The Boxes in Which We Dwell
"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."
- Tyler Durden, Fight Club
I recently heard an interesting statistic that more 18 month old children know what the McDonald's logo is than they do their own surname. I wish I could find the study in question to share with you all, but alas, I cannot. Still, regardless of how true that statement is, it is something that I find very believable indeed, and that speaks volumes.
It's unsurprising though, given that we live in a world in which we are constantly being sold things in the form of advertisements. What to eat. What to wear. What to drive. What to drink. Pummelled consistently with a barrage of competing produce seeking to draw your attention solely to it, or certainly solely to it within the realm of the niche which it inhabits.
But we aren't just sold products, we're sold on ideas. On what to think. We're sold ideologues. And this is done from an early age. In school to a degree, but by society at large. We learn from our youth how to compose and conduct ourselves, because we receive feedback from our social peers regarding our actions in the form of inclusion or exclusion, and that's important. It's important for us to know that the reason we are being dismissed and shied away from is because we don't know how to play. We're aggressive. We're obnoxious. We don't know how to share and integrate ourselves within a group dynamic. It's equally as important for us to play the opposite role and dismiss and shy away from those who personify those same inadequacies, lest we inadvertently appropriate that behaviour and encourage them to propagate that attitude forward into the future.
But there is a not so obvious distinction that should be made, but isn't necessarily made, as we creep forward into the domain of teenage and adulthood. We mould ourselves to part of a group identity, to group think. We, generally, share the same idea's and opinions as our friends, obviously, that is why we are drawn to our friends. But the danger comes in being afraid to voice an opposing view to our immediate social structure for fear of being cast out. I think this is especially true in the cliques we bind ourselves to in our teenage years. It sets the foundation to subscribe to group think. Not necessarily without question, but certainly without the gall to articulate those uncertainties. Couple that with the social context at large, being told what is right and wrong, whilst being discouraged to try and experience right and wrong for ourselves to determine definitively what they are, and you foster and nurture the conditions that carry forth the inability to speak out, and breed the sort of social situation we find ourselves in today, where people likely don't even privately question what they are supposed to think to the degree that they should, because those who do are immediately chastised for not subscribing to the ideologue that is undoubtedly right; That is totalitarianism, by the way.
We are so eager to place everyone and everything into a box which can then be neatly organised on a shelf with a tidy little location reference that can be navigated to and drawn upon whenever the situation calls for it. And this isn't just the case for large socially constructed ideas, such as what to call people who identify as transgender, or what to think of the apparent discrimination we see between the sexes. It permeates right the way down to the most personal of levels.
You're gay? Judged.
You're Pakistani? Judged.
You have a face tattoo? Judged.
You read books? Judged.
You like musicals. Judged.
Honestly, the amount of times I have been asked, both directly and indirectly, if I'm gay is genuinely shocking to me. As if the question warrants an answer. As if the answer would determine something fundamental about me and skew the preexisting perception of me. And the very same logic applies to whether or not I think the pay gap exists, or whether or not I eat meat. So militant have we become that we hone in on single data points and decide that it is representative of a person on the whole and can extrapolate the judgement of a person's thoughts to the person on the whole. What's even more worrying is that people don't seem to realise that we put other people in boxes whilst simultaneously reinforcing the boxes in which we ourselves sit in. Or maybe we do realise this, albeit perhaps unconsciously, and that makes us all the more determine to keep other people stuffed into convenient little crass generalised soundbite descriptions. Which isn't true for everyone, I'm sure, but true for a lot, I'm equally as sure, and that is a sinister notion indeed.
It's sinister because to subscribe to the notion that people who think differently on different issues are morally repugnant, is to subscribe to the notion that there is such a thing as "normal". And to judge people and label them according to your definition of normal is what is truly the morally repugnant concept.
Because what is normal?
To some people "normal" is jumping out of a plane with faith that the parachute concealed within their backpack will prevent them from plummeting into the ground. To others it is to take a vow off celibacy. To others still it is quite literally a multitude of different things.
"Normal" = x. And x is an infinite variable. And the idea that your x is morally superior than anybody else's x is utterly preposterous. So I think it's high time we each climbed down from on high, recognised that we all occupy the same latitudinal space, and quit obnoxiously trying to force one another into these claustrophobic and confined echo chambers. We are being sold and told enough as it is by material goods, we really don't have to add to that on an Orwellian level.
I had a thought not so long ago in which I was holding out hope for a time where the world in which we live is ran by societies that seek to pull you out from boxes and confining concepts, rather than perpetually stuff you into them, intent on having you tune out to a true human experience of just being instead of this focus on work, money, spend, sleep, argue.
But since then I have amended that thought to the idea that the society that seeks to pull us out of boxes, is exactly the society that is made up of individuals who have already taken the initiative to liberate themselves from those boxes, and in such a society, there likely isn't going to be any boxes from which you would need to be pulled out from by society.
Because ultimately what is society? It isn't some physical enacting entity that will save us. It is comprised of us. It is a vast network consisting of each and every single one of us as a unique node within that network. We have to save it! And the more I think about it, and read the literature on it, and the more I study it, the more I have come to genuinely believe that starts with us all saving our own damn self first. Recognising our own flaws as individuals and seeking to right those wrongs before we start rigidly asserting what is and isn't right throughout the social construct at large. It will be in bettering ourselves that we shall propagate that renewal outward through the network into society on the whole.