I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received.
I wondered at that time if this expression is unique to the Japanese collectivity-oriented way of thinking, which Shichihei Yamamoto defined as ‘rice-growers’ mindset’ to simply follow what others do without having your own thought - when the neighboring farmer starts planting rice, you plant rice. When your neighbor crops rice, you crop yours, When the neighboring farmer starts to repair a thatched roof made of rice straws, you mend the thatch of your cottage.
In the famous book, “Jew and Japanese” written by the pseudonym of Isaiah Ben-Dasan, Yamamoto argues basic differences of the ways of thinking between the Japanese and the Jew - agricultural people vs hunting people in his definition.
We have a lot of proverbs to teach us to be meek, or flexible at best, such as “泣く子と地頭には勝てぬ‐You cannot argue with a crying child and your magistrate,” “長いものには巻かれろ- It’s better to be obedient to those in power,” “喬木は風に弱し-A tall tree is weak to a gale,” “柳に風折れなし‐Willows don’t break with storm (because they have supple branches and leaves.”
“触らぬ神に祟りなし‐Don’t get involved (with the problem), and you won’t invite God's anger,” and “Silence is gold,” can be classified into the same “Don’t be conspicuous” lesson group.
I understand westerners value assertiveness based on individualism against oriental collectivism, and wonder if the concept like ’出る釘は打たれる- the nail that pops up is hammered down,’ is viable at all in western society as a matter of comperative culture.
Are there any proverbs or sayings that admonish values of being unnoticeable (not saying insignificant) or advantage of staying just in average that can be compared to ‘the nail that pops up is hammered down’?