“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
My wife and I spend a number of weekends in small towns in and around the Blue Ridge Mountain region like Brevard, Hendersonville, Asheville and Blowing Rock. We travel to these areas for a purpose, either visiting family or riding our road or mountain bikes. Though we are not residents of any of these communities when we visit them we don’t consider ourselves “tourist”.
I have spent enough time in say Brevard to know which restaurants to eat at and which ones to avoid. I know short-cuts, how to get from one place to the other like the locals. I don’t need to go into the quaint shops along Broad or Main St., though there is an art gallery I try to stop by every time I am there. I am not a local, but I am local enough to not act like and most importantly, dress like a tourist.
I thought about this last night shopping for mountain bike gloves at REI. A thirty or so year old yuppy (is that still a category) looking couple were shopping for what looked liked their outfits for an excursion to the mountains this weekend to pick apples, leaf watch, or stroll and shop on main street. I know what they are trying to do, I have seen it on the streets of Blowing Rock a thousand times, they want to “fit in”. What’s so funny to me is the harder they try to fit in the more obvious it is that they don’t.
I love different. I am not a fan of sameness or copies. Different looks, different thought and different opinions make me comfortable. Being around clones, people who follow the crowd, the party line scare me. Clones garner their power from mass not necessarily from their intellectual views. They cluster together, not as individuals, but as comfortable comrades, people who look, speak, think and at times, dress the same. If you find yourself in one of these groups you will find it very difficult to escape. It becomes your identity, your social life, your circle, in short, who you are.
I escaped one of these groups in my late forties or I should say, my wife and I escaped together. We paid a price for it, primarily a social price but that has ultimately been a blessing. We replaced the social part, the beer and fatty hors devours with the healthy, riding bicycles and hiking together. Leaving this group freed our thoughts, our actions and our opinions about the world we live in. Why? Because we expanded our sources of information beyond the opinions of the six or eight other people we were trying to impress or appease.
Don’t let REI dress you, dress yourself. Pick the clothes, the thoughts and the actions that fit your personality and your morals. Don’t let a group or a political party make decisions for you. Someday you may have to account for those decisions or actions. If you do, they are easier to justify if they were yours and yours alone.
“All people are born alike – except Republicans and Democrats.” – Groucho Marx