Americans are a tricky lot. They adore screaming from the nearest mountaintop about their individuality and creative thought process, while embracing the group mindset that stifles individuality and creation but promotes acceptance. They often advance the notion that they understand in the face of all the sheople, those teeming masses that just do not get it, when standing in a large teeming mass of people that say the same exact thing. Mostly I think Americans are quite fond of the notion of unique and different but scurry like frightened prey animals when confronted with it in the flesh.
Americans, for all their talk, like the safe zone of groups. They enjoy looking around them when they speak and seeing heads nodding in agreement at whatever thing it is they said. They like the thought of the bad boy image but not the consequences. Free thought, and unique actions come with a price the American is rarely willing to pay. That price is not expulsion from the group but self imposed exile from societies norms.
All these self professed free thinkers gallivanting about the internet are fine examples. They will gladly tell you how much thought and research went into their well supported position on some highly controversial subject while spitting upon any dissenter as a kool-aid drinking moron. This opinion more than likely was formed after being spoon fed ideas by Fox News or MSNBC, or some other equally useless nexus of misinformation. Don’t get me wrong, watching these entities is not bad in and of itself. After all you need to get information somewhere. Accepting this information as engraved stone tablets provided from the likes of a talking burning bush however is dubious at best. Information gathered from a single source, or a single point of view, is not, in my opinion, useful for gaining any real understanding.
Often in life we see that there is their way, your way, and some actual way floating about in between. If we apply this logic to gathering opinions then we should be listening to all sides of a story and formulating our own view based on our personal experience, thoughts, and feelings. Instead Americans love their echo chamber. They love the comfort of a room full of like thinking people patting them on the back for regurgitating the group view in a heretofore unheard manner. Same view, just new and wonderful packaging.
So why then is it so important that, in spite of the need for adulation from the group or groups, Americans want to declare themselves special and different? Different itself is tricky. We applaud different occasionally. Mostly we applaud different when it is very wealthy. Wealthy unique can dress oddly, spew bizarre ideas garnered from any manner of sources, and generally behave out of the norm. This is accepted to a point because of wealth, however, there is a point.
Johnny Depp and Slash are relatively unique individuals. Both have extremely marketable talents that allow this lifestyle to continue. Both seem to be well liked by the public that cares to pay attention to them. But, as unique as they may be they also stay within some often difficult to define boundaries that the general public maintains.
Michael Jackson, and Liberace however were not quite as fortunate. While they both possessed the uniqueness and the wealth, both also stepped over that amorphous line the public controls. Both became just a little too unique for the viewing public to accept regularly. When their talent was on display everyone applauded but afterwards out came the courtroom of public opinion.
This unique quality is a lot more difficult to pull off without the wealth and fame. If you decide you are actually going to be different society will judge you quickly and harshly. If you belong to a church and decide the teachings do not all fit you and your ideas you will be ostracized. If you belong to a political entity and decide a few of the talking points of the day are not in your wheelhouse you will be expelled. Being truly unique means being truly alone in some ways.
It can also be an entrance into another form of group. A group that allows for each individual. A group that accepts one another as different because no other group would have any of them. It is often an interesting group kind of like the roommates on Real World, the difference being you chose one another and were not arraigned by a producer looking for ratings.
The truth is that people are people. Usually the most die hard member of any group, when separated from said group, is just a person. When out of their element they are easy to get along with most of the time. I myself use the term Atheist to describe myself because I do not believe there is a God. However, I do believe in a spiritual existence, and the requisite afterlife. I believe in ghosts. I believe the universe is made up of energy, as are we. I could go on but the point is made. I call myself atheist because by strict definition that is accurate, however, I do not find that my actual beliefs fall into any particular, well defined, grouping. I do not meet the requirements of a person of faith, nor a person that lacks any, so I am, in that respect, somewhat unique. It also leaves me devoid of a group, which bothers me not in the least.
There have been times in the past, and I am sure there will be in the future, when my choice to use the term atheist has had an effect on my life. I could not care less for the most part. I do care if my choice effects people around me. I would not like to see people I care about ostracized in any way because they choose to know me and I choose to define myself thus. For this reason I have been known to keep my particular beliefs quiet in certain circles. This in no way means I am running from my belief or denying it, merely that I recognize there is a time and a place to discuss it and, more often, times and places not to.
Such is the actual life of being different. Most do not actually have the stomach for it as it requires dealing with exile. Standing up with your right wing friends and calling left wingers names is not being unique and more than the reverse. it is gaining acceptance of a group by alienating another one. It is the definition of group mentality. Unique would be to throw out all groups and accept the consequences. The consequences are not that bad, especially if you are wealthy. You will get used to it. So if you plan to call yourself unique and demand treatment as such, look around first, because if there are 1000 heads in the room nodding agreement, you failed.