The Extinction Of The Individual

There was a photo circulating around the news and social media last week of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, smiling broadly as he walked past a large crowd of journalists wearing virtual reality headsets, oblivious to his presence. It was reminiscent of the film “The Matrix” and eerily dystopian. Plugged into his virtual reality they became consumers of his content, foregoing the freedom to produce their own.

I found this photo disturbing. To me this photo epitomized the notion of the collective swarm that humanity seems to be getting swept up into by our billions. This aggregation that we refer to as globalization can be felt everywhere as our individuality gradually dissolves away like unique snowflakes melting into a puddle of turbid water.

I recognize that nature tends to repeat its patterns that build upon the previous ones in complexity and interconnectedness. Perhaps humanity, in a symbiotic relationship with our technology, is getting swept up into a superorganism. Hive like cities are akin to organisms consuming energy and resources, and excreting waste as they grow, spreading out like fungal mycelia and connecting with other cities via highways, rail roads and shipping routes. We are made of trillions of individual cells, each in a symbiotic relationship with mitochondria, but do you have cells or do your cells have you? What if we and our smartphones are to this human superorganism what our individual cells and their mitochondria are to us? Surely there were species of individual ants before they evolved into complex collective swarms with pre established roles and set behaviour.

If we are unable to wake ourselves up, the neurotic collective culture of the human swarm is set to become our default operating system. From a young age it dictates to us what to think, how to react, what to work for, what to buy, what notion of happiness and success to aspire towards, what roles to play and what is expected of us. We are inculcated constantly with this collective swarm culture through social media, marketing, the mass media and through countless rituals that reinforce behavior. This collective swarm culture is a form of mental slavery. Just as with all of nature’s other swarms, what is in the best interest of the swarm or hive goes against the interests of the individual bee, or ant, or human being.

Being a true individual today is harder than ever. Instead of relying on our own direct personal experience of what is enjoyable and satisfying, we allow the collective swarm culture to dominate us. We succumb to the incredible pressure to conform, fitting into pre-established roles, following fashion and behaving in expected ways. Take for example: why is conspicuous consumption synonymous with wealth and status?

It’s ironic that if a person is able to throw off the societal pressure to conform and express their individuality, manifesting their true authentic self, they often end up being so magnetic and charismatic that they influence the collective swarm culture as a whole. There have been many over the years; Bob Marley is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

There is no doubt that Bob Marley was able to manifest his authentic self; a gift to the world. Everything about him was an expression of his individuality and his liberation from the pressure to conform. I believe that he saw this collective swarm culture clearly for what it was, and referred to it as Babylon. This clarity gave him freedom and allowed him to be incredibly creative, literally inventing his own type of music that would go on to move generations of people the world over. For Bob Marley there were no limits to what could be imagined. There was never an individual like Bob Marley before, and yet his legacy lives on as his influence over the collective swarm culture has led to countless imitators of his look, his style and his music.

Everytime we limit ourselves, and whenever we use the word “should”, think of it as a warning to analyze our preconceived notions about the way reality should be. Why should it be like that? Because ,we were conditioned that way when told somewhere along the line that it should, that’s why.

To become an individual is to be a net producer of the content of your life instead of a passive consumer. The individual expressing their authentic self does not seek approval from anyone, and this forms the essence of their magnetic charisma. Someone living a lifestyle that they truly enjoy is radiant, and if you look closely you will notice that people gravitate towards them.

You can read this, but the decision to wake up and be your authentic self comes down to you. It still remains true, as Bob Marley famously said in his Redemption Song,” that none but ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery”.