We’re Not So Different, You and I

I remember once in high school, I was sitting next to a girl I liked, who because of high school and social circles, I never got much chance to talk with.  I wanted to get to know her, and more, I wanted her to know me because I felt like I was different than all the other guys.  I told her so.  I told her how I was different than other guys.  In my hormone-induced pleading, I forget what else I said to phrase my case, but I will never forget her response.  “That’s what everyone says.” 

It’s had a profound influence over my life.  While at one level, I was definitely different than anyone else she knew, I didn’t have the time or the ability to demonstrate my differences to her on the short bus ride.  Nor would she have cared about how I was different.  To this day, I’m convinced that I’m different than others.  We all try to be, don’t we?  I don’t think anyone is happy being part of the herd, one of the sheep.  In that attempt at being different, we are not different, that’s the problem.  We are not as unique as we think we are.  And that’s a challenge for anyone trying to be an individual in today’s world. 

Big Data is going to rat us out

As we get our preferences known by Netflix and Amazon, we’re shown just how similar our tastes are to the likes of others. I believe that as “big data” is utilized more and more in advertising, we’ll find that we are even less unique than we thought we were.  Human nature is a thing, and we are all subject to it. We have tendencies that we follow and fight to differing degrees. 

Yet we continue to try to demonstrate our uniqueness.  Tattoos, haircuts, behavior, dress, these are all things we try to use to distinguish who we are.  At best we are subset groups of a feather.  True uniqueness is something that would probably be shunned if it were exhibited.  So why do we even care?  Why did I want to be unique to this girl I was attracted to?  I had somehow developed the belief that she would be attracted to something different.  Think about that.  Of all human evolution, what in my brain thought that uniqueness was the key to getting the girl?  On a purely evolutionary scale, I should have tried to prove that I was the fittest.  That was not the case, however, so I tried to prove I had some other worthy quality.  Not knowing that chicks don’t dig the weird guy because well… he’s weird. 

Being different hasn’t always been good

Throughout history, the unique, the different have been shunned and treated poorly.  Stepping out of line in certain times in history would have gotten the attention of your neighbors and had you branded as a witch or something along those lines.  If you can’t tell, I’m fascinated by the idea of fitting into society and it’s opposite.  What makes us want to fit in, yet be different. We want to be part of the group, but not associated with them completely.  We want our cake and we want to eat it, too. 

On a macro level, we are no different, you and I.  We eat, we sleep, we crave human interaction, we have flaws, some we work on, others we ignore or are unaware of.  We may all look different, but fundamentally we are identical.  Maybe that’s the key that drives us to try to make our mark.  We want to be remembered, don’t we?  We want a legacy to be left, we want to prove to the world that we are different, that we are someone, that we are better than at least some of the people on this planet.  But we’re not.  Just because we have success doesn’t mean we’re better.  If society based our value on our success, this would be a strange place indeed.  Imagine the envy that would follow when one person was held up over others just because of their successes.  We do that informally with celebrities but imagine that in your neighborhood.  A societal hierarchy based on successes in one area or another.  Those who excelled in school get into one elite group, those who didn’t get a different path.  We don’t have that.  We have plenty of unsuccessful smart people and plenty of very successful average intelligence people. We don’t all view success in the same way, thank God.

The point where my muses kick me

Maybe that will be the key to my dystopian novel, one’s place in society will be based upon success in different areas in life.  Entry into the elite classes will be reserved for the inventive minds, for the scholarly.  But those who were almost as good will be destined to a life of mediocrity that ends up being state-sanctioned.  Late bloomers will suffer mightily.  The government will provide what you deserve and nothing more. That would completely suck, wouldn’t it?  I can bitch and moan about fair this and fair that, but at the end of the day, I’m on the good side of fair.  If my success was compared against others before it was actually considered success, that would be a different thing altogether and would most likely be much worse than we think we are now. 

One would have to continually strive to be better because that was what the rewards were all about.  Productivity would be key, not laziness and procrastination.  There would be no “pretending to be busy.”  Or would there be?  Let’s face it, in a system like this, it would be left up to humans to judge unless there was a central computer that had a definitive weighting scale and spits out your place in society once each year.  If you were above or below your current situation, you’d have to relocate.  It’d be like a census but annually and purely based upon your accomplishments of the previous year.  Which would require letting the government see everything you were doing.  Those who chose to hide their behaviors would be at the bottom of the scale and would have to struggle to merely survive. A true Meritocracy.  We all say we want that until someone is better than us. The story could focus on one who strives but just misses the mark each year, only to watch as others rise above him.  Think of the envy and jealousy that would be generated.  Very interesting… 

I’ve gone through this entry a few times and had the last two paragraphs pulled out because let’s face it, they diverge a bit from the initial thoughts.  But I’m leaving them in so you can all see how ideas come to me, and why I write every single day.  This is a great example of why I do what I do.  A simple thought leads to a new idea for a story – and that’s all I can ask for each day.

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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