Communities rely on basic rules of conduct or ethic that yield functioning societies in both the human and animal populations. Individuals in the communityare required to follow certain rules, behavioral patterns that construct the society and shape the social networks. The breaking of social norms and practice can thus affect the social structures and systems at a multiplicity of levels. The persons that act in defiance to the conventions constructed by the society can influence or change the positions they have in the society or the general structure of the social networks without impacting others or themselves immediately. Therefore, it implies that breaking well-defined social norms can aid individuals to upsetthe dynamics of society and thus, displaying the power of rule-breaking in changing convention-based communities. Gerben A. Van Kleef et al. denotes that powerful individuals often act at their will, even when such behavior contravenes the social norms and hence, the famous proverb of “power corrupts(Van Kleef, Homan, Finkenauer, Gundemir, & Stamkou, 2011).”The authors continue to suggest that the violation of norms indicates that an entity has the power to act according to their own will or preference in spite of the situational constraints, which fuels the perceptions of power(Van Kleef, Homan, Finkenauer, Gundemir, & Stamkou, 2011).
Luke J. Chang and Leonie Koban thus define social norms as the shared expectations about the accepted behavior for specific contexts and individuals are inspired to behave consistently with the descriptive norms(Chang & Koban, 2013). In other words, acting in alignment with what most persons would do for particular situations, even when it is against our own beliefs(Chang & Koban, 2013). As aforementioned, behaving according to the social norms strips off your will and shows acceptance to living in an orientation that is expected by the community. Phillipe Petit is a known unconventional artist that believes social deviance to change perceptions and create dispositions of the possibilities available beyond the expected.
On Wednesday, August 7, 1974, people in the Manhattan area were marveled and stopped in their tracks- not superman- but a man who can be connoted to wield his courage and a representation of the unconventional in society.The admiration was directed at a Frenchman- Phillipe Petit- who was making history and taking on, one of the riskiest ordeals- walking a high wire more than 450 meters in the atmosphere, and suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center(Haden, 2014). The daredevil act is an infamous event world-over as much as it was illegal. However, it was not his maiden attempt. The individual walked between the towers of Notre Dame in 1971, and in 1973, and also pacedamid two of the pillars of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The acts were all illegal and can be termed as the breaking of social norms. The Xpose, an entertainment article, denotes a line as seen in the movie ‘The Walk’ where Phillipe Petit is featured- all art is anarchistic to some degree(Xpose, 2015).
The rebellious daredevil act of Phillippe Petit was an action of rule breaking and performance, in a way that exudes power, control and will to do whatever that comes to mind and heart despite the social connotations or implications. The planning of the high wire walk was illegitimate as it involved the breaking of particular regulations to make it possible. In his first attempt, the artist failed to the delight of his wife. The second attempt involved the use of fake identifications and trespassing into the World Trade Center to perform the unconventional during the period. Phillipe has continually defined himself as art criminal such as a street juggler only with more physical risk(Haden, 2014). The individual broke the social norm of putting one’s life in danger and enormous risk to perform an act that may be considered by many as crazy. It was, indeed, crazy since it violated a critical social norm- valuing one’s life. To others, it can be termed a suicidal attempt. For 45 minutes, Petit walked eight times between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center- A daredevil act in the making.
It was a walk towards the unconventional and unexpected. An interview of Petit in the Dailybeast, reports that performing such an act in New York would be impossible and probably, one would be shot by the police. It denoted that it is also impossible to get a license or permission to do a legal public walk on a high wire. It goes on to highlight that being even twenty feet above the ground requires one to have a safety belt or airbed below for protection and mitigation of physical risk.It is considered a dangerous and unnecessary risk to the life and physical well-being of an individual. It underlies the social norm of the value of human life, and no actions can be taken to be positive when they put one’s life at risk or the physical well-being. Apart from the law, when Petit and his miscreants orchestrated the infamous act, he broke social norm by endangering his life and using other individuals to assist him in his actions.
However, Petit did not falter in his actions and did not regret his actions at all. In fact, in the post by the DailyBeast in an interview conducted where he was the guest, he terms his existence as illegal(Haden, 2014). The breaking of the social norm by Phillipe was more dire to his friends than him. Some of his friends were forced out of the country into oblivion. He also cheated on his wife as he graced his new found fame. The public reaction was awed by the spectacle, 1300 feet below him and with face turned up. Similar to Petit, it can be suggested that they were entirely at the moment. It can be connoted that the crowd was not at all interested in the danger the action by Phillipe Petit represented as they were not ready to see the splatter of an individual on the ground. They were rather more intent on the sense of balance or equilibrium that Phillipe had achieved as it has eluded most of the human species.
In conclusion, achieving a dream or the impossible cannot be accomplished by the general disregard of the ordinary way of thinking or the social constructs. The breaking of a norm can be cruel or entail enormous negative consequences. However, if challenging such social networks and constructs did not occur, individuals would be deemed powerless and hence, a state of paralysis and oblivion towards what lies beyond the ‘box.’ The counter-normative has led to more discoveries and liberties. For example, deviants during the emancipation period of the black Americans engaged in picketing and riots in a fight for equal rights. In the modern society, and due to the deviance, equal rights for every individual are a norm. As mentioned earlier in the paper, power corrupts. Therefore, social control has to be exerted as a predictor to the regular and expected(Brauer & Chekroun, 2005). The society has to work within particular confines to ensure peace, safety and well-being of every individual.
Brauer, M., & Chekroun, P. (2005). The Relationship Between Perceived Violation of Social Norms and Social Control: Situational Factors Influencing the Reaction to Deviance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1-22.
Chang, L., & Koban, L. (2013). Modeling Emotion and Learning of Norms in Social Interactions. The Journal of Neuroscience, 7615-7617.
Haden, A. (2014, August 8). Philippe Petit’s Moment of Concern Walking the WTC Tightrope.
Van Kleef, G. A., Homan, A. C., Finkenauer, C., Gundemir, S., & Stamkou, E. (2011). Breaking the Rules to Rise to Power: How Norm Violators Gain Power in the Eyes of Others. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 500-507.
Xpose. (2015, October 9). Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The Walk is rebellious.