For some of us, having a place in society seems an elusive dream, far removed from reality. Many feel ostracised by the majority group around them, whether it is for their skin colour, sexual orientation, gender, religious beliefs, where their parents are from, speaking with an accent and so much more. In the ever-changing landscape of modern society, this problem has become even more acute for young people, many of whom will be spending large part of their adult life living with their parents just because of how things have changed in recent decades. Not having a place in society where one can thrive is damaging to each individual, as well as to the society as a whole.
In Aspiring, Part 1 of the Siblings’ Tale, Elisabeth faces this problem. Her age and her heritage combined create a swamp she cannot escape (at least not at first). She says,
“My mixed status makes me unacceptable for either social sphere. From the way Mother was cut off from aristocratic circles and how hard she had to fight for Edvard to be accepted, I doubt there is any chance whatsoever I shall be able to get into those circles [...] What use could a man of trade have for a wife who does not understand what he does and cannot support him in it?”
As she grows, and finds the rules don’t make allowances for her, she can either accept her status as a “non-person” in her society, or she can rise above the rules and create her own place, something that works for her specific scenario. In Becoming, Part 2 of the Siblings’ Tale, you’ll find out if she succeeds or not.
Another example of this possibility to create your own place, is Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon. The rules of his dragon-slaying village do not apply to him. He is different. His father wants him to change who he is because he isn’t material to make his father proud. However, if the story had taken that route, there wouldn’t really have been much to tell, and we would most certainly have had a very sad movie indeed, since Hiccup would have failed—for we cannot go against our subconscious, core values. Hiccup’s core values are undoubtedly non-violence and curiosity, a willingness to get to know both sides of a story. It made for a much better tale, that he stuck to his deeper, inner self and did what he truly believed in. He created a new place for himself in his society. Dragon tamer didn’t exist before he came along.
In recent decades, the increasing rapidity of social change, boosted by technology, has made the sphere of “normal” in society almost unnavigable for ever increasing numbers of people in our societies. Add to that the pitfalls of multiculturalism and our human nature which jumps at the opportunity to distinguish groups of “us” and “them”, and the shifting sands really become hazardous. No wonder so many people out there struggle to see they can create a place for themselves. It is quite disheartening to hear all the tales of struggle and suffering with people going round in circles, rather than moving up to the pinnacle of their own personal pyramid, and yet transformation principles work for everyone. However, it is only very few who have access to those principles or who know how to pay attention to them.
For the rest of us, it may appear that our place in society will remain elusive. And yet, I disagree that young Muslim women in Sweden should be discouraged from, say, taking up a career in nursing because teachers’ prejudice dictates that “Muslim girls can’t expose their arms and the nursing profession requires this”—unfortunately completely false, and yet there are so many cases of just this one example. How about we change the rules, as in the case of nursing, where in Sweden it is possible to use disposable long sleeves, thus allowing people who don’t want to expose their arms to practise nursing safely and hygienically.
Here is my question for you: what would you love to do? And is there any social obstacle in your way? Do you have to fight to become a lawyer, like Mahatma Ghandi did? Or a pilot, like Amelia Ehrhart? Does a social rule need to make way for what you want to do or for who you are?
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