. I realise that I have my faults. I suspect my road probably has faults I cannot see from where I stand. I do not see difference as a virtue, nor as a vice, just as something that is.

I may reject mainstream society, but I do not reject humanity, and I think a lot of people are good people, and a lot of people are moving away from the faults of modern society as those faults become ever more apparent. I have also noticed that what was the mainstream is slowly holding less sway. Progress seems to be being attained by inches, but there is progress.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving me your URL, your layout is beaut!

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    1. Thankyou, it's all standard from the template wizard, except from the Vanitas painting I used as a title pic. The background is actually in the wizard, not my own. It was perfect for the blog, so I used it.

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  2. great words. really. you can find me nodding but staring at the same time now!

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    1. Thankyou :) :blush: I wrote this a while ago, and was worried it wouldn't be well received three years on. What does your screen-name mean? I thought it was "bat" in Japanese, initially, then remembered that was koumori, or at least I think it is.

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  3. I really understand of what you're getting at. Everyone are in a goth scene to have fun, not for attention. I'll cheer you up; what's favorite classical music? Even as a goth, I still listen to the alternative rock bands like The Wallflowers and The Beatles.

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    1. Exactly - what's the point of being Goth if you don't enjoy it?

      My favourite classical music? Do you mean Classical as in the period in music including Mozart and Haydn, or music as would appear on the 'Classical' stations such as Classic FM? For the former then probably Mozart's Requiem - I've sung in a performance of it as an choral alto, and I love the passion and emotion through it all. I don't know if Mozart really knew he was dying when he wrote it, but it is incredibly moving. The Rex Tremendae from that requiem makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. (Listen to the recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker with Karajan conducting). If the latter, I rather like most of the works of Liszt, and have a certain fondness for his slightly obscure choral works. Liszt himself was a fascinating man, and a lot of his music was on dark themes such as death and damnation.

      I'm not sure The Beatles could be classed as alternative, they were, to quote infamy, "bigger than Jesus" in their time and pretty much EVERYONE in the UK has heard of them.

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  4. I couldn't agree more with you, Housecat.

    Majority of Goths do it for the sake of enjoyment and as an interest like myself I got into the fashion and music together as a valid reason of taking part in the subculture at first. Then I used my creativity skills in the scene to DIY my own fashions by myself and also other ways of creating such as music, painting, photoshopping etc. About this non-conformity and conformity debate, if you like it, you are just being yourself. If you are doing it for the sake of being a 'non-conformist' to be different then you are actually conforming in the truest sense.

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    1. The sub-/culture/ exists on the basis of its culture, the art, the music, the fashion, the literature, the dancing and the club-nights, the photography... it's all what makes Goth what it is.

      If you definite yourself by opposition, then you are still being defined by the thing you are opposing; even if you want to be the mirror-opposite of something, that is still predicated on what that thing is like, and can't get away from being intrinsically reflective of it.

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  5. I didn't get involved with the Goth subculture out of any desire to be different from the mainstream. I was already outside the mainstream when I discovered the subculture. For me, it's the music, the literature and the aesthetic that I find attractive. Goth helps me to both honor and acknowledge the darker aspects of my nature, and it does so without my having to compromise my values or personal integrity.

    Do I enjoy the attention? Maybe I do at times. As a somewhat quiet and solitary person however, I'm not so much looking for attention from people outside our subculture as much as I am from those within it. More often than not, I only get to interact with other Gothic folk at our events, which occur maybe once ever couple of months or so. Bumping into someone expectedly is the only attention I really seek.

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    1. I was already outside the mainstream when I became Goth - I think the first time I tried Goth, as a babybat teenager, I was trying to make some statement of "I can't adhere to your norms, even when I try, so I'm just going to stick two fingers up to all of it and be the opposite of what you want from me", but the second time, when I came back permanently, it was because I just /like that sort of stuff/.

      I don't like the attention, especially in person. I'm not very confident in real life - I think that's why I like the internet; I don't have to be as immediate, I can have time to think out a response to things, and I'm much more insulated, I guess. I'm pretty socially awkward in real life!

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