Social Choreography/The Mark of Cain

Quite simply, some of us never picked up basic social norms during childhood. Consider:  one can almost tell a Brit and an American apart by their age lines.  Each adheres to a different set of orthodox facial expressions. Any culture has what I call social choreography, a set of conventional body language that is for most people acquired and carried out subconsciously.  When a career outsider like me walks into the room and is out of synch with the collective “rhythm,” those who belong perceive that something is “foreign” about me without knowing why.

No matter where you go, nothing changes that much.  Each new set of people behaves much as the last.  A past history of low social rank or outright social exclusion leaves its mark that follows us around wherever we go.  One begins to appreciate just how effective human beings are at being social animals, just how competitive social existence is.  Almost regardless of intelligence level, people can make a quick call based on how someone speaks (0r doesn’t speak) and holds their shoulders.  They always know on that gut level whether or not you’re confident and capable of defending yourself.  Whether or not you have friends and allies to back you up.  Whether or not you would be a useful ally to them.  The past keeps repeating itself, it’s a tough cycle to break out of.  There’s a couple days (at most) after meeting each new group of people before one is put into their place.  For lots of introverts it’s the same place time after time, no matter how they might scramble to put on appearances during that brief introductory period.  It’s like going through life with a mark of Cain imprinted in one’s forehead as one wanders from place to place.

Most people automatically perform these social processes and have little or no conscious awareness of what they do.  For the pensive introvert, they are painfully obvious even as they see yet another group going through its predictable motions.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Social Choreography and The Mark of Cain first appeared there as separate, related entries.  They are reproduced here by permission.

[image:  Thelonious Monk, who was known for leaving the piano bench and engaging in idiosyncratic dancing while other musicians in his band continued playing]

on 04/25/11 in featured, Politics | No Comments | Read More

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