October 16, 2008
By Craig Wynn, Alexander, AR

I sat by two acquaintances at the crowded lunchroom table. They were both unintentionally wearing the same polo shirts, but in different colors. The two barely acknowledged me. Instead, they listened along attentively to the young, shorthaired one towards the center of the table who wore the pink polo with some logo on the front along with a pair of torn up jeans and some aviator sunglasses. My acquaintances listened as he told one shallow, tasteless joke after another. Ones that started with such elegant language as, “The retarded kid said to the queer…” The pair laughed along with everyone else at the table. He is the extravagantly dressed person they follow everywhere. He was their idol.

This incident reminded me of a few others: when I meet up with those guys who all wear girl jeans, and that one group of people who wear boots and camouflage, and the time with all those kids who were wearing oversized, sagging clothes. Though the different groups interest and dress vary greatly, it seemed that their behavior amongst each other was very similar: they all fallowed each other, and did as each other did without any contest.

Identity is defined by one’s thoughts, looks, and actions. However our society is void of these sorts of details. Identity has become vague and liberal. To where now it is now defined by whatever group, or “scene,” people attach themselves too. Each demographic is targeted with different products: tall-t’s, skinny jeans, cardigans, studded belts. Each of these items brings a different style to mind. The different styles of clothing are meant to narrow the market to a more identifiable consumer. The people of different dress develop their own music and lifestyle, and that is how sub-cultures: Prep, Goth, Emo, Redneck, Gangsta. They are all created in this same manner. They are manufactured. And each sub-culture creates a pit for each follower because pressure of staying within the unsaid guidelines of the sub-culture restricts their ability of the individuals to grow culturally. This often leads to ignorance of alternate ways of living.

Our society and identities have become a market place for plethora of clothing, make up, skin care, and dietary supplement manufacturers. These companies run ads on billboards and television, as well as paying actors, actresses, and musicians to advertise the products and program society into thinking that buying these products is the only option in this modern world. Self is a corporate word. Only used to divide our population into more marketable demographics.

Lack of self-reflection in people’s identity is only worsened by the workplace. My father wears the neckties that he hates to work everyday- the very nooses of society, choking away his true personality. This is society directly mandating a general form of self. The people who work in an office must wear a three-piece suit. Those in the cubicles must wear a shirt and tie. Those on the production floor must wear polos and slacks. But my father, and other’s who work such jobs, conform to provide for their family. Those who conform for acceptance, however, just follow one another in order to obtain unfulfilling, universal benefits as though they are docile, unquestioning farm animals.

I refuse to be an animal. I refuse to mindlessly follow a heard that is mindlessly following each other. I will reflect who I am because I would rather do that than lie about who I am, and create a façade for myself.

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