Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Contrariness in the Social Imagination, really?

Contrary behavior means deliberately doing the opposite of what others routinely or conventionally do.  The question is why do that? Is it a form of deviant behavior? Is it a strategy to win favor for one's own agenda? Does it serve a social purpose? Yes and no. Before, we answer those questions, let us look at a society in which contrary behavior was a kind of 'norm' or served a purpose for the society.

Contrary was a member of a Native North American tribal group who adopted behavior that was deliberately the opposite of other tribal members. The Contraries were found among the historical Amerindian tribes of the Great Plains. They were a small number of individuals loosely organized into a cult that was devoted to the practice of contrary behavior.

The Contraries are related, in part, to the clown organizations of the Plains Indians, as well as to Plains military societies that contained reverse warriors. The Lakota word heyoka, which translates as clown or opposites, serves as a collective title for these institutionalized forms of contrary behavior of the Plains Indians. When Lakota Indians first saw European clowns, they identified them with their own term for clowns, heyoka.

The Contraries of the Plains Indians were individuals committed to an extraordinary life-style in which they did the opposite of what others normally do. They thus turned all social conventions into their opposites. This behavior was not just tolerated but we must imagine encouraged in some and not in others.
Maybe there were some who in the group/tribe who exhibited contrary behavior (deviated from the norm) and it was encouraged as a means of sustainability rather than to allow it to be destructive for the social group.

Especially, when we consider that the social role of the Plains Indian clowns was ceremonial since they performed primarily during rituals, dances and feasts. Unlike the clowns, the special role of the Contraries was not restricted to brief performances, rituals or the warpath. It was their everyday life. The Contraries of the Plains Indians were known to be not only unique but also historically unprecedented.

We can and should ask if we can observe this 'contrariness' in today's post-modern Judeo-Christian Roman/Greek political society? And, if we can observe it, why does it exist or is tolerated?  Aren't we here in the 21st century mostly critical thinkers, free of religion? If yes, who would be contrary to that and why? Likely, we leave that up to the psychologist or psyche-analyst.  Let's first consider what is critical thinking, as the kind of thinking common among us.

The critical habit of thought, if usual in society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded by stump orators; hence they are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence, uninfluenced by the emphasis or confidence with which assertions are made on one side or the other. They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices and all kinds of cajolery. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens. ~ William Graham Sumner 1906                                                                                                                                                                 
We can probably agree that critical society is a community of people who value critical thinking and value those who practice it.  It is a society continually improving and its most distinguishing feature or characteristic is its emphasis on thinking as the key to the emancipation of the mind, to the creation of just practices, to the preservation and development of the species.

Unfortunately there are no critical societies in the world.  Nor have there ever been.  The idea represents an ideal not yet achieved, a possibility not yet actualized.  There is no culture on earth where critical thought is characteristic of everyday personal and social life.

On the contrary, the world is filled with superficiality, prejudice, bias, distortions, lies, deception, manipulation, short sightedness, close-mindedness, righteousness, hypocrisy, on and on, in every culture in every country throughout the world.  These problems in thinking lead to untold negative implications - fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, pain, suffering, injustices of every imaginable kind.

Perhaps, social media and news media, can be thought of as the implementation of the contrarian social weapon. When you hear/read the news no matter what your preferred source is... isn't it a kind of coping mechanism in that you hope that whatever you hear and read is contrary to your feelings and or opinions and this helps you to cope when they are and especially are not.

Perhaps, the Plains Indians Contrarians were used to combat: fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, pain, suffering, and injustices of every imaginable kind within their society. But, you should ask where is the agreement reality in that? Well, if you agree I can be contrary, and I agree you can be... there it is; I suppose. Maybe the purpose of being contrary is served in the vast landscape of the social imagination simply because 'critical thought' does not exist in the social imagination. And, thus everyone appears to be contrary. How could we be critical of the social imagination? Especially, in a fallen state as this social reality is since the Fall... exactly.

However, in agreement we can be and must be about only one thing - the Creator; and, in that there is no criticism. Among those who have such foundation, it is understood that people can agree only because there is an absolute point of departure (being) in the social imagination. Now, whether we agree on it or not does not matter as much as the fact that there is such even without having to agree. For sure, there are two different endings for those in that agreement reality and those who are not.

*Sources ~ Wikipedia [search Contrary]


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ ~ Galatians 1:10.

  3. Serving God is seen as contrary to 'today's' preferred norm which is to serve man. We are to serve God!

  4. You see, if I am trying to win the approval of human beings, I am contrary to God. For what matters most is that God He who is Jesus Christ is King of Kinds and Lord of Lords!