Evan Shang

The Shaping of Conventions


Everything we do in life seems to follow a set of unwritten rules that were silently agreed upon. People sometime ask, “Why don’t we go out on the streets naked or walk on all fours?” It’s because these actions are abnormal to us. These unnamed norms and conventions that are implemented to the place we live in. They help us justify our normal actions on a daily basis. But how are norms and conventions of a country decided? We almost always deem what the majority of people are doing as normal. Thus, I believe that the conventions and norms of a society are shaped by the people around us. Two very good examples of this belief are the 1984 and the film V for Vendetta. They provide amazing insights on the governments implementing the norms and conventions for the country. While we may think that these worlds are outside of reality, but we can still relate to the people in those worlds. Both 1984 and V for Vendetta prove that norms and conventions are all developed by the people and even though they are well upheld there are still chances that these conventions will change.

V for Vendetta is a movie takes place in a future dystopian London, where the government has full control over its people. It tells the story of how one man was able to change the conventions of an entire nation. It starts off with a man named V who sees the flaws and corruption of the government and decides to do whatever it takes to change the state that the nation is in. Most of the people living in the dystopian Europe, find that curfews, propagandas, and disappearance of other people to be normal due to the immense influences of the government. V then decides to sneak in to a TV station and broadcast his own program where he proved that this government was flawed and that he sought out people to join him in creating a new future free from fear of the government and its conventions. A quote from the broadcast that influenced many people is, “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government, the government should be afraid the people.” In the end V starts a rebellion and everybody in London protested. He succeeds in overthrowing the government by killing the head of the government and destroying parliament building. Because of that many people believed in the same thing, they were able to change the norm and conventions that existed before.

The conventions from V for Vendetta are very similar to the ones in 1984 and the lives of the people were also much related between the two medias. The governments between the two also shares numerous of similarities. I believe that in the beginning, the government made a big group of people afraid of them and made them follow their orders. Because of this, others will become influenced by peers to obey the government and years later, it becomes a norm to fear and obey the government even without realizing it. They enforce curfews, propagandas, and support towards the nation and people will find these kinds of ominous typical and they won’t realize that they are being manipulated by the government. When watching the end of V for Vendetta, it reminded me of the 2 minute hate in 1984. During the rebellion, I am sure that not everyone agrees with V’s ideas, but they would still have to rebel to ensure that they look normal and doesn’t stand out. This is really similar to the 2 minute hate, because even though Winston Smith doesn’t know why he is shouting and screaming or why he is so angry at Goldstien, he still does it to look normal. After long cycles of these kinds of events, it will be a convention to shout, scream, or rebel against the government, because they are already considered normal things. This demonstrates that, rules and standards when living can be changed with enough people supporting the cause, just like in V for Vendetta.

These examples paint very strong images that describe how conventions and norms are shaped and made. Although these examples come from dystopias, there are some real life examples that my family and I have witnessed. My dad often told me about the Tiananmen Square protest that he participated in while in high school in the spring of 1989. The protest was about students wanting change in the Chinese government. During that time, students stopped going to school and went to Beijing to protest to the government. Since so many students were undertaking the same task, it influenced more and more people to join and soon it became a standard to join the protest at that time. Unfortunately, the protest did not succeed. Instead of confronting the protesters with words, the government send out armies to completely shut down the student protesters. Due to this event, I cause the whole population of China to fear its government greatly. After all these years the fear has been glue to the people and became a norm to not rebel against the government. I know that it is true, because I have lived in China for more than a year. While in China, I have actually seen people being arrested for insulting the government. Even my other family members told me not to say anything about the government in public or else the consequences will be severe.

In conclusion, conventions and the norms are decided not by the government, but by the people who choose to follow the orders and their influences. I believe that no matter how hard one person tries, they will never change an entire nation by himself. They can start the change which is very important, but without the support of the people, they shall never succeed. This holds true for dystopia (as seen in V for Vendetta and in 1984) and in the real world. I can conclude that to complete a task, you first need an idea then you need of team to finish it. Conventions are like that as well, they are formed by the people and not just one person.