Uniqueness is all the rage these days. We all want to be unique, we all want to be special, we all want to be recognised for what makes us distinct compared to the masses. Of course what we pin on the masses (the beliefs or actions we attribute to them) does not need to exist in actuality, but we just have to present it as if it does.
When did this happen? I think in almost any other age what we would see are people who did not fit in to (or who were excluded from) the mainstream trying desperately to assimilate. Now, what we have are people in the mainstream trying desperately to step outside of it. At its darkest it is a slap in the face to all who died because they were not a part of the accepted majority, at its lightest, it is just plain depressing… and still dangerous.
Because here’s the thing, with our culture’s obsession with uniqueness it is no longer enough to simply state what you enjoy (or who you are) and allow for those observing to determine its uniqueness. No, in our desperation to be distinct we are now, seemingly, unable to say that we like something without vilifying those (we suppose) like something else.
Here are two examples pulled recently of facebook.
First of all, I almost always call bullshit on the second meme. But putting that aside, why can these people not simply show their support for veterans or their love for books without vilifying or denigrating an outside group? This says nothing to the fact that they are setting up a false opposition (or false binary). Maybe some girls wanted both the prince and the books, maybe some people shared both kinds of picture… or maybe there’s no one out there at all, and we aren’t all that unique no matter how hard we try and shout it.
And is that so bad? Must we try so hard to set up what we enjoy as distinct from what we believe (or contend) that the masses enjoy? What does it achieve other than to create more boundaries, more division, and more conflict in our world? What does it do but attempt to put myself over and above the majority of society? None of these things are helpful (clearly none are helpful for society, but they are specifically not helpful for the self). Isn’t it just exhausting? This ever increasing, never ceasing effort to present oneself as unique will only lead to misery – either it is seen through and we are confronted with failure; or it is successful – and we are stuck in delusion.
Or perhaps something else happens, all I can say is that I’m fed up with it, I think it’s bad, and I’d like to put it out there that whatever the result of all this is: you’re just not that unique, none of us are… especially me!
Opening image: Petr Kratochvil