This is a conditioned thing and thereby impermanent, nevertheless it puts constraints on what one may do in the world. It is easy to see that social acceptability is both time varying and context dependent. For example, buggery used to be illegal in the UK, now it isn’t and within Islam, as I understand it, a certain amount of polygamy is allowed according to the ability to support. Yet this social acceptability is an arbiter of how a society works, rather what it allows. It is “concrete” yet it changes, people forget this. Now I am not suggesting that being a bomb wielding punk rock anarchist is a road to freedom, nihilism is nihilism after all. Destruction just because one has the hump and feels disempowered, isn’t such a great idea. Social acceptability is a means whereby society is conditioned, it has the positive side of limiting chaos and the negative side of suppression. In a conurbation there must be at least a few rules for it to function, these need not be social “rules” however. Stray too far from what is deemed acceptable and you may become outcast. This social exclusion is a thing of dread for some and a relief for a few others.
If everyone did only that which was socially acceptable, society would never change or if it did change, it would only do so very slowly. If Siddhārtha had done what was socially acceptable, he would have stayed in the palace and become king. There would be no Buddhism and the world would be poorer as a result. Luckily, he didn’t. How then do we balance this force, this requirement, for social acceptability with the need for change and evolution? There is no easy answer. History suggests that those who are socially unacceptable always have conflict with this “force” and the “requirements” of wider society. It is impossible to move within these requirements and be true to themselves, so instead of being closeted they step outside, they may even form subcultures. The gay scene is one such subculture and it has its own vibrancy. A part of societal change stems from the formation of subcultures and when they are sufficiently large, the mainstream, finally and dragging its feet, starts to accept them as socially acceptable. It is very often a slow and painful process. Social acceptability is beset with a tremendous inertia. Yet most have tut-tutted at least once in their lives. It is a flag, a standard, which is often more than a little judgemental, with pursed lips and pointy fingers to boot.
Provided that I stick to certain rules, I can don a mantle of social acceptability. If I put my teacher hat on and do tutorials whilst speaking only on that subject, that is OK. I am allowed to get away with that. Should I start talking about heavy duty yoga in such a context, that don’t go down so well. If I am in an entrepreneur like set up and I talk about start-ups that is dandy. If I mention shamanism, not so. I can just about get away with Aikido, that is socially acceptable. In California it is OK to be a bit more whacky, in Surrey it is taboo. Social acceptability almost inevitably leads to closeted behaviour of one kind or another, it can cause people to, lie and to live a lie. But we all forget social acceptability is a conditioned thing, especially when we require it. It is something we inflict upon each other. If something is not socially acceptable it is tarnished and lest we be tarnished to, we disassociate ourselves from the tarnished being. Please note I am not advocating heinous or harmful behaviours, I am talking about things which although different are not all that “bad” at all, in that they harm nobody.
On the way to freedom, the perceived wall of social acceptability and social compliance needs climbed, if only mentally and not outwardly. One has to stop buying in to a conditioned thing as if it were the ultimate truth or reality.
My own social acceptability is conditioned towards how I behave, what I talk about and do. It demarcates my ability to interact according to some unwritten yet commonly held parameters.
Provided that I am a good boy, and do as I am told, I am socially acceptable. If I am as I ought to be, all is fine. Because my life trajectory does not fit with how the narrative of should goes, I more of less have to live “parallel” to the world at large. My intersection with it is minimal. My trajectory is not orthogonal, yet the overlap is minimal. The coupling matrix elements are tiny. It looks likely to remain that way.
There is no reason why the world at large need concern itself with this state, unless I have something it wants or needs. Aside from A level science I have not really found anything for which there is a ready market, given my current nature. What I can also do is blather on here.
Having used myself an example, it is very easy to say that the reason I am here is entirely down to me, it is my fault, I am to blame. If I had been more amenable to being socialised, I could be in a very different place now, maybe South Kensington for example. But I am not. Looking backwards to the land of if only, does nothing. In saying that it is my fault we are neglecting the duality of tango. One of the tools used to enforce social acceptability is blame, another is shame. It is a funny old thing this social acceptability and one which many crave. Without it, it can be difficult to do “business” of any kind. We rely on the approval of others to get things done. Approval being withheld, less is possible. Giving approval is the carrot used to instil social acceptability, withholding the carrot is the stick used to enforce. Sounds like a conditioned or conditional thing, doesn’t it?
I’ll hypothesise that rarely is social acceptability a medium for evolution or change. More often than not, it is the brake. Very rarely it can be the accelerator. It is never the ignition.