Such a simple question yet there are so many different ways into answering this question, and every answer is debatable depending on how you perceive the situation.
I believe that a community is able to define an individual through the individual’s actions and mistakes. Through the mistakes and actions of the individual, it makes it easier for the community to judge and bandwagon on the opinion of others.
There is a book, which most high school students have probably read already, titled The Scarlet Letter. In the story a women named Hester is being condemned by her peers because she had commited adultery, while her husband was abroad. She is brought up to a scaffolding alongside her daughter as the community below her shouted horrid names at Hester while feeling pity for the daughter, Pearl, for she had to live a rough life of judgement and hatred because of her mother.
Hester was then bared with a scarlet letter, A, on her bosom to let people know that she had commited adultery. Because of Hester’s action, the community even said that “even the poor baby, at Hester’s bosom, was affected by the same influence..” (20) because the effect of Hester’s action affected Pearl in the same way.
This left me thinking about how even though the crime was Hester’s, the community still judged Pearl because of her connection with her mother’s actions and mistakes.
Although in the beginning of the story the community judged Hester through her mistake, they also ended up redeeming her though her actions to vindicate herself in way. She mended clothes for people as well as took close care for her daughter. She had stayed out of the limelight of her community, mostly because she was comdemned, but having made herself again people were able to see that “[she] meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.”
In a way a community can judge you for your positive actions or negative actions and although the can define you negatively that does not mean you can’t change their perspective of you in a postive way.
In Aria written by Richard Rodriguez, he mentions how he grew up in a Mexican family, where the first language he spoke was Spanish. But as he grew older, the community around him spoke English, making him have to adapt to surroundings to survive in his community. However, since his first language was Spanish, and he was already accustomed to the first language, hearing American’s speak threw him off guard.
The community had warped Rodriquez into a whole new person, where he had to adapt to his surroundings because the community had such a big influence on him. The community was able to define Rodriquez not only coming from a Spanish speaking family, but now a Spanish-American speaker.
Just like how Pearl grew up getting used to the way she was treated by the community. The community had defined her as the adulterer’s daughter, and nothing more. The influence of the community was easily able to affect the individual.
Simon Sinek, in a TedEx talk, explains how the community gives so much power and influence to one object/person, and suddenly our thoughts are altered to think the way the community does because it seems right. We lose a sense of individuality that way, because we have the gut feeling that what the community says goes and what an individual thinks is sometimes irrelevant.
He uses the Apple product as a main example. He explains how there are so many different type of laptop/desktop products out in the world, yet we give Apple so much recognition that Apple is now receiving all of the praise.
He uses Martin Luther King as another example. He mentions how a lot of people before Martin had fought for equality for the whites and blacks, yet Martin is the only one that has succeeded. He was able to succeed because he had the community by his side, and was able to be influential about everything he did. Which ties back to the question, the community was able to give Martin the power as an individual to make a difference in the world.
The Wright Brothers are another example that Sinek uses. He mentions how the Wright Brothers weren’t the only ones to have tried to make a flying plane, but since they succeeded they got the most recognition. They were able to make themselves known and accomplish their goal because they had so much support from the community to be able to accomplish their plane building.
At the end of the day, the community will always end up juding an individual on their actions and mistakes regardless if it’s commenable or condemnable.