Day in and day out the individual screams to be exactly that. Countless online memes and comments about their particular snowflake like quality, their unique understanding of that which surrounds them, permeate the internet’s vast array of social media outlets. “I am special, I am unique, I am the butterfly emerged beautiful and delicate from the chrysalis!” And yet most of these same people, the snowflakes, the butterflies, whine like colicky infants if one attempts to change their world in even a minor way. They throw their tantrum if one so much as changes the perception they have of the world.
It is an old saying that if you fight hard enough for you limitations, sure enough, they are yours. It is a matter of course that we the people do exactly that. Often the outcry comes from any manner of groups, or entities, saying they have been wronged, their beliefs violated. It happened when this nation abolished slavery. It happened when this nation gave women rights and the vote. It happened during the civil rights movement and when mixed race marriage started to occur with regularity. It is happening now with the LGBT people and their desire to live as normal humans among us without discrimination.
Those opposing fight for their chains though. They cry that to alter their view, their world, their neighborhood, is to violate that which they hold near and dear, the sanctity of the family, the very words of the God they follow. A nation in turmoil ensues as the loudest members of each side take up arms of some kind in an effort to tamp down the change, or support it, as the case may be.
What should be asked is why. Why do we fight so hard as a people to keep that which holds us in place? Why do we define ourselves into corner after corner? Corners leave people with no options, no choices, no reasonable means of escape and yet we choose them time and again.
Society, at its inception, needed to define itself. It needed to justify its existence and create clear boundaries for behavior. When your society is 10 families in a cave in the paleolithic era you likely have some pretty convincing reasons to agree on what those boundaries are. The bottom line is the dawn of social behavior among early humans was the dawn of definition. Even before speaking, and language, and writing, there are certain understandings that must be met in order to promote survival of the social group. Animals do this daily all around us. The group exists solely for the purpose of the survival of the members.
We then began to speak and write but more important, we began to define. We began to create a series of beliefs, and ideologies, that may have, at their inception, been guiding lights to civilization. Your job in this time, was to survive. Unemployment was at 0% as dead people do not count on the rolls. No grand concepts of economics, and banking, and investing were in play. You got things, you used things, you had things, that is all really. Likely you owned only what you could carry in a pinch as everything else was expendable.
Gods likely grew out of a desire to explain that which they could not, but also to keep the new society in line. To protect the group a vast array of superstitions and beliefs likely cropped up regarding all manner of things mother nature had to throw their way.
Humans are nothing if not enterprising little pains in the rear though. While one generation is pleased with keeping the family safe and fed the next generation will feel foolish if it does not, at least in some small way, add to the understanding of the group. This, in their eyes, adds to the prosperity and safety of said group but it also adds to the mountain of rules and definitions. Long story short, definitions, rules, and ideologies, piled upon definitions, rules, and ideologies. The red tape of humanity abounds.
In time civilizations have risen and fallen, entire subsets and sets of humans have come and gone, each leaving a small amount of themselves and their definitions to subsequent civilizations. Basically the backlog of definitions, rules, guidelines, ideologies, religions, belief systems, is now staggering. The notion that we have absolute original thought in any of these areas is preposterous. That we take from the past and the present and combine old ideas to produce seemingly new ones is likely far more accurate.
If you think of this in terms of what we argue for, what we vent on, what we embrace, and what we exclude, you should begin to see that we have made our own prison, forged our own chains, designed and supported our own limitations, whatever analogy works for you. We have defined ourselves into corner after corner until our flexibility is lost. Our ability to embrace a new system is in question not just because we have difficulty creating new systems but because we cling to our comfortable chains.
Over the years the chains have grown heavy indeed. Where once we awoke to the new day and gathered food, water, wood, ensured shelter, and made little copies of ourselves during the hours of the day when there was light, now we have an economy, we have jobs, and families, and bills, and events to attend, and free time to deal with on a 24/7 schedule loaded with stress. Where once we went to the woods, found an animal, killed it, prepared it, and we were fed. Today we get a job, wait for a paycheck, see the paycheck ripped up by taxes, create a bank account, cash the check to revive money, purchase food, prepare the food, and finally eat. Where once we awoke the next day knowing the woods were there and the animals were within to repeat the previous day’s process. Today we awake the next day to hope we still are employed, check the economy to make sure the money you earn is still worth what it was yesterday, is there a drought in Florida or California effecting food prices and supply, is there an imminent political change effecting the economy as a whole? But, if you break it all down we are still those cave dwellers. We have the exact same goals as we did then.
We still wish to feed and clothe and shelter our family. We wish to make little copies of ourselves. We wish to make them safe in this big bad world. The main difference is we have created a maze, we have defined the corners, we have forged the chains that make our lives frustrating and stressful and intolerable in a misguided effort to make our lives safer, happier, and full of freedom.
It is you that chose a political ideology and therefore you that can abandon it or change it. It is you that chose a God, and a religion, and therefore it is you that can change or abandon it. It is you that chose which rules you accepted. Yes, we have been brainwashed since birth to sit up straight, say the right thing, worship the right God, accept the right system, as your parents before you did, as their parents before them also did. Yes these things now seem to be absolute truths. Why would they seem otherwise as you have heard them day in and day out since your creation. It would be silly to deny that the sun exists as you have seen it your whole life, why would you deny these other things as well?
You should deny them because they do not exist. We have people labeled extremists in this country that often say they do not believe we should have to pay taxes. They stop short of the truth, the very economy itself is a fraud. Religion is a fraud, politics is a fraud. The list goes on and on and on. No, I am not saying that there is no such thing as religion or politics, what I am saying is that what we think of as religion and politics is so far from their purpose, their original design and function, that for all intents and purposes they do not exist.
Once a system is in place for as long as these systems have been in place they actually exist to perpetuate the system. The system itself is a given to those people within it and therefore the system works, and is useful, in their eyes. They will vote, preach, pray, support, and garner followers, to the system. One can argue at this point whether they gather these followers and support these systems for selfless or selfish reasons, I am sure both types exist, along with others. But the system is the true God, the system is the behemoth, and the system is generations upon generations of definitions, rules, ideologies, religions, Gods, and all manner of chains we have invented.
If you combine this with the fact that we are no longer a cave of ten families with the same goals, and same desires of survival. Instead today we are billions strong worldwide and 350 million or so here in the United States. These numbers no longer allow for a single mindset, a single purpose, a single goal. How can one expect 350 million people to agree about a system when 3 people together argue for all day about the toppings for their pizza.
When I hear people say they want to chuck it all and live in a log cabin by the picturesque lake I wonder if they really mean it. What I think they mean is I want the trappings of this life I enjoy to come with me, I just want to lose the stress. To me that stress though is the trappings. We have created a society so complex, so mind boggling, that we need experts in tiny aspects of it to guide us. We need accountants, and economists, and bankers, and traders, and all manner of various specialties just to pretend to function within the economy. With all this a common and accepted notion is that no one really knows why it gets bad or good, no one really understand the economy as a whole. I have seen the evolution of just such a system firsthand in the computer field.
When I joined the computer industry in the early 90’s it was really just taking off. It was becoming mainstream in households and expanding and changing in the business world. Mainframes were already routine for some time, as were terminals and workstations, but the complexity and possibilities were just launching. What the field required at the time was someone, anyone, that knew how to keep these things functioning. That was where we came in.
We had been using the computers for games mostly but we knew how to build them, repair them, network them, write programs for them. They hired us in droves. Degrees in any particular aspect of this field barely existed and those that did were in programming mostly. Reluctantly they accepted our lack of degrees and signed our paychecks. They were very nice to us as we held their companies data in our hands and minds. However, humans are not good at leaving well enough alone and definitions, rules, guidelines, all needed to be created because that is how humans do things.
Specialties began cropping up where once there were very few. An old classified ad looking for a computer guy was almost as plain as that. It might list networking experience needed, or desktop support experience desired and it might add an operating system like windows or OS2 or Unix but the ads were simple. If hired in you fixed whatever plugged into the wall and had buttons, up to and including the coffee pot. To see a classified ad for a job in what is now the IT or IS field is to see a list of minor, picky, unnecessary, specialties. Degrees are the norm now as colleges filled the void and pumped out the “experts.” However colleges were wrong for some time, many still are, in teaching what is actually needed to work in the industry. Bottom line is the system was not there, the job got done, but entrepreneurs that we are the system was created, the definitions cranked out, the field organized. Was it necessary? Not really. Did it make people money and make many more comfortable about writing big checks? Yes it did do that. It also muddied up a situation for the sake of definitions.
The real goal for us in our quest to become these special snowflakes of unique butterflyness seems to me to be the tossing aside of definitions. They hold us down, keep us chained. You do not need a political party to define your politics any more than you need a religion to define your beliefs. Why back yourself into such a corner. If I am a democrat or a republican I am saying I adhere to these definitions. I do not do so. If I say I am catholic, or even simply christian, I am defining myself and identifying with a set of beliefs I do not, and will not, adhere to.
Shuck your chains by avoiding these definitions. Make your own to the degree you can, by cobbling together aspects of what you like and tossing aside that which does not appeal to you. I have been doing such since I was a small child. I have a belief system that would be mostly unrecognizable as a whole to most of my friends and family. Various aspects of that belief system however, would be recognizable to most of them. Politically I am often called liberal and left wing online when I discuss politics, though I do not define myself so but depending on the other person extremist view I have been called a conservative. I admit I lean left on almost all social issues but foreign policy and the economy I am less so. I listen to what people have to say and try to cobble together a position I am comfortable with. I merely come off as one or the other based on the starting position of the person I am speaking to. As George Carlin said “on the highway, everyone going slower than me is an idiot, and everyone going faster than me is a maniac.”
My positions tend to share one thing though. They are flexible. I would have it no other way. I strive to avoid definition and therefore I strive to avoid a rigid mindset. Show me I am wrong and I will change, do not expect that to be easy though.
The point of this rant here is not to suggest that we as a society need to go back to our cave dwelling utopia, if indeed that is what it was. Were we to magically shuck the chains we have forged we would merely create new ones. It is what humans do. It is what humans are comfortable with. Almost all humans like a path, a defined set of goals, it gives them a false sense of security and they get very antsy when it is removed. The danger is when the security, the path, the goals, are accepted as absolute reality.
The college degree is important because we say it is. The 20 dollar bill is important because we define it thus. The no parking sign is important because we accept it as necessary. Tax returns must be filed because we believe it so. However, there was a time when the college degree was merely sitting and watching the elders do a thing that they in turn had learned from their predecessors. The 20 dollar bill was a rabbit or some berries collected and traded for some other need of the moment. The no parking sign was merely a tradition accepted for the well being of the collective. Taxes were the portion of your families stores that could not be eaten, used, or saved, and so, rather than go to waste, were distributed among the families of the collective. The only real difference is the chains we now allow, the limitations we now accept and fight for, the mountain of definitions we deem important. Be wary lest you win your fight for those limitations, these definitions.