A Culture At Rest Tends to Stay At Rest

I am certainly skeptical of some of the views expressed on this blog. I am neither polyamorous or steeped in the glamor of the fashion industry. I am politically conservative on not only economic but social issues as well, I believe that religion has value that science cannot replace, I hesitate to equate what’s natural with what’s normative, and as a business consultant I spend most of my time in airports and board rooms. Obviously, my beliefs and lifestyle aren’t exactly aligned with the themes of this blog. Yet, Polyglamorous and I have a couple of fundamental beliefs in common. We believe that constant questioning is critical to human progress and that young people today aren't doing enough of it.

Newton’s first law of motion, inertia, states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by an outside force. This same concept applies to human culture. People have a natural tendency to resist change, an evolutionary trait that helped our ancestors create stable communities. This negative social inertia, while at times beneficial, can also be detrimental to the evolution of our society. Progress, whether it’s political, economic or technological, requires positive social inertia—cultural momentum that challenges the status quo and champions a better future. Just as an object remains at rest unless it’s influenced by an outside force, so too does our society tend to remain at rest unless influenced by new ideas. Ideas are the force of culture, and new ones often require new ways of thinking.

The new ways of thinking that create positive social inertia are a product of open minds, of people who aren't afraid to question, challenge, and explore. They emerge from the belief that the way it is isn’t the way it has to be. This doesn’t mean we abandon what works today, but it does mean that we should always ask whether it can work better tomorrow. For, if we don’t question where we are, we’ll never get to where we could be. Skepticism, curiosity, and openness are vital to our society. They drive the growth of human knowledge. They build understanding and bring people together. They help us realize that, as Andrew W.K. recently wrote in New York’s The Village Voice, “the world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist—the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world.” They remind us that, as former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” And, they reinforce Muhammad Ali’s belief that “impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”

This is what Polyglamorous represents. It provokes thought. It asks why. It challenges social constructs and cultural conventions. It calls people to be conscious, intentional, and informed. It defies the assumption that fashion is always shallow and pop-culture always pedestrian. It dares to suggest that what seems correct isn’t always right. It pleads for people, especially young people, to see that there’s a big world out there full of wonder, whimsy, beauty, and mystery, and that there are so many different ways to explore it.

So, while I may not agree with everything Polyglamorous posts, I do agree that an open mind is an essential fashion, one that never goes out of style.