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CHOOSING TO BE DIFFERENT

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CULT FIGURE: Guevara t-shirts became a uniform for non-conformists

It seems to me there are three types of people in the world: those who fit in with their society’s norms, those who don’t but wish they did and those who don’t fit in and have no desire to do so.

I think I grew up when I moved from the second to the third group…or at least when I realised I wanted to.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say it was the day I stopped seeing being normal as necessarily a good thing.

The realisation that I didn’t want to be just another brick in the wall at first made my life more difficult but then it made things a whole lot easier. You see, if you want to fit in, society has lots of rules and regulations in place that you can follow without bothering to think about them to determine if they make any sense or if you agree with the spirit of the law.

If, on the other hand, you choose to take responsibility for all your actions, you have to consider these things, but after a while that puts you in touch with your conscience so that you know what’s right and what’s wrong without the need to refer to the rule book or think too much.

Where did this idea for a MYOB column come from? Well, I guess it’s the product of my reading Che Guevara and the Silver Mountain by Anne Mustoe, an English travel writer who retraced on her bicycle a motorcycle journey Guevara made through South America before he became a Marxist revolutionary and one of the leaders of the Cuban revolution.

Throughout her book Mustoe quotes from the diary the Argentinean medical student kept on that trip and the passages that got me going were Guevara’s entry about how people saw him differently when he stopped travelling by motorcycle and Mustoe’s observations about how people seemed to be less helpful and less interested in her when she wasn’t travelling by bike.  I know I’m more comfortable being a white man in Africa or an American in the UK than I am being a yank at home and I think it has something to do with the same realities the two travellers were talking about.

Then I started wondering why most of us think it’s so important to fit in when in fact it’s the things that are different about us that make us interesting.

Back to the three types of people: I think people who fit in and want to are just fine, and so are the ones who don’t and don’t want to.  Unfortunately, I imagine that accounts for something like one percent of the western world.  Most of us want to be unique and special but still be more or less the same as our peers.
“Hey man, how can I show the world I’m a rebel? I know, I’ll buy a Che Guevara t-shirt and put his poster on my bedroom wall…just like all the other rebels do.”

You can substitute Bob Marley in the above imagined quote or even Jerry Garcia and the Deadhead tie-died t-shirts if the thought of white people with dreadlocks isn’t too disturbing for you.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with fitting in to our society but I do believe that ‘average’ is a painfully low target to shoot for these days so being at least a little bit different is probably a good thing.