That trap of coolness

The cage we let ourselves in always appears smaller than it actually is.

Is it fair to suggest that the majority of us are left with no choice but to ape each other to ensure we fit in? And if this is true, why so? Furthermore, what happens to our celebrated individualism when we bow to invisible pressures? Lastly, should unity come at the cost of homogeneity?

Let’s dig deeper.

We acquire knowledge as we grow and these tidbits contribute to the shape of our lifestyles. The clothes we wear and the songs we listen to are a result of external contributions. They may reflect our personality sometimes but we’ve got nothing to do with their birth. As a person, you like (or sometimes, pretend to like) because there were waves of approval in a particular direction. It still doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice of your own. Only that the volume of your voice isn’t entirely in your control. It depends on your location. You won’t be heard blabbering about the virtues of Gandhi at a Jinnah’s club. This is one of the reasons why we are witnessing a lot of echo chambers around us. Not that they didn’t exist before the rise of social media. Just that they weren’t so prominent as they are today. We are trying to find more and more solace in our selectivity, overlooking anything challenging our core beliefs. After all, we can’t afford to break our fragile shell — at least not from inside.

As social animals, we prefer to mingle; a process that requires less of acrimonious vibes and more of benevolent clouds. Disagreements can only lead to more disagreements. The concept of agreeing to disagreeing can’t possibly catch up with disagreeing to agreeing. Under such dampening conditions, people segregate themselves in to groups to prop up an united front. Once you’re part of the club, you are bound to scream the same war-cry and laugh at the same jokes and support the same people.

Now, can’t we see what’s going on here? Or we simply choose to ignore the embarrassing codes of our existence? Why is it so important for us to be relevant or get validated or deem acceptance by others? Can’t we do just fine on our own?

Fortunately, the answers are more complicated than these questions. When Indian parents urge their kids to opt for a career (another imaginary word of our times) in engineering or medicine, they are doing so out of fear and myopia. Fear of the unknown and myopia of the known. Had they seen or heard of more success stories emerging from the farming sector, they’d have coaxed their young ones to become farmers. But unfortunately, the encouraging tales from the soil can barely touch the heights of a corporate skyscraper.

We like to believe that everybody has a choice but more often than not, we don’t. Despite this handicap, we want to own the world. At the end of the day, we can only own our understanding of this world. And each one of us is living in their own separate worlds. Yes, we have our common share of struggles and joys and ennui but it’d be presumptuous to place all of us in one basket.

Cool clubs, yes. Uncool baskets, no.

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with homogeneity. Look at what it did to China. If there is one factor that separate Chinese from the rest of the world is their unity without diversity. But then, again, progress is a collective endeavour and we are discussing individuals here. We learn from each other how to walk and where to talk. Our behavior is a reminder of the environment we absorb. Nothing comes from nothing and similarly, everything comes from everything. Any individual idea will eventually fizzle out if fellow individuals don’t give a damn about it. The earliest inventors always found it hard to sell their innovation because their club was tiny. Once the members started pouring in, it was easier to sell farther. And if you take a look at the urban planet we’ve created for ourselves, selling is of utmost importance. Individualism can either wait or take a long walk.

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