Hierarchy: Why Conformity Is Not Cooperation


When we experience rejection, sometimes it is based on something remiss in what we have done, but too often, it occurs because we do not conform to societal norms. However, we rarely get a direct and honest explanation for our rejection. When we are not conforming, many will feel threatened because the security of the social group, large or small, town or nation, is based on conforming to a certain way of living or a set of accepted beliefs. Each culture is like an enterprise, with everyone working for a particular objective. Different cultures have different objectives.

Loyalty Is About Culture

A law and order culture will have as its objective: order and promote the beliefs, practices, rules, and roles that make that happen. When someone steps outside of the accepted behaviors or beliefs, individuals in the system may feel threatened. It takes a lot of people to create and maintain a system. Conformity does serve a purpose; we create a culture and its reality by all going in the same direction. All conformity is not bad or unhealthy. But conformity and cooperation can be seen as the same thing when they are not. Conformity supports a set of cultural norms, whereas cooperation, which is more valuable, is a more open and flexible approach to getting along with others and working with an ever-changing reality. One is more fixed, and the other more flexible.

Loyalty can become transactional between members of the group and their leadership. So in some ways, it is a 2-way street, with membership and support being assured for going along. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way; people do not always keep their agreements and we often become dependent on cultural customs for our feeling of belonging. this is not a criticism but an observation. We need to be aware the all of the comforts that create connection can make us dependent and even complacent.

Add Hierarchy To The Mix

You would think that all we have to do is to get together and have conversations about reality, and of course, it is an option. However, there is an additional wrinkle to this.: hierarchy. Hierarchies act like cultural marketing systems, which promote certain attributes over others. So in a capitalistic culture like our current one, successful entrepreneurs have greater cultural status than those who are not because they advance the goals of the culture. So when we get rejection, what is being rejected is our real and true nature, and we are being invited to become what our culture wants, even if it is not right for us.

Because hierarchies reward people differently according to their standing within the cultural system, there can be serious and real consequences for not fitting in and promoting the system’s agenda. If the system is destructive and we are uncomfortable or repelled by its agenda, that can be a serious problem. So often, we make ourselves the problem in a difficult situation in order to survive. What is forgotten too often is that the culture has an obligation to its people past, present, and future. Hierarchies tend to forget or ignore that obligation. When they do, they forget there is a reality that will not be ignored. Reality is not just the problem of the average person while the spoils of their productivity accrue to the advantaged. Reality cannot be messaged away either as our natural world is telling right now as ecological systems collapse.

There needs to be a connection between reality, culture, and social norms. When there is, life works nicely because we are not fighting reality or each other. It sounds almost like an impossible dream, but it is not. It simply requires that we do some rearranging of the cultural world so it is more aligned with reality. When we do, we will all benefit, and we will have a more peaceful world.

Photo by KE ATLAS on Unsplash

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.