The Bandwagon Tragedy
‘’I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bound to you or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine to depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons and are each equally provided with faculties necessary for our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner’’
The quote above exudes an air of liberation. It was a letter written by escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, to his ex-master, Thomas Auld, after escaping captivity in Maryland and fleeing to New York. Frederick Douglass won two wars. First, he conquered the dogma that enslaved his mind, adopting the belief that there was more to life, that he wasn’t born to just exist and accept the status quo, and that he could do more, and he did want to be more. The first victory preceded the second; the general war against slavery that led to the ‘’abolition’’ of slavery. Although Frederick Douglass’ war was circa the 19th Century, the paradox is that slavery is still evident in the 21st century. A man is tasked with winning a war targeted at his unique makeup and which threatens his extinction while he’s yet alive.
I am only beginning to understand several elemental concepts that have shaped me and perhaps even recreated and modified me into being merely a shadow of another individual. Most likely and quite tragically, this other individual may be living a life of emulation, hence producing a cycle of the class of people that simply exist; a bunch of photocopies.
“A lot of individuals are equally guilty and together we have found normalcy in bandwagonism”
Consider a seemingly familiar scenario where a group of people say ‘’no’’ to a particular ideology or political administration. My natural disposition would be to agree with the collective opinion, possibly because I am too torpid to generate a base for an answer when in reality, I have employed my automatic answering thought-system to provide an answer. Unconsciously, I have calculated how impossible it is for the majority to be wrong. By doing this, I have incapacitated my individualism and yielded to the incessant lure of bandwagonism. A lot of individuals are equally guilty and together we have found normalcy in bandwagonism. You know when you want to go the other way or stand out, but somehow still hop on the ride along with everyone.
“Sometimes we need to put a stop to the franticness and auto-pilot lifestyles we have grown accustomed to…”
My father once advised me in one of our occasional yet golden father-son discussions, ‘’layinka! You do not owe anyone a prompt reply when you are queried. You have a choice to answer and if you must, offer a carefully thought response’’. He had noticed the swiftness with which I chased trends and the way I supplied hasty, little thought-out answers when queried. Over time, I have carefully crafted my recipe for living life on my own terms, which includes:
- Self-study – this is the remedy for outright stupidity. And I do not mean the trite advice on reading books because they are equally important. I mean an understudy of yourself, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. I personally have always liked the feeling of creating – be it food, music or literature – not just for the aesthetics, but also for the joy I get to see on the faces of those who enjoy them. Cooking, for instance, helps me stay focused and nudges my distracted mind back to the task at hand on days when I am experiencing a block. . Men who cook are seen as weak, lacking a sense of value for what is truly important. For a long time, I believed it too, allowing society to dictate my beliefs. If you are a man and you cook, make music and love good literature, there is a subtle expectation to keep those activities as hobbies. Because strong men need steady jobs to sustain the families they will someday have and need not waste time on frivolous activities.
- Introspection – As cliché as this might sound, my favourite and most productive lone time is when I am in the Yes, doing the big one!!! It is the one place I evaluate myself. Here, I question certain norms/conventions and check the origin of the status quo. I ask myself searching questions like:
- Why is this system in place? What is its purpose?
- Am I benefiting positively from this scheme?
- Is my life pattern mine or emulated? Are my interests mine or influenced by others?
- What are the genuine intentions behind my actions?
These questions help me straighten out my value systems and filter out the chaff. Sometimes we need to put a stop to the franticness and auto-pilot lifestyles we have grown accustomed to and consciously live our best lives without allowing our true selves slowly become extinct.
It is also noteworthy that although I patterned my life after someone else’s, I patently didn’t obtain the same result as they did. However, it is sheer insanity for me to have continued living my life in emulation of others. You also do not have to go completely overboard in your bid to remain authentic; there is a place for good models and mentors. With the help of my mentors, I’ve examined the habits and principles that formed my thought process, discarding most and retaining only a few that I truly believe in.
Finally, I challenge you today to find what makes you tick; your reason behind the reason and your ideas behind the general ideology. Live your own life; everyone else is already taken. That’s an Oscar Wilde right there, tailored to suit my line of thought. I am sure you agree that it is quite as potent.