Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Same-same

We are a strange species, the human race. We continue to exist because of our cooperative nature, but we excel because our competitive urges favour mighty mutations that simply don’t fit the cooperative model. If we were a herd of buffalo these big beasts would either gather a harem and found a dynasty, or else be cast out and fall prey to the wolves. No, not the Tories, real wolves; I’m talking about pre-history here. It is not in the nature of species generally to tolerate extreme variants; where they appear, if they survive, they generally initiate speciation. But humans are all equal, apparently, or so we try to tell ourselves.

But aren’t we utterly fascinated and drawn to difference? Especially if that difference is very very good… or very very bad. Serial killers, despots, freaks of all kinds; the more extreme, the less like humans, the more we are intrigued. We celebrate not uniformity but variations; of appearance – tallest , shortest, fattest, prettiest; and of ability – cleverest, dumbest, quickest, most. The poorest in the world are endlessly studied, photographed, catalogued and classified, while the richest are creatures of almost beatific adoration for some. Is it odd, do you think, that a species which relies the most for its continuation on sameness reserves its greatest accolades for those who don’t share that quality?

Further than that, we go out of our way to invent even more ‘differentnesses’, with a whole industry dedicated to finding new looks or identifying new diseases with which to parade our lack of conformity to the all-important norm. We are all different – just like everybody else – and all sorts of variants of psychology and sociology and contemporary anthropology seek to expand our vast catalogue of uniqueness. Thus were my musings on listening to Matthew Parris’ ‘Great Lives’ programme yesterday evening, where Marlon Brando was discussed at length as a complex genius of his age.

The women – for women it was – were waxing lyrical about his allure, his charisma and the way in which he transformed acting forever. Now I’m not saying he didn’t have an influence, but I would dispute somewhat the way it is interpreted. The man was a lazy, arrogant brute, who often admitted as much. Among some admittedly towering works are other roles played with nothing but indifference and he held in contempt the industry which gave him his fortune, often saying – like a churlish teenager – that he would have liked to have done a different job. “…could have been a contender.” Even HE wanted to be different.

Do I look like I'm wearing two hats?
Be honest - do I look gay in this?

But I’m not arguing about Brando; I have no axe to grind. I just find it fascinating that there are millions of people around the world who seek out conformity via membership of cults, religions and political systems and somehow in becoming subsumed into that great uniform mass, lose a vital aspect of humanity. The fact is we are all different and we each find different solutions to our personal conundrum. Why would we want to all be the same? Groucho Marx famously said he would refuse to join a club that would have him as a member. Not me though. I’m different

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