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The Banality of Individuality

Evan Gerritz ’20
If I were to look in the mirror (before quickly shielding my eyes), I’d see a person who had molded himself to his interests.
We all gain pride and a sense of importance from thinking we are special, but because we imitate those we like, this personality is falsely unique.

The widespread tends to feel less personal than the rare and original, and eventually these more obscure qualities can merge with self-identity.

After all, popular culture is popular because it is of the people (populus, populi, m.), and because of this common status, the idols of pop culture are too communal to emulate and still retain a distinctive identity. People can identify as a Justin Bieber fan, but not as Justin Bieber, whereas I, at times, legitimately do worry that I might have become David Byrne. The point is that it is easier to become en
snared by the influence of superficial interests and role models when they are virtually unknown within a local population.

With obscure influences, the question becomes: “Can a person be unique if at least everyone in the room thinks so?” A response to this question also has implications on plagiarism, so I think it is least felonious and also most honest to say no, and that is why our sense of uniquity is misled. 

What is really at the heart of the matter is that almost all views of what is truly distinctive about anyone are inherently superficial. I believe we are too complex to be able to grasp ourselves and each other entirely, and if we have consciously changed ourselves for self-improvement (or degeneracy), is it really still ours? Now, I am interested in whether or not our personalities can even be influenced. Hopkins, with all of its nostalgic nostalgia (back pain, apparently obsolete), prides itself in its community of exceptional kindness, and the Assembly speeches and other official statements solidify this example. Again, this is an instance of when the exception can become or be attempted to become unexceptional. Can this seemingly positive change be considered a dilution of individuality? Probably not, but people are constantly changing, even within and from an academic environment, and I wonder to what extent these changes can be considered genuinely personal or instead a product of influence. 

It is not my opinion, however, that the self truly needs to be treated so monolithically,  and maybe I should focus less on originality and more on commercial viability. Regardless, it is still important to self-reflect on who we are. Introspection creates a functional sense of ourselves, a means through which to diagnose and treat any perceived fault. That is a good place to start. In this interest, I personally will look towards the panacea of catachresis.
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