The Gradual Death of the Individual

12 Nov, 2017

We came a long way in modern-day society. We traded our caves for smart homes and prolonged our life from 30 till over 100. And we have all the information we ever need at the tip of our fingers and went from an honest fistfight, with blood on the walls, to bashing each other on the internet. Not sure if the last one is actual progress, but it sets the right tone for the rest of this article. The keyboard warrior replaced the real warrior. The samurai with a code of honor, who fought for what he believed was right, he who serves. The noble master of his craft, dedicating his life for his purpose. The one who would take his own life, to save the cause.

This legendary warrior made way for the modern time’s keyboard warrior. Not worthy of the name warrior, not fighting for a cause, definitely not a master of his craft. Just a troll who is frustrated, who chooses the path of anonymity to compensate for his lack of character in everyday life. We spread our cramped up emotions of frustration and anger in a way that’s respectless and unethical, to compensate for always acting according to the rules of society.

The grace and respect of ancient times are gone and have made way for the lowest form of combat. Anonymous people fighting on the internet, without any sense of decency, respect, and values, and without a clear goal or ideal to pursue.

The shackles of society

Where did this keyboard warrior arise from? Standing for something is scary business nowadays. Act out of the ordinary, and you’ll end up on social media or even the news. You’ll be lynched for saying something that might have offended somebody somewhere. Even if your message is the god honest truth. Standing for it is scary business. But in fact, standing for something has never been safer. At best, we are ridiculed and made fun of.

Our ego hurts a bit for a few days, and we become the center of attention for the infamous internet trolls. Back in the days, you would get murdered if you said the earth rotated around the sun and not the other way around.

The initiator made way for the observer. When a young girl gets harassed, we look to the ground and walk on. An elderly lady falls with her bike; bystanders grab their phone and record the scenery, in hopes of making a viral video. Someone else’s misery becomes our opportunity to gain recognition from our peers. Politicians don’t answer questions. They are politically correct, as they should be. They just dance in conversations and dodge questions like Neo dodges bullets. Great to look at, but no one gets hit, nothing is said, and nothing will happen.


The me-too marketing strategy, where businesses follow along with the strategy of another company to get a piece of the pie, became the standard for society. We wait until a new thing becomes big enough, and then we jump in and say me too! We jump in when it’s safe. When there are enough people on board to make us feel comfortable.

As a Dutchman, I grew up in a society that loves it when you are just mediocre. A famous saying in The Netherlands is “doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg”, which means something along the lines of “just act normal, that’s already crazy enough”. Dutch people love saying this. But why? Why should you act normal? Is it meant for you, or is it for the others? Why should you repress your real being? If you are a crazy motherfucker, why can’t you be just that? Why are our dreams shattered before we actually get a chance to pursue those dreams? “Don’t be silly, you can never be an astronaut”, “wake up, it’s time to be realistic”. We all heard this when we were still young, free, and unconditioned.

These sayings aren’t to save you; it’s to protect society. To keep things as they are. Society doesn’t want individuals who make a ruckus, who challenge the status quo. You have to keep your voice down so the neighbors won’t hear you, keep your head down and keep moving. If everybody just acted accordingly, there won’t be a ruckus, and we won’t have to face the truth: The truth is we lost touch with our individuality and became a bunch of me too’s.

The hidden cost of watering down

Being a drop in the ocean of society is pleasant, it’s comfortable. You’re never the center of attention, hardly have to defend yourself, always feel supported by your peers, and you can safely make fun of those who aren’t a drop in the ocean. But deep inside, you know there is a price to be paid. There is a price to being mediocre, to stand amongst the biggest crowd. A price to watering down your opinion, to dress just like the rest. A price to pay when you are not able to give zero fucks about what others think.

We become parrots. Copycats. We say what’s already been said, and we act the way millions of others act. But it’s just that, an act. What happens when we water down our opinions when we act? We lose touch with our real selves — the one thing you really have, your individuality. Your spark of light, your true being, it diminishes, and if you are not careful, it will fade away completely, leaving nothing but a bad copy of what already is.

The grey middle

If the full spectrum goes from black to white, then grey is the middle, the zero point, the point where nothing happens, no contrast, nothing. That neutral grey part, where it’s safe and where you blend in with all other grey things. The grey part, the nuance, where nothing exciting ever happens. No new ideas, no transformations, no rawness, nothing real. This is where you live if you neglect your individuality. Even if you think you are a rebellion, you are just a part of society.

Maybe you are against, but you still are reactive, responding to what is. If everything is white, you choose black, if everyone goes up, you go down. You are a slave in constant contrast to what’s happening. It has nothing to do with who you really are, your individuality.

Rise! We need you

Don’t be a drop in the ocean, be a rock. No need to be a big rock, a pebble will do. Cause a ripple, make some waves. Distort the calm ocean. Make some drops jump out of the ocean, only if it’s just for a second. That piece deep inside you that’s hidden so well you forgot about it. That crazy thing that sometimes visits you when you are 100% confident. The craziness that takes over in a moment of being truly authentic, that moment that makes you think, “wow, I can’t believe I did that last night” the next morning. That touch of craziness is what defines you.

That’s what the world needs from you.  Stand up for what you believe in, offend some people, make a ruckus. Not for the sake of being a ruckus maker, but to be true to yourself and for putting things in motion.

Adding color

If we all were responsible individuals instead of a drop in the ocean, things would get more color, more excitement. New ideas would pop up everywhere; real change would be knocking on our doorsteps. Not from the top-down, but from the bottom up. We would feel better than ever; depression rates would drop, connecting with each other would reach new heights. The ones that made the world a better place, the visionaries, the daredevils, those were the crazy ones. They were the individuals who stood up and gave zero fucks. They stood up, presented their idea, and along the way, made change happen.

Stand up, be a superhero, break the shackles of society, give zero fucks, and change the world for a better.

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire