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What does not worrying what other people say include?

The cultured mind. Part 4

[ 2 min read ]

The idea that because certain prominent, respectable people (the so called elite), or those who had been recognized by the society as geniuses, icons, or great artists, or whom the society treats as its experts (the people who often appear in interviews or give talks, or are asked to share their opinion on a given subject) read or saw something and considered it a great work, we (the rest of the society) automatically are supposed to know this work and consider it a great work (interpret it a certain way and admire it just like everybody else, like normal people), or else you’ll be considered an ignorant, a lesser (inferior) citizen or human being or uneducated / uncultured (now I have no doubt what these words mean) is so flawed to me.

This is precisely the notion on which education is based. A group of people is tasked with creating a list of things (names and titles) which every respectable person in a given country should be acquainted with, a list of top human beings who walked or walk this earth and just try to be of a different opinion. And this happens in countries where there is freedom (where people are considered free people) and where freedom is valued greatly.

But this I guess has to do with how we think and behave (our characteristics as human beings, with our inborn impulses, and our habitual behavior which is shaped when we live in groups), and the rights and freedoms we invent in order to make people’s lives better (at least this is what we always have in mind when we introduce them) are a completely different thing.

We may consider ourselves free people (because certain laws guarantee us certain rights / freedoms), but in a reality, in day to day life are we really free? Can we really freely choose what we will believe in and think and like and consider great, or important, or fundamental, or is it perhaps decided for us (imposed on us — purposely or willy-nilly) to a large degree?

I think it’s the latter for the majority of people. And because we don’t like to be perceived as weirdos, we like to feel that we belong somewhere (to some group) more often than not we end up agreeing with the majority which obviously happens at the expense of our real freedom.

Of course one might argue that choosing to be like the majority (choosing to share the most widespread sentiment, for the sake of being liked or accepted by a certain group, culture) means that there is a real freedom. I would say however that when we choose something because we fear being different (being looked upon as a weirdo, misfit) it’s a poor choice. It’s a default choice. It’s what we will do in probably 99 instances out of 100 (maybe even 999 out of 1000), without the need to ponder it. So it’s closer to an impulse / instinctive behavior. I wouldn’t consider it a free, aware choice.