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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Reta Stark on Sunday October 11, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL122 at Diablo Valley College taught by LaurenceFischer in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 31 views. For similar materials see /class/221270/engl122-diablo-valley-college in Foreign Language at Diablo Valley College.
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Date Created: 10/11/15
Be Different Like Everyone Else By LUC SANTE note to students This is in Seeing and W1fi g409 Are you a unique individual What a stupid question How could you not be You are the only person ever to have been born at 120832 AM on June 17 1973 in the maternity ward of Enos T Throop Memorial Hospital inPicpus NY You are easily distinguishable from the infants born in the same location on the same day at 1207 and 1209 respectively their parents were different from yours for one thing unless of course you are one of a set of twins or triplets Even then your fingerprints will be unique and the graph of your voiceprint equally singular identifiably yours alone even when you talk in a growl or a falsetto Anyway the important thing is that you know that you are you an inimitable hum an being with a collection of tastes tendencies tropisms penchants and small perversities that have never been gathered together in exactly the same way int e history of the world So how do you express this uniqueness of yours Maybe you always and unfailingly wear red socks Or you wear your watch on the pulse side of your wrist Or you have a hummingbird tattooed just above your ankle Or you carry special imported tea bags with you everywhere and will drink nothing else Or you are never seen without your tiny trembling dog Or you have a cabochon emerald implanted in one of your front teeth Or you drive a converted army ambulance Or you write with a fountain pen the size of a celery stalk Or you wear shorts even in winter Or you wear a baseball cap even to church Or you wear the same outfit every day Or you rig your car with vanity plates that encode your nickname Or you have everything monogrammed down to your unmentionables These are hard times for individuality If you practice any of the above small eccentricities you39ve got to know that at least a zillion people do the same and that includes the implanted stone in your tooth which will forever appear to the casual eye like a forgotten piece of spinach Even if you engage in some kind of radical Variations on atheme No 1 Redheads female piercing like encasing both eyebrows in tight rows of small rings and by this means emphatically announce to the world that you are not employed in middle management at a Fortune 500 company you are hardly doing something unprecedented The fact that you have carried out such a thing virtually insures that you39ve taken notice of all other humans in your town or on your travels who have done the same Perhaps then you are not proclaiming your individuality so much as establishing your kinship with others of the same micropersuasion The compulsion to express one39s individuality by means of eccentric style was for centuries restricted to members of the aristocracy the only people who had the means or the time to pay attention to style much less to feel constrained by prevalent fashions Things changed in the 19th century with the rise of the bourgeoisie which imposed a set of instant standards and latterday traditions upon the general population The first people to set themselves apart from these dictates were the earliest bohemians specifically the Jeune France crowd inParis circa 1830 which included Gerard de Nerval today much better known to English speakers for having walked a lobster on a leash through the gardens of the Palais Royal than for his 1 Martin Schceller visionary poems His friends drank wine from human skulls assumed bizarre names dyed or perfumed or sculptured their beards in strange shapes slept intents pitched on the oors of their garrets and so on The connection between art and eccentricity was thus forged Although when monolithic rules were in place it wasn39t hard to announce one39s uniqueness and as a bonus get a rise from the enforcers of those rules When all men wore black suits and those suits necessarily had to be cut by tailors it wasn39t much more expensive to procure a bolt of broadcloth in say purple and have a suit made that would cause passers by to stop in their tracks in horror admiration or a hybrid of the two The United States meanwhile has always had an equivocal L99 Samev quot1 39 1quot wmdbm 0 The New York attitude toward individualism It has given the idea quite a bit Times Magazine is the author ofquotLow Life quotEvidencequot and Themey Facts of lip serv1ce over the years in part as a wedge against collectivism and in part with respect to the prevalent notion that success stories are the hardwon results of solo efforts The quotrugged individual who at least used to figure so often in political rhetoric was generally someone who had built an empire with his bare hands unless he was a mythic embodiment the lone prospector for example Otherwise people who looked talked or acted funny were not often encouraged in their pursuits or invited to move in next door They might serve as entertainment but only at a distance In the wan39 days of the universal dress code the Beats were tabloid fixtures for more than a decade a fascination based on their beards leotards berets and perceived reluctance to bathe You might take a tour bus to go stare at the beatniks in their own habitat but if they showed up in your town they would be swiftly escorted out again Their appearance alone would have raised eyebrows but their homosexuality race mixing marijuana and poverty definitely did not fit community standards In the following decade the hippies appeared and quite apart from their even longer hair sometimes wilder mores and more active politics they were frightening because of their broad success The Beats were after all intellectuals and so automatically limited in their reach but the hippies made only vague and easily consumable feints in that direction The package of lifestyle accessories they promoted actually sold big time Less than a decade separated the time when having long hair could get one beaten up from the time when many of those who did the beating grew their own hair over their collars Yet the allure of being part of a counterculture persisted an outlaw thrill despite mounting evidence that the outlaws were mainstream I think it was in the late winter of 1971 thatI cut high school to go buy tickets to see the Allm an Brothers in Passaic NJ As I stood shivering in the endless line for the box office it struck me that every single human being on the line was wearing blue jeans Somehowl had previously failed to appreciate the inescapability of the phenomenon As the sociologist Ned Polsky has pointed out blue jeans which had formerly been worn Variations on atheme No 2 Redheads male only by farmers and miners and cowboys and then seldom off the job were one of the beatniks39 few lasting contributions to middleclass culture Well before the end of Richard Nixon39s first term they had become a uniform 7 Marti Schoeller Blue jeans had thus crossed several lines from utility to style from emblem of rebellion to mark of adherence and from ingroup insignia to massculture requisite As the tide of hum an affairs turned yet again during the 197039s the alleged hipness of blue jeans along with to be sure their comfort ease and versatility continued to work its charms upon those formerly young people who had perhaps smoked a little reefer in their school days but were now coming up in the world Something more however was needed something that would distinguish their blue jeans from those of the panhandler the yurt dweller the Black Sabbath fan and of course the plumber Thus was born the designer jean the same product perhaps a tri e more flatteringly cut at many times the price and with a fancy label visible on the rear This in turn set a pattern that has been repeated with various permutations many times over the past quarter century and that shows no signs of abating Youth styles are now assimilated so rapidly that there is no longer any lag time between their appearance on the street and the confection of upmarket versions Ever since hiphop the last decisive style wave initially clocked in 20 years ago everything has pretty much been present all at once If you are young and run with a set you will be aware of the shifting meanings of a shoe brand or a leg width and woe betide you if you miss a ripple but everybody else can blink twice and the significance will have gone all the way around the cycle and come back to its starting point The ferocious appetite of the market has met the constraints of gang signs which have been forced to abandon the simple color patterns or arrangements of shoelaces of yore and instead become so fleeting and subtle as to escape the notice of hostile outsiders Of course everyone everywhere speaks in some sort of code speaks that is a language that will be understood by a particular crowd that can include friends colleagues coreligionists fellow hobbyists members of one39s club cabal social class income bracket sexual persuasion political tendency age cluster or any other sort of affinity group The message being communicated is simple quotI am one of you quot Your shoes say quotI am an architect your bumper sticker says quotI am a Deadheadquot your tie pin says quotI am a Royal Arch Mason your handbag says quotI make a great deal of money but don39t flaunt itquot your eyeglasses say quotI am pretending to be Europeanquot your earring says quotI still remember my misspent youth your sports utility vehicle says quotI believe everythingl see on television quot In other words all your appurtenances are gang signs Such coded messages have long existed particularly the ones Yo I hoes say II am an relating to class but they have lately been proliferating to the architect you I pornt where there are srmply no alternatives nothing that cannot be read in a minute by a large number of people A degree of eyeglasseg say I am invisibility can be conferred by adopting the lowest common preterman t0 be denominator but singularity is something else I thought that the European39 your 3ports theatricality of large public events had always been good for utility vehicle says I bringing the weirdos down from the hills sol checked in at Woodstock 3999 Although I hadn39t made it to the original I bel lay evf arynmg I SEE on remembered how large outdoor concerts of that era and even a iglemsm n decade or more later had encouraged people to dress themselves up as Merlin or Little Bo Peep to put together bizarre collages of stuff they found in the dump or the garage in short to make a spectacle of themselves if only for one day Instead whatl saw were baseball caps worn frontward or backward golf hats in various degrees of floppiness Tshirts shorts sneakers Oh and skin the commonest of denominators The only novelty of much significance came in the form of garish airbrush body paintings not unlike the things you see on the sides of vans driven by dudes that were administered in a midway tent that also provided tattoos and piercings The paintings were striking although it wasn39t exactly as if the wearers had worked them out themselves Almost everybody else assuming they had packed shirts without slogans or illustrations could have shown up at the pep rally or the church barbecue with just a few minor tweakings We seem to be living in an age of conformity the chief difference from other such ages being that conformity has been decentralized You can call it niche conformity This is because of the Arguslike omnipresence of marketing in all aspects of life also the generalized exhaustion and the sense that everything has already been done twice over also the ageold factors of fear and loneliness These days individuals no longer have recourse to outsider camps that can cosset and protect them while they behave as oddly as they wish Nor can they abandon bohemia and go home again in the past there was always the fallback position The dandy could probably go back to his lLidwestern town the beatnik to graduate school Every group has become a focus group which promotes adherence to a norm and aggressively markets any viable stylistic innovations so that they move from the street to the nation in about a minute ost important the margins of society are no longer an option but a sentence The tradeoff used to mean exchanging mainstream comforts like newm odel cars and steaks and color televisions for a coldwater at and meals of rice and beans and cheap Chianti Now it is economically impossible to sacrifice comfort for freedom not unless you can savor freedom while sleeping in doorways and shelters and holding tanks Right now everything is for sale including you and if you are not saleable you will starve So you tailor and trim and adapt yourself sand down your edges maximize your appeal There is still a you there but it has gone underground meaning somewhere deep within http partnersnytimescomlibrarymagazinemillenniummSdifferent santehtml