GRE Issue Essay 95

“Many people believe that a few individuals or small groups (family, friends, teachers, celebrities, for example) have caused them to think and behave in the way they do. Yet it is always society as a whole that defines us and our attitudes, not a few individuals.”

Man starts his life in an environment that is created by his immediate family. Members of his extended family, his friends and teachers also contribute in shaping his line of thought, attitude and behavior as he grows up. A child’s world is limited to the people around him and he has no idea about the society to which he belongs. He comes to know of the morals and values upheld by his society from whatever has been taught to him by his family. His ideology and values depend on his family and close acquaintances who may or may not have taught him the values held sacred by his society. Hence, it is obvious that small groups of people are effective in shaping our behaviors and the society has hardly any effect in defining us and our attitudes.

A society is defined by the customs and rituals followed by its people. It is evident that these rituals have percolated down to the present generation by word of mouth from generation to generation. Each generation learns from its preceding generation. If some members of a particular society move and settle down in some other country and become a part of another society, then will the society in which they are now living, completely define their attitude and behavior. Probably this may not happen because the parents of the children will teach them the values of their earlier society and the children will grow up following those morals and values only. In case, the parents decide not to teach their children about their roots, the children will learn about the society in which they are living from their friends and neighbors. In this case also, they will learn what their friends tell them and not what the society as a whole follows. Therefore, in either case it will be a small group of individuals that will determine their behavior and not the society as a whole. As far as the adults are concerned, they would have led their entire life following a set of principles imbibed from their parents and relatives and it is unlikely that they will change their behavior even after moving to a foreign land.

Take the example of a conservative society that imposes restrictions on the way its people dress. How does one justify the existence of people from this society who dare to defy such regulations? They could not have got this attitude from the society at all because the values of the society are not what these people are following. It is evident that they have formed this opinion by emulating celebrities from the same society who do not follow these regulations or from their family and friends who behave in a similar manner. Irrespective of the moral values of a society, it is ultimately the influence of a small group of people who have the power to change your thought process. Your thought process may agree with that of the society in which you live or it may be in complete disagreement with the norms followed by other members of that society.

To sum up, man has always learnt through meaningful interactions. These interactions may be with his family, friends or teachers. In today’s world the internet, print media and the television media play a very important role in helping you interact with people across the world who live in different societies. You learn a lot by just reading about them. This had broadened our horizons and man’s vision is no longer limited to the society that he lives in. Hence, it is true that our behaviors and attitudes are shaped up by small groups of people rather than an entire society.