Since I am going off on one, go check this out first.
I have harped on before about the value of the mutants; deviation being a necessary condition for progress, whether in evolutionary terms or in any area of human thought and experience. If nobody ever strays from beaten track, then there will only ever be one road, heading in one direction. Of course oddness is not a sufficient condition for greatness – some mutations, like freckles, make little difference to anything and others can be detrimental; some oddballs only demonstrate how not to go about things.
However, without some deviation, we never make any progress. People who achieve great things are necessarily extraordinary, usually in more than one aspect of their abilities and behaviours.
Which bares the question, why do we push difference out to the edge, why do we discourage variation when it is so very good for us? I guess in terms of the way we have run our lives for the last several hundred years, deviation has generally caused a lot of trouble to the individual. Most people have been bound to a particular life according to where they happened to be born and who they happened to be born to.
If you think about small, self-sufficient communities, everyone would have to play a different role and do what they’re best at. But when you have large-scale agriculture or industry, you end up with a large proportion of people doing the same thing, regardless of their individual talents and temperaments. Well, it’s easier that way, you may well say.
I’m not sure it is easier for the vast majority of people involved in such systems, where there is minimal flexibility between roles. Okay, so any community – whether a group of four people or the population of the planet, has to delegate. However, as Charles Dawson recently recalled; a hundred years ago ordinary people in this country were effectively owned by their employers. And today, very much of the food we consume in this country, along with our clothes, the components of our technology – very much of everything we’ve got is supplied by people who are living with similarly few opportunities.
People who may have the temperaments and abilities of great artists or scientists may have no choice but to be harvesting your coffee beans or taking up arms for the coltan in your mobile phone. Not that I want anyone to feel bad about this; we rarely have that information, and what information we do have is muddled in with all the other pieces of information about what is good or bad for the non-human environment, for animal welfare, let alone our own health.
Which is a rather big tangent, I know. But suffice to say that this is a bad situation for all of us. People say, but someone has to do the dirty work, the menial tasks, the boring shit and this is quite true. Only why should this be determined by accident of birth (or uh, the colour of a person’s skin)? And why must some of the most necessary of work be conducted under such poor conditions? It is no better that we have entire countries bound in the service of other countries than it was when most of us were serfs bound in the service of our masters.
However, that’s another three thousand, four hundred and fifty-two blog entries…
Trouble is that because of the legacy of serfdom (for lack of a better, all-encompassing word), because of the legacy of communities where there was really only one job and one lifestyle young people could contemplate, I believe we fear and discourage deviation – we discourage people from harnessing their talents and temperaments where that might mean living life in a completely different way. And yet in the West, we are the people with the greatest opportunities to experiment with living. We dishonour the entire world when we make choices in the name of normality. And people do, all the time. People aspire to it.
I haven't finished yet, I'm afraid. I'm close though.