I got an email the other day from my little sister. This fact, in and of itself, was both surprising and pleasing but when I read the message she had sent I had to stop for a few minutes to think of a way to respond.
My sister is 13 years old now and is a freshman in high school. (Yikes! That is scarier than I care to admit.) I was 17 when she was born so, while we may have lived under the same roof for a few years, we were never exactly close as siblings. By the time she was old enough to be self aware I had already stared striking out to begin my own life. In fact, over the last few years, I have seen her only when I have been able to fly back home for my (rather infrequent) visits.
Not withstanding our lack of closeness, I have always held at least a modicum of sway over her tastes and preferences. I mean, I introduced her to Rocky Horror Picture Show when she was around three and she keeps viewing it regularly this day. (Note to self: Check with sister to learn current number of viewings to date.)
I also helped formulate her musical tastes by introducing her to music I myself enjoy. Perhaps it isn't surprising that she sent me a message asking me for feedback and ideas pertaining to new music that she should listen to and enjoy. What was surprising was the reason...
Apparently, my sister is striving to become an individual. She wants to set herself apart from her peers by having her own tastes and such.
I can get behind that to a point so I sent her some ideas. I recommended listening to several different musical genres that are less mainstream than she would generally hear on the radio. In particular, I mentioned show-tunes (a long time favorite of mine), along with classical and opera as being something new for her to check. I also recommended that she listen to some oldies just because, well, they are awesome and I think everyone ought to be able to find some kind of oldies to enjoy. Hell... If it has withstood the years and is still something people want to hear then there almost has to be something in it worth listening to!
Anyway, all that being said I think that there is something more important to keep in mind. Being an individual means more than just liking things that other people don't like or are unexposed to. Being an individual does encompass that but it is also having the courage and strength of character to hold to your own personal preferences. That includes the times when everyone else likes it too.
Just because everyone likes something does not devalue it as a thing to like. Distinguishing yourself as an individual by disregarding that in which others see merit is both ignorant and stunting. (I considered making a goth or indie dig here... Something regarding the uniform of non-conformity or some-such nonsense... But then I realized it would open a whole other can of worms that I just don't have the attention span to tackle right now.)
Not that you have to like things because everyone does. That is just ignorance in the opposite (and more frequent) direction. All I am saying is that, before disregarding something based on the preference of others, a person owes it to themselves to give it their attention and thought in an effort to decide for themselves whether or not they can see it's merit.
I suppose that what it comes down to is that individualism is something that is based solely on self. If you really truly wish to be an individual then you have to be honest, introspective and strong.
In other words...
You have to like what you like without regard to the opinions of others.
And let's face it here... Ignorance is no bar to individualism. Not knowing something is not the same as pretending that you either do or do not like something.
Yeah... I think I had it right... Honest, introspective and strong (courageous?) enough to hold tight to your own individual truth.
It is nice if you can do all that without trying to ram your opinions down the throats of others too. Doing so doesn't disqualify you from the "I'm an Individual" club... But it does grant you membership to the "I'm an Individual Who Thinks My Opinion is Better than Yours" club. I like to call that one "I Need My Ass Kicked" for short.
And for fucks sake... If you ever hear yourself utter the words, "In my humble opinion," please... Just stop there. If it is humble keep it to yourself. If you think it is worth sharing, well then, it isn't humble. That's fine, really, but don't bloody well lie about it. You aren't fooling anyone, you know.
It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.