Be yourself. First, because who else are you going to be? Second, because it’s easier.
Note this is not an encouragement to give in to your own worst impulses, or to do things that hurt you and others. All of us, given the opportunity, have the ability to destroy ourselves and the entire world. That’s not necessarily your “true self.” That’s just…. your own worst impulses. The darker self that Jordan Peterson goes on about. The monster within. Weirdly, it’s not easier to give in to that. It’s seductive, sometimes, but it always takes a piece of you.
This is more about….
We’re all social apes, right? Know where the dividing line is between “making it easier to live with others” and “going along with trends that bring me no enjoyment or I despise.” “Embracing new things that make my life easier” and “embracing new things because they’re new things.”
And sometimes, be yourself just because you’re yourself.
Terry Pratchett said that you find success when you’re “yourself as hard as you can.” And to an extent he’s correct.
Partly because of the fundraiser, partly because I’m away from home but was intending to wake up early and feed the blog, yesterday I was thinking about this blog: how it started, how it went on, and its surprising success (Yes, I do realize it probably won’t fund completely this year. Given the rescue last year, a lot of people probably feel they more than funded me for a year from November. And that’s fine. I’ll fundraise again next year. (Does it have to have bats?) At least if we’re all still here, as grandma used to say. It is still success in influence and levels of engagement.)
When I started the blog, besides its being supposed to be a vehicle to promote my blog, it was widely known “blogs are done” and the time to start a blog was ten years previously. But, required to do it every day, I was forced to become more myself.
There is no possible way — none — you can have an idea and post at least a page of it every morning, unless it’s something that speaks to you. So I started stretching a toe into being opinionated — or often simply mulling on — on culture and social trends, and of course, politics. And the more I dipped, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. And….
I’ll be honest, I thought I was a lot more of an outlier than I am. without this blog, I might never have had the courage to come out of the political closet.
But the blog is more successful than others started before, after or at the same time. Massively more successful.
Part of it is because younger people (and there’s a good contingent of them here) really prize “authenticity” by which they mean honesty. Understandably so, because most of them have been forced to hide their entire school/work career. And they sense phony a mile away.
And in part of coming out of the political closet, I lost even more patience for doing “what everyone is doing.” Mind you, we were never very good at it, Dan and I.
For instance, we ping younger than most people our age online, because we both immediately adapt tech that makes our lives easier. However, we were late adapters of smart phones (until we needed some of their functions) and some parts of our lives are stuck in the nineties, because we bought down-stream tech, and it hasn’t broken yet (I only recently gave up my sansa mp3 player, and I still use it for audiobooks when walking, for instance.)
There is no rhyme or reason to it, beyond “we can use this” and “Not worth it.” And sometimes “No, that makes me uncomfortable.”
My kids grew up with the best gadgets when needed, but ten year old games. (And no game system.) Mostly because we bought games in thrift stores.
We were reading ebooks before it was cool, but we used repurposed old … gah, I only remember the Pratchett term! — disorganizers to do it. We just came across a throve of old Nokias we used for the purpose in the nineties. (Mostly we used them away from home, so I didn’t have to carry twenty books in my luggage. And so the kids had thier own libraries.) At the same time, our kids (and us) dressed from thrift stores, and I couldn’t tell you the fashionable brands/clothes if they bit me in the fleshy part of the back.
I’ll admit those kinds of decisions were always because we were either very stressed and needed to find a way to do things faster/better, or because we were broke. But still we did what we felt comfortable with. No more. No less.
So, why tell you that now?
In the comments, Steve and Bob C. were talking about people who just playact at being whatever the trendy thing is right now, including “woke” of course.
I don’t think most of you — never having lived through a revolution — realize how large a percentage of people that is, or how many will quite literally change their politics overnight.
Most humans are VERY social apes. Part of the reason the borderline incoherent ideas of the left have held such social sway for so long is because of the perception that they were “normal” and that to dissent was “weird.”
Most people don’t analyze their beliefs, and frankly couldn’t care less about such big things as ethics or economics or how things work. They’re too busy living day to day. They only adapt such “beliefs” to fit in with others. Because if “everyone thinks this” they probably aren’t wrong, right?
In fact, if things go on as they’re already going, with the sense of “left consensus” vanishing (which is confusing the heck out of the true believers of the left, who never understood their “dominance” was an illusion caused by the megaphone they held) and a sense of some sort of “right wing” consensus settling in (I’m hoping and there are signs that in America that will mostly be a sort of Constitutional Libertarian consensus, while in Europe it’s going to be the old “blood, G-d an soil” which to be fair it’s still better than what they have now.) most people will turn on a dime. I know that, because I’ve seen it before. And it’s going to be really hard for you to be sure of who your friends really are, who are right now making vague woke mouth noises. Because in two or three years, they could be telling you that no, they were always on the right, they just weren’t as brave as you are. And how can you be sure? Since in fact there are any number of people in hiding, and we know that for sure. (Some of you are, out of necessity.)
This is why it’s very important for you to know who you are. And what you believe in.
I still don’t know if this is all going to tip in the pot for a few years of maximum instability, or if we’re simply going to potter along, and then overnight everything changes. The only thing inclining me to the first, is that hunger looks likely this winter, and hungry people are unstable by definition.
But I do know that all our institutions will either be reformed or fall. So it’s going to feel like the whole world is falling apart.
In the middle of that it’s really easy to fall for fads, and social enforcement/ostracism. “Everyone says that people who play accordion are responsible for the corruption of legal institutions. Let’s get them.” (You only think I’m joking, but read about any kind of time when things are under deep stress.) Don’t do that. Not even if you always hated accordion players. (I’m meh on it. For some reason it was THE accomplishment of properly brought up young ladies my generation in Portugal. Thank heavens my parents didn’t follow fads.)
Know who you are, and what you believe. Your best friends, and even your family might do a couple of double reverses, and it might leave you feeling dizzy. But if you know who you are and what you believe, you’ll at least deal with them honestly, and you’ll have nothing to apologize for.
Even if you’re weird, even you’re eccentric (weird with money. I aspire.) Even if you think people will look at you askance…. Be yourself.
Being someone else is too much work, and takes away energy you’re going to need, as we build over, build under, build around.
And frankly, we need to hurry up. Because the sense things are shaking harder and harder is unavoidable.
Go be yourself and build. And get ready to take the weight when the collapse comes.