A thought ? Good God quick hide it, don’t let the neighbours hear,
This terrible thing being different fills us all with fear,
Conform! Conform! Conform! Don’t let it once appear
We’re not the same as them – it’s usually us that gets to jeer
At them, not them at us! Robust rebuttal, that’s the trick,
This thought an aberration, completely, sadly, sick,
Somehow slipped in sideways, so let us give it stick –
Knock it on its head my friends with this hefty thought-brick!
There, such relief, it’s gone, that wasn’t really bad,
I think my mind was wandering, I was a little mad,
I’m just the same as you again, silent now and dead,
There’s nothing – absolutely – inside this empty head.
No, honestly, believe me, I’d never tell a lie,
I see the same as you do and I’ll see it ’till I die,
Harmless now and mindless, I’m baffled by your cry,
I’m sure that I’m identical and if I’m not I’ll try.
You see ? It feels so much safer in this happy little crowd
(I’m sorry, you’re quite right, that was a little loud):
The limits now are blatantly, immediately quite clear,
It’s ridiculously obvious why you didn’t want me near.
I’m going to practice empty natter, looking straight ahead,
This clique is all that matters and it fills me full of dread
To even contemplate the crime of breaking free
By saying ‘Hi’ or smiling to those that aren’t like me.
Belonging is the prime aim, the group is all I’ve got
(Without it I’m a nothing and nothing’s not a lot),
My courage isn’t very strong, you’re invisible to me
Unless the group I value decides that it can see.
I’ve got a stony face and I’ll take it from this bag
(If you don’t belong to my lot you’ll never see me glad):
Your two heads are outrageous, I don’t know how you dare –
I’m worried you’re an alien so I’ll try this see-through stare.
I think within the limits that the greater group has made,
Its values are inflexible and I’m everso afraid
Of challenging the status quo by stepping out of line
(As long as I’m inside the group then everything’s just fine).
– but what the hell I’ll try it, I’ll give it just one go,
Thinking differently is difficult and I’m a trifle slow
To pick up on the concept of being first of all myself,
My education’s told me that it’s harmful to my health.
But as I do this hold my hand, this is terrible for me,
I have this awful fear of being excluded socially:
My life is based on groups and belonging to a team –
My early years were spent on practising this theme.
I’ve run around for bells at school, sat up when I’m told,
Written down pure rubbish in case it’s useful when I’m old,
Shut down imagination, learnt uncreativity,
Swallowed one long syllabus of dead conformity.
I’ve played endless games on school fields where I was hammered into shape
(Put all the sheep together now, there must be no escape),
Authority is paramount, we must get used to this
(If we trained individuals who’d take the bullet’s kiss?)
A few million thinking people, that really wouldn’t do
(Anarchy and chaos, at least WE’VE thought it through):
Opening up our minds to control our destiny
(How the hell do you have a nation when everybody’s free ?)
At home I took a look ahead, saw how I must behave,
My youth meant that I easily became my culture’s slave:
I never had the chance to think, it really wasn’t done –
I was trapped within a minefield by the dead hands of the dumb.
I found myself a partner and then eventually
Between us we produced a little family:
What spark I had was all-consumed, my relatives made sure
The help they gave depended on me closing my mind’s door.
I tried a little work and there the message was the same
(To get on with the mindless you must play their mindless game),
And if you don’t you’re cast aside, and if you do you’re dead,
For unthinking is a way of thought that quickly fills your head.
And when I went to pray to God the priest spelt out the rules
(God is great, religion’s not, they only suffer fools) –
No one can accuse me of running from a fight
But I realised to survive that my group was always right.
So it isn’t really my fault I’ve become this walking shell,
There is a light inside but it’s hidden by a Hell:
I wasn’t trained for strength of thought, individuality –
I look but only where it’s safe, I know the boundary.
So let me say a little prayer and look up for a star,
God is infinite but it really isn’t far
To reach up and out and with my mind to catch myself a dream,
And bring it back down here to Earth to shape an inner gleam.
And with this gleam I’ll bind my heart and fasten it with fire,
And face the world quite proudly, full of the desire
To live my life with steely strength and bold integrity,
Upright to the very end in my eternity.
A poem about how we’re conditioned to conform.
This was initially based on my time as the only Dad at nursery, ostracised by everyone, but also how I observed the women in our street from a different culture being conditioned to forget their hopes and dreams.
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