Rarity, scarcity and individuality are the building blocks of my generation. Our clothes are scarce with some of our most sought after brands like Supreme or Louis Vuitton operating with scarcity marketing. We crave rarity and rare experiences with surveys showing that a majority of Gen Z and Millennials crave authentic experiences, and favor memories as opposed to owning material goods. And most of all, we are ‘individuals”. Never has there been another time in history where the human being has gotten an individual spotlight like we do today.
For millennia it was about the group because the group was all we saw. There wasn't a self reflective mirror that enclosed our personality and memories inside our pockets. Our experiences with the outer world are more personalized than ever. Everything is ours, with our password. The internet allowed us to write our own story. To build our own aesthetic. To create this snapshot avatar who we embody every time we post online. We get to star as the protagonist of our own movie, and then watch that movie.
And as the population of individuals continues to grow, the level of differentiation of people within a generation will begin to dwindle. We won’t be remembered as individuals but as a generation and our accomplishments within this period of time. We are all contributing to this hive mind that will keep us etched away somewhere in its hard drive as a generation.
Urban society is mainly where individuality away from the group is so underscored. The primary myth in Western Civilization is The Hero’s Journey as exemplified by the story of Jesus Christ. That story is the building block of western civilization. That myth is propagated by almost every single movie, tv show and book that has ever been made. The story encourages the view of the individual and his journey and pitfalls throughout life. And that's how western civilization is structured. But capitalism as it exists today through urbanization imposes an unnatural element to the story.
I live in Toronto, a metropolitan city. The structuring of urban cities imposes this capitalistic retelling of the idea of the “individual”. Society began shifting towards individualism after the industrial revolution when we started urbanizing. Urbanization is not only a demographic movement, it also includes social, economic and psychological changes that constitute the demographic movement. Urbanization began when factories were established within various regions, thus creating a high demand for factory labor. Other businesses such as building manufacturers, retailers, and service providers then followed the factories to meet the product demands of the workers.
This created even more jobs and demands for housing, and established an urban area. As demands of societies shifted from manual labour to office jobs, individuals gained education and wealth, both of which promote self-direction and ultimately facilitate individualism.
According to the projections of the United Nations Population Division, by 2030, more people in the developing world will live in urban than rural areas; by 2050, two-thirds of its population is likely to be urban. As we’re heading towards a more urbanized world, we have to look at some of the problems this type of society has caused us so far. The rapid increase in urban population worldwide is one among the important global health issues of the 21st century. As seen by the Covid-19 pandemic, the cities that were affected the most in the world were some of the most densely populated.
Urban cities are made to facilitate the fastest possible transactions of goods and services. And that promotes isolation disguised as individuality, many modern cities have been designed around cars, at the expense of the parks, public plazas and common spaces where people naturally socialize, because we're not mean to socialize. And isolation deteriorates mental health because we’re social creatures. And our infrastructure incentivizes the strive for the individual legacy and the individuals consumer hero’s journey. We now live in a community, that lives in a society, that lives in a culture, that lives in a country, that lives in a system, that exists within history, that now includes all 7 billion people on the internet. With the disappearance of borders we have transformed from national history to history. We’re now a generation, we have our own languages and culture through emojis, memes, art and irony, we have a collective memory and similar pace of information intake globally, which is unheard of in history. And yet our urban culture still promotes individualism as isolation, self preservation and personal gain over all.
A lot of people are still chasing this individual legacy when the only real legacy is generational. It's what we accomplished as a group that might be recognized a century from now. We’re supposed to help each other add to the foundation that is humanity and our progress. And by bringing each other down and focusing only on our own achievements, we are slowing down all of humanity.
The concept of individuality that started after urbanization is a gateway to ego maniacal self preservation. That's where my generation's disdain for Boomers comes from. The hate is towards the culture that incentivizes a withholding of information. Information and exposure are how we learn the ways to move forward as human beings. But if our main goal in life is self centered, we'll withhold information to prevent people from surpassing us or taking our spot. But we can accomplish far more together than alone. 1 person can barely lift a couch, a group of people build cities and skyscrapers. But the culture still eliminates that spirit of comradery for personal gain and we slow all of humanity down because of it.
The way I am learning to reconcile my ideas of the individual is with the understanding that I’m an individual, but I am also the product of a family, community, society, culture, country, system and history, and whether its good or bad, that is the totality of my make up and it's my responsibility to further those causes, made up of individuals, that ultimately led to my existence and my movements throughout life. Information is what has propelled us through life up to this point, so why not help the people after us conveniently find the codes and avoid the pitfalls that we had to go through. When countries would wage war on each other, they would burn down each other's libraries, because there was an understanding that the society will crumble if the people are uninformed.
Instead of looking for a personal legacy, I’m adopting the butterfly effect theory. The term Butterfly effect, closely associated with the work of Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (the exact time of formation, the exact path taken) being influenced by something minor such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered that a very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome. And this theory is why we should pass on information as honestly as possible in order to advance humanity. Misinforming a person and having them go on the incorrect path for self preservation is regressing humanity. I believe we have to critically think about information that we receive and pass on information as accurately and truthfully as we can, to those that come after us.
Understanding that we are nudging the world towards a direction with every move we make has forced me to be careful about how I interact with it. From my understanding that means eliminating ego maniacal, self indulgent ideas of individuality and understanding that all we are is a collective. All we will ever be is a collection of our greatest achievements during our time alive. And we get to decide what that legacy will be, and we can't do that by bringing each other down and focusing on our individual legacy like those before us. I think we should always have an understanding of the nature of duality. Duality is the foundation of life. The hero's journey is the main human myth because we have an innate understanding that we are constantly experiencing order and chaos. And a human is that which willingly steps into chaos to retrieve order. But history shows us a human can also cause tremendous chaos and that's a part of us too. Because our experiences with the outer world are more personalized than ever, it can be easy to become more self preserving and indulgent than ever. So it's our choice to break the misinformation cycle and tear down generational curses and share information to aid in the advancement of humanity by helping those that come after us, or we can fall for the same pitfalls of those that came before us.
“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
―Otto von Bismarck