A man overcoming dire circumstance, including a low-income family, working hard at a young age, using every means possible to gain an education, breaking down wall after wall, gaining power and prestige through huge personal sacrifice. The American success story deriving from common people, the average American against all odds becoming the ultimate success story. Guys like presidents, CEO’s, congressman and people of that nature. People that were once among the people now speak for the people. They rose above to obtain positions of high wealth and extreme power. The “American Underdog.”
I had been taught this my whole life in school, from my parents, from media and everywhere else that had any influence on the way that I thought. If you work hard and continually have high hopes that you will indeed someday be able to become whatever you want. After always being told this I started to think at a very young age that this is probably true. How did all these people that were on television that were in movies and played professional sports get there? They just worked hard kept doing good and eventually got to where they wanted to be. This came in to effect when I realized that my first love of baseball would mean that I would become a major league baseball player and play for the San Francisco Giants. Then I thought, I remember my mom saying something about how much she loved to run track. Hmmm I pondered, why didn’t she become a professional track star? After going outside and playing a game of whiffle ball I had already forgot what I had thought earlier. This might have been my first taste of reality I just failed to realize it.
Up until I had graduated high school I hadn’t really thought about anything else I wanted to do, because I had planned on just being a professional sports star, president, or very famous. I still did well in school though making sure that my grades were good. My mother put a very high emphasis on getting good grades so that tended to balance out the dream of becoming a millionaire sometimes. Even in high school though I can’t believe how much the optimism kept going. With slogans like “Break down the Walls” and “The Sky is the Limit” I was for sure going to be great and I just knew it. I really didn’t take the tests necessary to get in to college to seriously because at this point in my life I planned on going to Hollywood and becoming a famous actor. Right after high school I would get a job during the summer and work and save enough money to move to Hollywood. With no real plan this was of course bound for disaster. Luckily, by all this commotion of being told that you could be all you want I eventually exhausted all of my routes to extreme wealth and realized that I was going to need a different plan of attack. For me it was the United States Army.
I wanted to give this example of me and the way I thought before to compare and contrast the way things could have happened if I hadn’t chosen an organization like the army to keep me from becoming deviant. Considering the fact that I was already running into two minor problems, because of my sense of not caring. All of the false hope that was put into by society had eventually started to crash by the middle of my senior year when I had realized that maybe my dreams at this point might be far-fetched. By this time though my deviant behavior had already taken hold I was drinking at a young age, getting very unsatisfactory marks in citizenship, and my grades had started to slouch when finally I realized that I might not even be graduating with the rest of my class. Although, I still had good grades my citizenship was not going to allow me to graduate until I did community service to make up all of the U’s that I had obtained. I was well on my way to becoming deviant which I didn’t realize was in part I think, because of the “you can do anything you want mentality.”
All at one time I realized that I didn’t have the money and neither did my mother to pay for college that I might not even get excepted and along with court costs and other fines I had obtained through my party lifestyle we were barely scraping by. I didn’t realize this until I read the chapter on deviance and the discussion’s that we had in class that part of the reason I had such a care-free attitude was, because I thought good things were going to happen for me no matter what. That eventually one of the millions of optimistic thoughts plugged into my head by many different sources would take hold and send me on my way. This didn’t happen sending me into a downward spiral.
I wanted to use Robert Merton’ Strain theory, the extent and kind of deviance depend on whether a society provides the means to achieve cultural goals. I became deviant I think after the fact that I realized that all of the stuff that had been told to me about you can be whatever you want might not be true. No matter how hard I tried I probably wasn’t going to be able to become a professional basketball player. In part because, I was I am not that tall and because, of are financial situation I had been working since I was thirteen. After I realized that and it was too late to get into college I had a couple options, but I decided that the best thing for me would be through the army. Now Merton describes innovation as using unconventional means like say street crime to achieve a culturally approved goal say wealth. I am willing to say that there is different kinds of innovation though like for example, I used the army to sign off all of my U’s so that I could graduate on time, also get forty thousand dollars for college. I think this is a form of innovation too depending on how you define unconventional. I see it as you means that are not necessarily common among society. I think in turn this is a different kind of deviance than is talked about in the book that it doesn’t not really have to be criminal to be deviant.
The army’s enlisted ranks are a group that would be considered deviant by most in society people similar to me that have come into the army for similar reasons. Whether it be to get out of trouble, pay for college, gain a career they deem is honorable, and there are many more. In the army you get to know a lot of different people on a personable level, thus hearing many different stories. It seemed that one thing was true almost everyone there wanted to be something else, they wanted to be a rock star, a movie actor, football player, wrestler, politician, and many other of these so called great achievements. Most of them had one thing in common and that was the fact that for this reason most of them didn’t take school or many other things very seriously, because once again they thought things were going to happen to them. They would eventually get there big break and become what they wanted to be. Then when that didn’t happen they looked to the army as a place that could help them out, with college money, a place to stay, food, and experience. After the reality had set in that they weren’t probably going to become the millionaire that they thought, they had to make a decision quick and the army was the answer.
Now the army is an organization and in any organization corruption is present, I think this corruption is based on the pressure that society puts on a person to excel. Once again these false hopes that you can be whatever you want to be. I think that is why deviance is ever so present in capitalism. Capitalism is based on two things really individual achievement the desire to be great and at the top and completion, basically to smash the other person’s dream while you obtain yours. This is why crime is present everywhere even at the top for example, for a person to get to the top that means they have had to beat out the competition for many different jobs, thus proving that no matter what you can’t always be what you want.
I also want to talk about Travis Hirschi’s control theory that social control depends on anticipating the consequences of one’s behavior. I think he is on to something, but I would like to try to elaborate on his theory saying that everyone is tempted by deviance, but most people don’t act on it because of the possibility to lose your career or the reaction of your friends and family. At the same time these same friends and family are the one’s pressuring you to be whatever you want. Telling you that wow if you work hard you can own that company some day and always expecting you to make that next step. So the morals and consequences are the reason that most people don’t break the rules, but the constant pressure will eventually break most people. Even if they don’t commit a major offense or get into major trouble. I can bet that almost every person has done some sort of deviant thing for advancement in one place or another rather it be in a social group, work place, school, or some other setting. The pressure’s set forth by society and family are what make people deviant.
The chapter on deviance and the class discussions have brought to light so many things for me. They have given me and idea about what I think deviance is and what I think cause it. Before I just listened to all these things like well that is part of life and society. People tell you that stuff so that you will do great and become the best you can be. I never thought about how that could actually be harming us and putting these pressures and false hopes on us. Which in turn can lead to deviant behavior and rash decisions that can keep a person struggling to keep their head above water. It had never in crossed my mind before about how this expectations that are put on us by family and society could ultimately be what is causing deviance in our society. When someone is giving you such a general opportunity of you could be whatever you want to be with no guidelines what so ever just work hard, do good in school, and be a good person and great things will happen for you. When this doesn’t happen this is eventually creating conflict for a person that most of the time can only lead in two directions one is the right path and one is the wrong path there is no in between. That when a person finally finds out that he or she is not going to be famous or the president then they are either required to use unconventional means to obtain status such as deviance. Or they are required to make quick decisions and get stuck in something that they might not want to do.
This is going to change to way I think forever, because when hear something like “The Sky is the Limit” I will be able to look and actually think maybe this is the reason that so many teenagers at this school aren’t doing as well as other schools. Maybe there is more drugs and teen pregnancy at this school than most. Maybe the expectations put on most kids in this school by their parents, peers, and community aren’t realistic. No I don’t think that you shouldn’t let kids dream and hope, because I think that is very important. Maybe just while all of this dreaming and hoping are going on we can keep a little bit of reality going on with it. So that if something doesn’t work out that they will always have this backup idea in their head.
It is also going to change the way that I look at crime and other stuff in general, of course, I don’t think that crime is based solely on the fact of false hope and high expectations I realize that some crime is inevitable, but I will just be quicker to analyze why I think this particular thing has happened and what events came about to make this happen. In general I want to say that this you can be whatever you want to be mentality might be the reason America is so great today, but it might also play apart in why deviant behavior is present in some circumstances and why some people turn to alternate means to obtain goals that society looks at as an achievement. Maybe if you let you kids dream and hope that when they get a certain age and you think they can understand that you sit them down and explain to them that the odds and reality of becoming certain things aren’t as easy as becoming a policemen or firemen and that yeah it is great to have high expectations, but you should also think logically and have some sort of backup plan so that you don’t hit rock bottom if you first plan fails. Don’t take away a person’s dreams or hopes just help to give them a plan so that if they do fall there is some cushion at the bottom.
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