Individuality vs group conformity.
‘Cause I'm just a soul who's intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
These words, effortlessly sung by Nina Simone, have stuck with me for a long time – maybe even longer. One of my primary concerns, if not my greatest, is my fear of being misunderstood and the negative consequences that arise from it such as a questioning of my moral character and integrity. I think this is partially the reason why I’m drawn to people who are misunderstood, the Michael Jackson’s and Allen Iverson’s of the world.
These fears of being misunderstood have added to why I’ve felt I’ve never really belonged to any group I’ve been in and the struggles I’ve had. It’s not like I don’t understand people and cannot interact with them, but am I meant to be a lone wolf my entire life? This is a genuine question I’ve seriously asked myself a number of times throughout my life.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you’ll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Rudyard Kipling
Ah yes, the cost of individuality is always at the price of group conformity. The feelings of isolation, that difference from your fellow humans, of not being understood. Most people don’t understand nor really support what I do, but I’m eternally grateful of my family and few friends who are. I know I will find my people, but my people will be a handful of carefully selected individuals.
My apprehension to groups began with events outlined in my post, “It’s not easy being green”, heightening my threat perception and general distrust of people. Before these events, I was an outgoing and confident kid, and I wouldn’t say these characteristics have disappeared permanently, just they come out of rarer occasions and towards fewer people.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself eccentric, but I am an individual. I do wonder why I see and think things that so many don’t or choose not to. Is my pursuit right? I feel it is in a just sense, it is noble this life of virtue, even if modern man doesn’t seem to value it. I’m pursuing a life that is good for all-time, not the time.
I’d be lying if I didn’t question my sanity sometimes. While I don’t consider myself alone in this regard, I do feel that with the level I explore things at I tip-toe or run the risk of disappearing into the abyss. I guess that’s what appeals to me in certain thinkers, but I realise that some of history’s greatest minds were also fucking nutjobs, madmen or ethically questionable – like a Kierkegaard or a Nietzsche – but fascinatingly so (these intense, incisive introspective ideas combined with tragic personal lives). Perhaps my concerns of myself going that way are unjust, but it’s better to see where you could end up before you set off.
“I don’t want to lose contact with society, but it’s better to not lose contact with reality.”
I know it is very easy and convenient to point out or suggest that the madness is in someone else or some other group (deeming us sane), without noticing or exploring it in ourselves. It’s easy to suggest that the group is mad and the individual is sane, as Nietzsche said “in individuals, madness is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” It is easy to misuse the below quote from St Anthony.
It takes more effort and understanding to treat people individually than by group – it is easier and more convenient to tar people with the same brush. It is a prime example of reductionistic thinking and the narratives/agendas, both overt and covert, we see.
As I’ve mentioned in my “Alone vs Lonely” article, I spend most of my time alone and I’m ok with this. The mistake people make is that I’m not against the idea of being social – truth be told I love quality social interaction, it’s just usually 1-on-1 where you can get at the crux of the person and subject/s – and I still would like to develop an intimate partner relationship, but as I learned from Toto, Hold The Line (love isn’t always on time).
I’ve never been a member of any purple circle, and as I said early there really hasn’t been a group I’ve truly felt a part of– despite my love of team sports. I feel this is possibly why I don’t get on board with group movements (even if I support the overall message), they don’t allow for nuance, complexity and difference (risk of “groupthink”). I’m too much of my own individual, and as a result I’m drawn to other individuals.
I have been prone to getting irked too much with poorly developed human beings questioning my morals, values and ethics, but I’m learning to let this go. I know I’m a great person, I just don’t shout it from the mountain top (or is that the nearest social media app?). I prefer to just get on with it rather than parade myself in a look-at-me, peacock syndrome manner.
Perhaps a “heroic hermit” is how to best view me. Perhaps.
Now, back to my journey as an eternal rational inquirer, like Socrates, annoying people with my questions.