Society vs. Individuality

May 19, 2008
By Anna Cowart, Valdosta, GA

True self- reliance requires breaking free from what society deems acceptable and establishing what you individually believe is acceptable. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on “Self Reliance” and Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” both reveal the horrible events that can occur from conforming to societies “norms.” Emerson emphasizes that one cannot just follow the patterns of society but must instead seek one’s own truth.

Transcendentalism teaches that each man has his own manifest destiny which is in connection with the “Over- soul.” We must be in constant search of this “manifestation” of God. God has a divine plan for everyone; we must try and escape the will of mankind so that we may live out our own destiny.

When you learn something, do you just accept it, or do you ask why? In The movie, Kids in America, a group of students join forces to take a stand against their principal who had been suppressing the voice of the students. Throughout the movie the students encounter many difficulties in having their voice heard, but they never give up. No punishment or suspension can deter students from fighting for their own truth. Emerson testifies that “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.” The students in that high school reached the point where they could no longer conform to rules they did not believe, but had to speak up for their right to individuality.

We cannot be brainwashed by the world we must learn to think for ourselves and find out our own inner truth. Instead of believing the lies and false reality of the fire, we should look for the sunlight, or the truth. Plato wrote his allegory so that we would no longer be the prisoners controlled by the evils of society, but so that we will break free of the chains and find our own way to truth and self- reliance by ascending to the sunlight.

Society cannot determine our life for us; we have to make our own reality. “Your conformity explains nothing,” and until we look within ourselves and discover our own inner truth we cannot be self- reliant (Emerson). Do we dare to be one of the rebellious kids in America, or are we just happy conforming to the rules laid out for us? Don’t let society suppress your individuality.

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