“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.” —George Orwell
I. The Culture
In discussing cultural hegemony—the leadership or dominance of one social group over others[i]—we may observe that among the variety of cultures in America some concede to dominant cultural practices more so than others. This concession occurs in several forms, from consumerist trends and food-culture to lifestyle values and health habits. In America, acceptable cultural norms include: paying taxes, keeping up with news, furthering education or skills in order to be gainfully employed, following fashion trends, and more. Conversely, some cultures possess characteristics that not only are different from the dominant group, they actively oppose accepted cultural norms and are thus labeled deviants. In sociological terms, deviance is defined as “behavior that violates the norms of the social group in which the behavior occurs”[ii]. It’s important to note that being a deviant is not an inherently negative quality; deviants simply do not reflect the practices, beliefs, outlooks, etc. of the majority. Instead, they establish an identity constructed from a different set of values and customs. Many deviants are our heroes, our champions, and our pioneers—they are accomplished innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs who’ve found success through deviant behaviors. Deviance is a highly normative aspect of culture, and many functionalists argue that it is a constructive, necessary quality of every society. However, there are other types of deviants, both individualistic and cultural, which are troublesome and antagonistic. When a culture of purely negative deviance flourishes, not the innovating heroes mentioned before—but the group of teenagers who knock down mailboxes—this has a corrosive effect on our larger systematic society.