Chronicle of the Month – July 2007

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One Should Have The Courage
by Odilon Mbog

Odilon Mbog

“One should have the courage to be like everyone to be like no one”
This sentence reminds me of my high school days and the two last years before graduation when we were taking delight in nice formulas, lateens citations or formulas that were fascinating us by their profundity, whether real or false or simply taken as such because of our young age and the intellectual level that we had at the time. This sentence is continuously coming back to my mind recently and is imposing itself in the subject I would like to take up here.

“One should have the courage to be like everyone to be like no one”
This sentence, that we are facing express in fact a state of mind; I am even asking myself if it was not the state of mind we were in during our youth or maybe an intellectual consequence of the environment we were living in. We were in a boarding school, living together with older students studying philosophy. They were spending a lots of time discussing philosophic subjects and the youngster that we were at the time were also keen to find sentences which made us think that we were keeping up with them and not too far from their level.

But we were saying those words to waken those who were sleeping in an unfortunate desire, at least this is what we thought, to look different, not to do like the others; a real worship of “being different”. Consequently, the tendency was to put in evidence the peculiarities, to show that we were unique, different. Unfortunately, we had to accept most of the time that we were like everybody else, simply common. We had to live everyone’s every day life, do the same activities, be dressed alike, and make sure not to be the “nerd”. In other words, it was better to learn to be “in” while we had a real aversion for it. We were being someone if we were or thought we were unique.

Today, it seems in the contrary that every one is obliged to be and do the same than the others to feel existing and valuable. As long as we do not have the feeling to belong to a group, we are considered as nobody as youngster like to say. We went from “being different” to “being alike” to exist. This generates an ambiguous and paradoxical way of relating to peculiarity. Are we peculiar if we are different or if we belong to the group? When do we assert who we really are? Is it alone or in a group?

What we can be sure of is that one cannot not be defined according to a group or according to the majority. This definition is positive or negative depending of the time and circumstances. At the same time, the criteria defining the group or the majority is not different of the value given to the fact to belong to a group or to the majority, to keep away or to be put aside, voluntarily or simply by a natural or cultural factor, make that we cannot belong to a group or the majority. This means that we have two main factors when we place our selves with regards to a group and especially for the value we can give to a human being in or outside the group.

When there is a negative appraisement of the group, in its criteria of membership and in the consequences of the fact that we belong to the group, the one who don’t belong to the group are praised and respected. On the contrary, if the group carries criteria of nobility or is globally praised or estimated, the fact to be outside the group is a burden to carry and people will fight to be accepted in the group or fight to change the rules until one can find its place inside the group. Another way can consist in denigrating the criteria or values which define the group to create another majority, antagonist to the existing one in a way where both system of value counterbalance each other and the barrier which were used to differentiate both parties will loose their value and both will be in the same space with no more feeling of carrying a heavy load in the way one looks at himself or in the way other look at you.

People often say that they do not care about what other think of them, but is it really possible not to care at all about what other think about you?
My answer is clearly negative, as this would mean to be blind, deaf and with no opinion and with no sensual organs. All what we have to get in contact with the world and to exist in the world is talking about the difference and differences. It is impossible to be all similar and erase the differences, whatever nature they are, because it is not even possible to determine how many types and natures of differences exist. Even if we cannot find any difference today, some differences might emerge tomorrow and every time, this will depend on the positive or negative evaluation, serious or not we will have towards people, things, events and facts in history and in every day life. But more particularly, it is not possible to live without the slightest consciousness of the difference.

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