Monday, October 22, 2012

The Social Prison

The other day I was at an educational conference and one of the speakers -- a very peppy, short-haired woman with, if I'm being fair, a lot of talent as a teacher -- uttered the phrase: "None of us is as smart as all of us."

Those of you who read my stuff from time to time probably know what is coming next: God, I hate phrases like that. And, besides, it just isn't true. (This is a generally profanity-free blog, or I would make reference to the excrement of a particular horned animal with a strange attraction to red capes and the rib-cages of Hispanic fellows in tight pants.)

I can't stand acrobatic phrases like the one the speaker used. It is supposed to be a "we get more done when we work together" phrase, but it twists and flips itself to be so. And, truth is, it winds up really being yet another of our steps toward a world in which the individual is continually smothered or assimilated, whether it be philosophically or politically.

Some of us are smarter than all of us. There are people who can accomplish feats of creativity and problem-solving in the solitude of their rooms or studies or labs that no committee or board or think-tank ever could.

Just because you might need people to help you lift one side of a house that you designed, it doesn't mean you are not a better architect than everyone else.

I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it again: we had better put the brakes on with all of this group-think stuff. It's disgusting. It's dehumanizing.

Are your children (or your future children) being raised to be nothing but a shadow-hidden cog in the machine of the world? Is that what you want? (Because, that is what the world wants, believe me.) Not my kids. Whether it is true or not, I want my boys to live as if the possibility of distinguishing themselves from the masses is waiting for the next ring of the alarm clock.

I'm not generally a fan of T-shirt-front philosophy, but I did see a kid the other day wearing one I liked: "There's no 'I' in 'team,' but there is one in 'win.'" The masses have managed to make this "team" philosophy sound so irrefutably right -- so benevolent and so kindly and inclusive. But, there be heinousness lurking under that.

No, some of us are smarter than all of us. The sad part of it is that, today, the Einsteins, Shakespeares and daVincis are being programmed to become meaningful and anonymous contributors to their towns' shade tree commissions.

Is stuff like that important? -- joining the school board or shade tree commission or town council? For some, it is. For the town, it might be. But don't you dare cram it down my throat. For some, being constantly bombarded with social pressure to give themselves up in exchange for these things is like being coaxed (by guilt) into a prison cell.

Long live the individual heart and mind. Let's admit it: there are some people out there who are smarter than all of us. And God bless them. And God help them to win the fight against assimilation into the collective.


  1. It's so attractive to agree with peppy woman though - if, like me, (and most of us, I suppose) you cannot ever aspire to be the very best, then it's rather wonderful to feel that no-one is best and therefore you haven't failed to reach the pinnacle. All disgusting sophistry of course - you are totally right.

    1. I can see both sides, Z -- it is nice to imagine no one is much better than I, but, I also love to admire the greats who tower above me.