BEAUTYCALYPSE

On Individuality

Individuality. It applies to your looks, to your food, to your life choices, and is probably the only way to a non-dystopian future of kindness, wisdom and dignity. Thinking aloud.schopenhauer-truth-quote

QUESTIONS I HAVE

Today’s soul detox is addressing two sides of the same coin: the individual and the society. Conscious individuals = perfect society?

When did individuality stop being authentic and became a ready-to-wear accessory?
What really drives our everyday choices?
What is our vision for the future – apart from a zombie apocalypse?

PHILOSOPHY BITES

I was inspired to actually sit down and write this very post by Barb Stegemann’s book on “Living and leading in an illogical world” (that I reviewed HERE). Partly because she brought beloved philosophers back to my attention, partly because of her call to action. The call to action was of tremendous use, since here I am, writing.

And I want to share my two cents about something that has been trending recently, and if you ask me, trending in a wrong way: individualism. After the materialism of the 80s, the hedonism of the 90s, the confusion of the noughties, the cynicism of the second decade, this new and shiny -ism is coming for us.

We humans are an interesting species. It seems that our herd instinct and our search for an individual path in life are not very well balanced by design. We strive for individuality – and end up with a ready-to-wear identity. We look for answers but all we want to hear are absolutions. We want to be part of a community but we end up playing games we didn’t ask for. We are so influenced by the opinion of others that we waste time doing pointless things out of fear to see our true self and to discover its alleged flaws.

Does it need to be that way? No.
Then why is it so? Because it’s so convenient.

It would take decades to build a whole functional society of educated, conscious, responsible, unbiased, and forward-thinking individuals. It would take decades for those individuals to form a state and a system of sustainable existence because they would need to do it from scratch: our pretty man-made systems, all those -isms, have proven to have a shelf life shorter than some have hoped (maybe longer than others have wished, but let’s not be judgemental). The educated, conscious, responsible, unbiased and forward-thinking individuals would need scrolls older than those by Marx and Co.

Is this my personal Utopia of wisdom, kindness and progress? Most probably. Do I make up ideal humans? I sure am. It is impossible? Hell, no. Since the BEAUTYCALYPSE journey started offline years ago and online in March 2013, I have met so many amazing individuals, that this Utopia keeps gaining citizens!

FACT: Did you know that the sales of 1984 skyrocketed after the prominent whistleblowing events? If more people have read it ten, fifteen years ago, would our society look different, today?

HEROES OF THE DAY?

If you turned towards the nerdy scene (with all its pitfalls and downsides, yes), you would discover a subculture strongly rooted in scientific thinking and a chaotically democratic belief in equality. Geeks – real, geeky geeks, not the nerdy-specs-wearers, lens-flared by the hottest scifi flicks – only have eyes for their topic: codes, networks, formulas, problem solving etc. A geek goes to bed and rolls out of it in the morning, breathing the problem and dreaming the problem. And when this problem is solved, after a period of celebration, another problem occurs that needs to be fixed.

I have worked in the software development for a while, and if I was to compare the manager or worse, the “creative” type to the IT person, the IT person would always win, hands down (there were exceptions to the rule, both sides). I’ll tell you more, I’m an IT guy’s girlfriend.

Now, I of course picked the term GEEK being fully aware of the fact that its use doesn’t add much meat to the discussion on individualism. But I needed a word. One word for countless guys and girls in tech, in IT, in computing, in programming. Plus there are more and wider options for actually being a geek: history geeks, literature geeks, culinary geeks, beauty geeks,…

So, the tech geeks in my circle of friends are the ones who get excited about insider health & food news, about background info on everything from fair trade to organic certifications because of another common base of geekdom: a healthy distrust. Geeks are natural born sceptics. Most of them (an “us”, today, makes me feel like a fraud because I am only just returning to the geekdom after an adventurous journey in the press) have the right balance between dreams and realism.

THE LORE

If you consider the trendy fiction on TV, in films, and in books, you’ll see a lot of geekdom: from the unreachable LOTR and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the contemporary hero-driven stories about socially challenged, almost alien-like geniuses (Greg House, Lisbeth Salander, TBBT’s Sheldon Cooper, BBC Sherlock…). Also the geek lore is on the rise with games and comics being picturised constantly: Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Captain America, Avengers, Thor… respectively Resident Evil, Doom, Alone in the dark, Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Hitman, Prince of Persia…

FUN: Remember the joke saying that the last game Hollywood will make into a film is Tetris (alternative: Pac-Man)? Well, 2012 Battleship was pretty close, don’t you think? ;)

All of that made the geek a trendy person; created the horrible fashion for Velma-style glasses; and lets everybody proudly call themselves geeks even if the most technical thing they are able to do is unlocking their iPhones.

IDENTITY

I’m approximately 30% annoyed and 70% amused at those geek parvenus, or, friendlier, that geek nouveau phenomenon, as I believe people can call or label themselves whatever they like. I hope though that after most nouveau geeks will have switched to another, trendier persona some time later, we’re going to see real individuals emerge, who grew up to geek parents, cutting their teeth on fabulous stories of fighting the bad guys, breaking the rules, and saving the world.

It’s only a belief.

But I think people who like those stories are the closest to my Utopia’s educated, unbiased, concsious individuals. Not that they equal. But I see a chance. People who grow up with stories of kindness (Neverending Story) and small steps towards heroism (The Hobbit) can’t but develop a sense of ethics and fairness – and a respect for life in all its forms. It will open their hearts for the problems IRL. It’s a belief, as I said.

THE ULTIMATE SOUL DETOX

This is a short one and the hardest one:
Be who you really are. Not who you think it’s cool to be. 

DO WE HAVE A FUTURE?

To wrap up this stream of consciousness, I can’t but ask myself: what is today’s vision of our future?
Isn’t it 100% apocalyptic?
 (I’m not saying the z-word again, promised.)

If you looked back at the scifi and fantastic literature of earlier days – Jules Verne is a good example – you’d see fantastic innovation and ideas on technology, adventures and the mission for a better life, advanced societies along with dystopian visions. Today’s fiction focuses on two things: a plague and the logically inevitable end of the world. Modern technology then goes to hell and we learn to make fire again.

I enjoy that kind of fiction myself. But…

FACT: As a motorcyclist you learn to look in the direction where you want to go. Your bike follows your head and your eyes. Especially when you’re cornering, you should never look at the roadside or your subconscious will steer your motorbike exactly there. 

Enjoying apocalyptic visions, aren’t we?
Can’t we better focus on my friendly, tech-savvy and science-and-soul-driven Wisdom Utopia, pretty please?

Is individuality – if we agree that it comes with authentic consciousness, education, unique purpose, and the decisiveness to pursue the unique mission – the key to a better life for one and eventually for all? What do you think?

11 replies »

  1. I really like Jules Verne’s vision of the future – like you said. A world in pursuit of scientific and technological advancement, as well as terrific adventure. How disappointed he would be, I think, to see how things have largely turned out.

    However, it’s thought-provoking posts like this that start interesting conversations which lead to good actions. You’ve given me lots to mull over.

  2. Hello Madame B, I really rather like your ‘essay’? type posts…lots of good stuff here! I think the pretenders and people jumping on bandwagons etc etc probably serve some sort of purpose (a reflection back perhaps of where we don’t want to end up?)… for me individualism is another term for ‘the calling of your own heart’ – you either listen to it or choose not to, it’s a path, not a label and it connects us all back to each other when we do listen…but therein lies the problem; we live in a noisy world 🙂

  3. I don’t care for the apocalyptic vision myself. We can do better than that. Each individual can do better but we need to know how to bring along others. A case in point (which has initiated quite a lot of study)
    is our own Sam Johnson http://www.samjohnson.co.nz/ who organised the Student Volunteer Army to help put our city to rights in the aftermath of the earthquakes. It was phenomenal.