The ultimate skill of divergent people
and what I learned from watching the Divergent trilogy
I am sure that you have seen the trilogy divergent (if not, I definitely recommend it!), this science-fiction story taking place in Chicago in an environment that could be defined as a post-war city trying to rebuild and organized into 5 factions to supposedly maintain peace.
I have seen it several times, especially the first film, in different languages. Every time is a discovery… every time is the opportunity for me to dig into the story, to refine my understanding of what hides behind what is shown…
Last time I have seen Divergent was in English, with my kids, since I wanted them to practice (the level of English in France is desperately low and formal education is not enough to make them improve their level, but let’s debate this another day!) and I thought it was a great idea to show them a film like this one, with a strong message about humanity.
Despite all the criticisms I have read from mainly the third film, I decided to watch the entire trilogy and I must confess I am glad to have done it! I learned amazing but also frightening lessons from it, I would like to share with you here:
1°) We are all put in boxes or factions, no matter who we are!
In the trilogy, the inhabitants of Chicago are all sort out in 5 categories, the 5 factions, and they HAVE TO belong to one. Those who don’t, end up being the factionless people, those who don’t fit any box and are considered the garbage of the society… When you are born, you automatically belong to your parents’ faction, and you will have to choose yours when you grow up.
You can decide to be a member of the AMITY faction: “Amity farm the land. They’re all about kindness and harmony, always happy.” (https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Amity). You can be one of these persons who are able to forgive others in finger snap, the kind of person you have to push to their maximum limits to see them angry, the kind of person I would love to be! (it requires hard work!)
You can decide to be a member of the the CANDOR faction: “Candor value honesty and order. They tell the truth, even when you wish they wouldn’t.” (https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Candor). You can be the kind of person for whom justice is not an option but an obligation, the kind of person who hates lies and liars and who can even tell some hurtful truths, the kind of person I can be! (it takes time to quiet my mind about justice and equality!)
You can decide to be a member of the ERUDITE faction: “The smart ones, the ones value knowledge and logic are Erudite. They know everything.” (https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Erudite). You can decide to be the person who is curious about everything and grows their knowledge and skills every time they can. You can be the person whose IQ is high and who knows a lot on a lot of topics, the kind of person I tend to be! (always improve my knowledge and skills is mandatory for me, and I love to learn!)
You can decide to be a member of the ABNEGATION faction: “My faction is Abnegation. The rest all call us stiffs. We lead a simple life, selfless, dedicated to helping others. We even feed the factionless, the ones that don’t fit in anywhere. Because we’re public servants, we’re trusted to run government.” — Tris’ narration in Divergent. (https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Abnegation). You can decide to be the kind of person able to forget themselves and think about others first, the kind of person I used to be… (to a point I lost myself on this path…)
Finally, you can decide to be a member of the DAUNTLESS faction: “Then there’s Dauntless. They’re our protectors, our soldiers, our police. I always thought they were amazing. Brave, fearless, and free. Some people think Dauntless are crazy, which they kind of are.” — Tris explaining the factions. (https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Dauntless). You can finally decide to be the kind of person who shows bravery, courage and who masters their own fears when it comes to stopping people committing malicious acts, the kind of person I train to be (danger is real but fear is a choice…)
Or… you can decide not to choose…
2°) The choice is yours, so choose wisely the faction you want to belong to!
When you grow up and reach adulthood, the faction system asks you to choose your own faction through a ceremony. This can be viewed at the party you organize when you just finished high school and are considered an adult by our society. You will now have to choose the field in which you want to study and the job you want to do later… in a way, this is the same as choosing your own faction and sometimes, leaving your parents to go to another faction. Both Tris and her brother Caleb have chosen to leave their parents to live their own life with their new faction, Erudite for him, Dauntless for her. The parents appear devastated, as some parents are in real life when they see their child quitting home to go to the university. That’s the game folks!
But if you pay attention at what Tris says at the beginning of the ceremony, when she meets THE person in charge of it… she mentions that despite the system allows them to choose their own faction during the ceremony, she knows that it doesn’t encourage them to do it. Actually, the system prefers when you stay in your native faction. If you think twice about it, this is also the case in real life! Well, at least in my country, France. You are encouraged to switch from an employee position to a business owner’s position. But once you are, everything is made to lead you to bankruptcy and go back to your old good job paying less than what you deserve. I experienced it and I was shocked by the gap between what the government says about entrepreneurs and what it really does for them!
So choose wisely who you want to be and don’t let the system choose for you. Using the fails of the system is needed to reach your goals! Seeking for opportunities to escape this system is vital, unless you want to stay in your comfortable employee position for a lifetime!
3°) Some of us are unable to choose, guess who?
Last time I watched the first film of the trilogy, I paid more attention to the moment where Four shows his tatoo to Tris. He tells her that he doesn’t want to limit himself to being dauntless since he also feels abnegation, amity, candor and erudition is his personality. Choosing is closing the door to any other option and this is what the society expects from us since our young age.
The trap our systems wants us to fall into is the confusion between choosing and focusing. You can be multi task, you can not be multi focused! Does that mean that you need to choose only one thing to achieve, to love, to focus on in your life? Absolutely not! But this is what you may understand from the pressure you receive as a child and teenager! Teachers are not trained to manage students with a multi tasking mind, curious students who want to extract the maximum of the teachings they receive and seek for excellence. They are not formatted either to manage students who work hard to achieve their goals and who push themselves to their deepest limits.
Why should you choose between showing candor, amity, dauntlessness, abnegation and erudition? Why should you choose between loving sciences or literature? Why should you choose between being an employee or self-employed or a business owner? WHY? Just to fit in one box, remember that! That’s what they want! But you can actually fit in several, if not all, boxes!
4°) Like divergent people, those who can’t fit in a box are seen as a threaten for the society
Have you ever had this strange and uncomfortable feeling that you don’t fit in the box, that you are aware not to be like a merchandise that needs to be “sort out”, you can not be defined by one word that would be your dominant trait of personality, skill, passion or field of expertise? Have you ever experienced the look of others noticing you don’t perfectly fit in the same box as they do? Have you ever heard the heavy judgement of other people who don’t understand why you are not doing like everybody does?
Have you ever felt you wanted to know more on a topic and people asking you why you showed interest to this topic? (“Mary, why do you want to learn Russian? Do you intend to date a Russian guy?” OK my friends, I have different dreams as you, so call me weird if you want, I won’t stop just to please you…!) Have you ever felt you were passionate by more than one thing and you absolutely didn’t want to choose?
Have you ever struggled to learn what your teachers wanted to teach while your school friends seemed to find it easy? Have you experienced, in class, being ahead in one subject while behind in another one? Have you experienced getting lost on simple questions while being able to talk about a complex topic most people feel lost with?
If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then you may be a “divergent thinker”. Don’t be surprised to be mocked, people usually don’t understand how to connect with that kind of person. I know, formatting is sad… and I am not talking about a computer here… If you are lucky, you will just be mocked. But it goes farther than that, with people refusing to help divergent thinkers when needed and teachers misjudging their divergent student, just because, by questioning themselves, they question the whole class, they plant the seeds of doubting and thinking twice before trusting! They are threatening the fragile balance that teachers try to maintain to produce obedient soldiers that will just be the puppets of their governments!
I recently put a comment on a Facebook post for a book talking about how the French educational system is completely crashing nowadays. The post said the book, recently released, was already sold out! Using my sarcastic tone, I replied that I felt better, knowing that a lot of people were questioning our educational system. Guess who reacted violently, insulting all the people — and we were a lot! — who criticized the system? Teachers themselves, of course!
5°) Faking it is your only chance to survive!
In the film divergent, you quickly understand that divergent people are forced to hide to survive since they are considered a threat for the factions system. When the final assault begins, Tris succeeds in staying alive because she fakes being affected by the chemical treatment inflicted by Jeanine’s team over dauntless people. She transformed them into zombies so that they could obey her Machiavellian plan without rebelling, what they usually do!
I found this moment quite interesting if you draw a parallel with our society and what people who don’t fit in the box experience. Society demands us to fit in these boxes:
- work hard at school and high school
- go to college and get a degree
- find a good job
- which will lead to living a good life
Some people can do it, partially or totally, while some other don’t and will struggle all their life. Are they stupid or deserving success less than those who match with this description? Nope! Are they looking for happiness and heath, like many others who can tick all these boxes? Yep! They are just thinking and acting different from what the society expects… and nothing is planned to facilitate their lives! Worse, they are said to threaten the fragile balance of the “system” since they are not kind, quiet and obedient persons! Instead, they are questioning what is already in place and how they could bring change for them and for others. And they rebel against what is unfair or totally stupid (I invite people who are not familial with the French educational system to just search about what we call “novlangue”: a new language, completely crazy and not understandable language that appeared in the system a couple years ago. This language is focusing on standardizing humanity, which drives me nuts! For example, students don’t have a mother and father, they have an A parent and a B parent. This is the softest example I could find!)
Education is the most obvious canvas where you can show big differences between divergent thinkers and non divergent thinkers. But there are many others: couple and family life, health, way of living, and relationships in general are some of them. I could spend hours talking about it, let’s explore that another time!
The ultimate skill divergent people need to master if they want to survive in our society is faking! It sounds weird to my own ears since, like Candor, I hate lies and liars. That is a little bit counter-intuitive, this is probably why it took me so long to realize and accept it. But if you think twice and give it a try, you will see that it works! Faking to fit in the box doesn’t mean having a fake human attitude, but just showing the appropriate mask to the society when needed to avoid being considered a dangerous alien by people who don’t know what is outside the box! It actually means showing you fit in one box at a time, even if YOU know that this is not the only box you can fit in! I know this is sad, but as long as the unique model, the unique thinking pattern, the unique way of doing things… will be the rule, this is the only way divergent people can protect themselves and live fully! Like others, they deserve it!