By Brianna Wiest
We don’t think of ideas or beliefs as being trendy, we think of them as being inherited by religion or tradition or found through self-exploration. Yet, if you’ll notice, the “acceptable,” mainstream media narrative is very cohesive and very specific and it creates the narrative that we adopt on a personal level as well. (Think: the theory of the ‘liberal media bias.’) The people who bark loudest at others about being “politically incorrect” and ideologically misinformed are reiterating that same narrative over and over again.
This is likely the product of collective consciousness affecting individual thought, yet there is another layer here, because while thinking in alignment with collective consciousness is usually unconscious, we seem to be aware that we are adopting ideas so as to fit in, the same way you’d shop at a new, hip clothing store.
It seems we go through periods of “ideological fads,” where one way of thinking, feeling, believing and being is “cool,” while others are not, and while we unknowingly isolate people by one running narrative of “rightness,” we actually reinforce their own social groups that ban together and affirm one another. We already identify with our thoughts and beliefs, but compound that with the idea that said thoughts and beliefs make us “worthy,” or “acceptable,” and we can become violently, blindly attached to a set of ideas that shape, create and allow us to perceive and interact with a world in a way that’s not a genuine expression, but something we chose out of fear or just ignorance.
However, let’s not discount how this can be an incredible device. Right now, acceptance is in, shaming is out, and overall well-being, self-love and tolerance for all people is the “cool,” right thing to do. This, objectively, is great. Yet, the execution is not always flawless, and we could recount almost innumerable historical instances during which the collective “ideological fad” swept over logic, reason and objectivity. Take, for example, the Holocaust. That’s a drastic comparison, but it’s an important one. It’s easy to get lost in the lure of desiring validation for who you inherently think yourself to be.
This is not free thought in the way we think it is. It is simply picking up on social cues and aligning oneself with the human impulse toward solidarity and outrage.
We must stop and ask ourselves: is my stance on an issue coming from a genuine place, or a desire to seem self-aware and like a global citizen? Further: what is a genuine place? And what if what I genuinely believe isn’t loving, and accepting? Then what? Let’s pull that apart.
What’s dangerous isn’t prejudiced belief – it’s prejudiced belief that goes unchecked, and that is accepted blindly.
Often, the most unaccepting actions come from a place of lack of self-awareness. For example, we “take offense” when we hear something “wrong” because we’re taught that’s the appropriate thing to do. What this does is closes us off to engagement and conversation, which are the building blocks of understanding and tolerance – the two things we think we’re creating for when we are “offended.”
Choosing beliefs from a “genuine place” is being able to disassociate them from our identities, and then evaluate them objectively and consciously.
What we are not taught to do is compare how we think, feel and respond against the collective narrative. We don’t know how to evaluate ideas objectively because we identify with them, so we can’t see them as separate from us. If we could, however, see ourselves as being separate from these temporary, cultural ideas, we’d realize that we are, ultimately, moldable, separate entities, and our ideological preferences can be chosen, they can evolve, and they can change.
That place of self-awareness and autonomy and complete consciousness is a genuine one. That is the genuine place. It is not filtered through years of upbringing, conditioning or fear.
Sometimes, you’ll realize that the collective’s trending narrative is better than your own prejudice. Sometimes, you won’t want to fully agree with either (that’s fine – there’s more out there to explore). Sometimes, you’ll find that you wholly disagree with something that’s “cool,” and you have to hold your own on that. Being accepting of your whole belief system will not make you a less accepting person. It’s when we’re disassociated and unaccepting of ourselves that we’re unable to be accepting of others. It’s when we’re confident in our own beliefs that we can discuss them without needing to be aggressive.
At the end of the day, we do not all have to think, feel or believe the same way. What we do need to do is consider how our ideas influence the reality that we coexist in, and how we can extend the same amount of acceptance and open-mindedness that we all but demand is given to the prevailing trend in thought.