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What Do You Care What Other People Think?

January 12, 2012

It’s a question I often ask myself. It’s a kind of consolation for inadequacy or perceived failings. Well, what do I care what other people think? It’s a maxim that has become commonplace in our society, a mantra for the individual. I am who I am and damn those that don’t like it. Why should I care what other people think? But, although it has become a motto of the Western World, it also serves to highlight the dichotomy that exists in our society, the extreme hypocrisy that is tacitly accepted.

What do I care what other people think? The question always leads me to another question: What do I think about other people? And why? If my thoughts about others, be they people I know or strangers on the bus or airbrushed models on the side of the bus, if my thoughts are so important and relevant, then why am I told to dismiss what others think? We have tumbled down the rabbit hole into a strange world where everyone is given every opportunity to be heard. It doesn’t take much in our society. It is as simple as what I am doing right now, pressing keys in an empty room and leaving it on the internet for the world to find. An arrogant assertion of my thoughts and feelings. Why should anyone care?

They do. They may not care about my thoughts. They may not care about yours. But we have agreed as a human collective that there are those whose every thought, whose every word and action is worthy of the most exacting scrutiny. No one will take the credit for selecting candidates. The press will say they are giving the people what they want. The people will say it is what the press will print. The internet, that gelatinous indecisive blob of bi-polar human thought, will attack and caress at the same time. But why? Why should a culture that gives so little credence to what another person thinks give so much attention to the shallow and the evil, the untalented lucky and the unfortunate good?

I understand that as humans there is some need to gossip, to collectively point at something and draw people together through shared knowledge. It is a necessity for our species. But can we, at the same time, then say, “Oh, who cares what people think? I live how I want.”The reality is that you don’t care what some people think, mainly anyone who has a different point of view than your own. Most everything a person does is based on what others think. We dress the way we do because someone decided it was a good idea. More often than not, an individual’s personality and beliefs come from their parents, either in agreement or in rebellion, adding in dollops of others whose thoughts have been deemed worthy of our attention. Beauty has changed over the millennia. Our appreciation of physical beauty is learned. That is stupefying. Not only do we care about what other people think, but we base our lives on it. We choose our mates on it. Granted there is a small amount of instinct that lingers, but overall our lives are decided by someone else.

I think we should care what other people think. It would be stupid not to. Only a fool dismisses all other thoughts other than their own. But then, you probably don’t care what I think.

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