Is a Nation of Followers just a Nation of Listeners
When was the last time you had an original thought? No, really. When was the last time you had an idea that you hadn’t already heard somewhere else? Anything from your outfit choices to your lifestyle choices, to your opinions on politics and your opinions on healthcare and your opinions on what makes a great date. Sorry to tell you, but none of it is original. It comes from an outside source, most likely the result of a boardroom discussion on how to increase someone’s bottom line. As a species, we’ve lost our ability to create. All we can do is take someone else’s great idea and try—usually unsuccessfully—to perfect it, whatever that means.
Take music, for example. All popular music these days is simply a mash-up of old styles, taking someone else’s beat or hook and “recreating” it to make it new. And movies! I swear half the movies out in the past year were remakes of old classics. And you and I both know, most of them are shit. Although, I guess as hard as it is to improve upon a classic, it’s even harder to create a masterpiece yourself, which is why most of us opt out of doing anything original. When we decide what we should have for dinner or what brand of t-shirt we just have to wear this season, we need to look outside ourselves for the answer. Think about it: what would you do if you no longer had access to TV, magazines, or any kind of social media? I’m sure you think you would be fine. You’re different; you’re an informed thinker. Right. Try it for a week and see how it goes.
I suppose it’s not really our fault; our brains are hardwired to make decisions as easily and quickly as possible, with the least amount of effort. If we took the time to consider every decision we had to make during the course of a day, we would never get anywhere. Luckily for us, the mainstream global media and corporations have been so kind as to provide answers to our every thought, our every question (hell, even to questions we aren’t asking), so it’s no wonder we’ve forgotten how to come up with anything new.
Even the ideas we think are original aren’t. We learn as we get older that all those rebellious notions, crazy ideas, and risky decisions we made in our immortal youth have been recycled time and time again, generation though generation. With the ever-growing, increasingly stifling presence of our government and mainstream media, it’s getting harder and harder to have an original thought, even when we want to. And that desire strikes less and less these days. Taking a risk and going in a different direction is scary, after all, and could totally backfire. You could fail, you could be shunned by your peers. Better to just take a note from the Big Brother handbook and move with the masses, right?
Maybe I’m jaded. Certainly, there are some benefits of mass influence, of an environment that discourages individual thought. It certainly helps societies run smoothly. But when does this smoothness give way to a world that creates human robots, a society where everyone is basically running on autopilot, not really thinking at all? It may be easy, but it’s not a life.
Now, I’m not telling you to go out and start doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing—all those “anti-establishment” groups out there have already got that covered. I’m not saying that you’re a lemming if you happen to agree with popular thought on any particular subject, or if you join a book club, or even if you happen to like Billie Eilish. I just think that the global media has made it too easy to have an opinion on everything without actually learning or taking the time to delve into a subject on your own. In an era where technology puts so much education and information at our fingertips, our brains are wasting away from disuse, and all we do is chuckle like idiots while we watch The Masked Singer and complain about how the government is doing a shitty job.
Shit, even thinking that originality is dead isn’t exactly a new idea. Maybe we’re at a time in history where there are no new ideas to be had, who knows? Maybe we’ve exhausted all the possibilities of how an electric guitar and a set of drums can create magic. Maybe there are no new little black dresses to be had, no new theses to defend or artistic styles to discover. Maybe originality, or the lack thereof, isn’t even the issue at all. Perhaps how you reach your conclusion is more important than the conclusion itself.
So here’s a novel idea: stop regurgitating everything that television, your friends, and Wikipedia tells you is right. Sit down, step back, and use that collection of grey matter in your head to think, really think, and make a choice that’s totally your own. Even if you come to a pre-existing conclusion, the sense of accomplishment you will feel as a result of actually using your brain is worth it. Who knows, maybe you’ll even influence someone else’s thinking… much better to be the influencer than the influenced. And yes, thinking for yourself is definitely more work, but infinitely more rewarding. At least, that’s what they tell me.