Outcast (person)

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For other uses, see outcast (disambiguation).

The term outcast has its roots in the caste system, a form of social stratification based entirely on a person's birth family (usually paternal). The most famous caste system is the Indian caste system, which has since been outlawed, yet the caste a family used to hold, still holds some regard for marriage and other purposes. The family a person is born into is the caste they will belong to for their life; with the only exception being marriage, in which case the woman will move up or down depending upon the caste of the man's family. Outside of the caste system are people considered not to belong to any caste; either criminals or socially stigmatized. These people are known as outcasts. While in western cultures this may be seen as unfair;, one must consider the culture. The people occupying a caste system in India believed in reincarnation, with a persons caste or status being based upon the way you lived your previous life. So being born into a specific caste was an indicator of how your previous life was lived. There are very radical caste systems as well, an example would be slavery in America.

In popular culture an outcast is a person with social stigma or untouchability, who is rejected or 'cast out', as from home or society,[1] or in some way excluded, looked down upon, or ignored.[2][3]

History[edit]

In Ancient Greece it was customary to write a person's name on a piece of broken pottery, and later place it in a large container in a public location if one had behaved in a manner that was deemed overly aggressive or offensive. These broken pieces of pottery were called ostraka. If an individual were to have his or her name written 6,000 times the entire community would give that person the silent treatment for ten years. This was also the same procedure for banishing or 'ostracising' individuals from Ancient Greek society.[4]

Civilization and Its Discontents[edit]

In Civilization and Its Discontents,[5] psychologist Sigmund Freud propounds the fundamental tensions that exist for the individual and for the civilization that the individual lives within. Friction[6] producing discontent, primarily stemming from the individual prioritizing his/her instinctual freedom (individuals quest for individual freedom)[7] and civilization's needs for conformity and instinctual repression. Considered a text without unconsolation (focusing on the prevalence of human guilt and the impossibility of achieving unalloyed happiness) Freud contended that no social solution of the discontents of mankind is possible, all civilizations, no matter how well planned, can provide only partial relief.[8] Even Eros, is not fully in harmony with civilization. The realities of the human condition are to develop and focus upon a balance between the repressive burdens of civilization and the realization of instinctual gratification and the sublimated love for mankind. The reconciliation of nature and culture was considered impossible, for civilized existences produce guilt by the necessary suppression and control (thwarting)[9] of persons' instinctual drives. Although elsewhere Freud had postulated mature, heterosexual genitality and the capacity to work productively as the hallmarks of health and urged that where id is, there shall ego be, it is clear that he held out no hope for any collective relief from the discontents of civilization. He only offered an ethic of resigned authenticity, which taught the wisdom of living without the possibility of redemption, either religious or secular.[10]

Exiles[edit]

To be exiled is to be away from one's home (i.e. city, state or country), while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return. It can be a form of punishment. Exile can also be a self-imposed departure from one's homeland. Self-exile is often seen to be in some way a protest by the person that claims it, to avoid persecution or legal matters ( tax,criminal allegations, or otherwise),through shame or repentance, or perhaps to isolate oneself in order to devote time to a particular thing. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[11] states that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."[12]

Description of experiences of being outcasts[edit]

On the Indian sub continent the word pariah comes from the Tamil word parai, literally meaning "to say or tell something". In the olden days, paraiyar announced public messages. They would draw the attention of people around them by beating their animal skin drums and then make public announcements. They were mostly drawn from the lowest strata of society or caste. Hence the word pariah has become a general word for a low caste person. A cognate word exists in Malayalam language which is used to say something without any pejorative connotation. People will often avoid contact or communication with an outcast, and sometimes even restrain themselves from going near them. Generally, in these extreme cases, any individual who has sympathy for an outcast, and tries to befriend or socialize with them, may cause themselves to lose popularity, or even become an outcast themselves. Usually, a person is an outcast because they are unpopular, that is, they are generally disliked, or even hated by other people and have a low social status because of it. However, sometimes a person is an outcast because they are shy or feared by other people, and therefore rejected (as other people may try to avoid them). In severe cases, a social outcast may become depressed, as they may endure much persecution and discrimination from other people - a homeless wanderer; vagabond.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

In the Old Testament, Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was cast out after the birth of Isaac, his half-brother, who is considered the forebear of the Israelites.[14]

In Genesis 16:12 of the Bible, defines figuratively an outcast. "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."[15]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]