Have you ever felt like buying the latest “Supreme” drop to fit in? Well, most of us have had this feeling at least once.
It is the community that creates this general crowd flow which narrows down a person’s individuality.
Individualism, or the belief of free, unique expression, is overlooked in close communities. Individuality is something desired by everyone, but ironically, people unknowingly submit to the will of the community, having the latest model of the iPhone or wearing “hypebeast” clothing (a hypebeast is a person who follows a trend to be cool or in style or a person who wears what is hyped up)
Many philosophers have given insight on individualism and the crowd, John Stuart Mill in particular.
In his essay On Liberty, he explains his belief in the “tyranny of the majority.” This means that the majority overpowers the trends of others who are part of the lesser group, creating a general direction for most people to follow.
At school, this direction is that students wear the latest branded clothes because of huge peer pressure from the bigger group which they consider to be cool.
On average, young people in the UK spend £25 a week mainly on clothes and shoes, according to the Office for National Statistics. Similarly, in America, reports say that youth spend 38 percent of their income on clothing, as compared to 22 percent on food. Additionally, young people spend $5,408 a year of which $2,055.04 is spent on clothes out of their own pocket.
The fact of the matter is that individualism is dying.
The death of individuality is illustrated at Woodstock, which hosts students from many different backgrounds. Once they begin to live up to the expectations of the community to fit in, they start to mirror the popular kids, who are slaves to the same clothing propaganda; hence, they strip themselves of their own uniqueness.
This is similar to what David Brooks argues in “Personalism: The Philosophy We Need,” stating, “Our culture does a pretty good job of ignoring the uniqueness and depth of each person.”
He adds that “consumerism treats people as mere selves — as shallow creatures concerned merely with the experience of pleasure and the acquisition of stuff.” Clearly, students have a fundamental bias towards buying the most recent and propagated clothes because it makes them feel good.
At school, this pleasure leads to students getting caught up in fashion and buying the latest clothes. Since so many can afford to buy expensive clothes, it becomes outside the norm to wear something different.
Although most students don’t want to be outside the norm, some of them do not agree with this position. Muzhgan Noori, Class of 2020, wrote in a poem last year: “I was hidden with simple clothes that my mother made. / Five more kids had the same / Never knew about branded clothes, but I was fine / Because I never felt odd wearing mine.”
Many students will relate to her words because the poem says that she was not alone to be comfortable in her clothes because those individuals have overcome the pressure of the “crowd.”
In relation to the previously articulated point about the “crowd,” Dhrubhagat Singh, Class of 2020, mentioned the impact of the fast-fashion industry on the school in his song review of Wing$, stating, “This wasn’t an immediate realization. Over the years, I’ve seen countless of my own friends convert themselves into this cult, where they constantly have to buy the latest, most expensive shoes and clothes.”
Despite the fact that it is dying, individualism is important because it brings along change, often pushing for a better community.
An excellent example of an individual who goes against the norm and pushes for the better community is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, — revolutionizing transportation and space travel while also enjoying life the way he wants.
Recently, Musk took a puff of cannabis on The Joe Rogan Experience show, which resulted in Tesla’s stock plummeting 9 percent. His behavior was looked upon as outside the norm because no other billionaire goes smoking a blunt, right?
Well, at least not in public.
Lastly, in this ever-changing life, we take advantage of others.
When was the last time that you talked to somebody without selfish intent? Have you considered that people around you are more than just mere units that give you produce?
In response to such selfish, capitalist behavior, Martin Buber, an Austrian-Israeli philosopher, formulated “I-Thou” and “I-it” relationships.
“I-it” relationships are the most common, where people are too busy to talk to others and just scratch the surface of others’ characters, resulting in neglection of the uniqueness of those they talk to, making bold assumptions.
Similarly, many people have misjudged my personal character because I have long hair and it’s easy to assume I’m a hippy. However, the “I-Thou” relationship allows people to look into each other at depth and develop an understanding of their perspective as they put themselves into each other’s shoes.
As students, we need to see each other as more than just bodies of brands; we need to look further than judging one another based off what a greedy trend or company tells us what to do. We need to start appreciating each other for who we are, not what we hide behind.
Start with respect and empathy for one another. Change will inevitably follow.
Edited by Harsh Shyamdasani