Dealing with imperfection has made many of us pretty insecure, particularly the young. I think growing into yourself makes you realise that you will be wrong a lot, technically, but you can kind of bluff your way through most of these situations. It won’t help you in the long run but it will allow you to avoid short term pain, awkwardness and embarrassment. That’s what life is about, right? Avoiding being ‘lyk so totally awkward in front of Billy, the high school hunk’? I couldn’t handle being awkward in front of that hunky dory boy toy. When we are wrong, the perception is that we become weaker than what we were, more vulnerable, less of a being, because it being wrong is to go against all the education of being assertive, being victorious, being strong in our defence and being right. To be right is to be intelligent, to be precocious, to be a leader and to be someone of note. As a kid was there anything more embarrassing than not knowing the answer to a question you’d been asked by your teacher? As a young adult, maybe even just a mere teenager, was there anything more humiliating than seeing the girl you’ve crushed on for weeks, go and kiss Billy, the high school hunk? As a man or a woman, is there anything more demeaning than being retaught how to do the job you were originally hired to do?
All these things are examples of the time you were wrong. Essentially wrong, wrong in your judgment, wrong in your approach and wrong in the whole way you go about your life. But this obsession, this mirage, this facade of how we should all strive to be right, and stubborn in the defence of what we believe in, has predominately been successful in fostering a society hellbent on being right. Hellbent on defending our opinions and arguments, even in the face of a more logical and rational decision, hellbent on preserving ego and status, and hellbent on crushing our opponents or completely avoiding their side of the story. To be right all the time prevents the individual from developing some of the most important traits that society is begging for. Empathy, patience, cohesion and sincerity. These only come with understanding the situation of your fellow being, whether he (excuse the masculine pronouns, habit that stems from patriarchy – is it right? Probably not…!) lives in an ivory tower, sleeps in the street or dines in McDonalds. Everyone has been wrong, everyone has been wronged. Everybody has trusted the ‘wrong’ person, taken a ‘wrong’ turn… But how many of you would be prepared to come out, acknowledge that fault, move past it and get that guilt and shame that comes with being wrong off your chest? It is highly doubtful that many would do it privately with a loved one, let alone air such a grievance amongst a wider audience.
Of course, such an argument goes against the very nature of our legal system and our social landscape. By that I mean, you make an error legally and you are facing penalties. These penalties could include a fine, community service, an injunction, a reprimand, a restriction or a small prison cell and a big, brutish cellmate who doesn’t take his eyes off you all day. Socially, you make a ‘wrong’ decision in a perceptive and subjective sense, and you may have to kiss goodbye to a friendship, a working relationship or an intimate relationship. However, being wrong isn’t always so paramount to our own existence. Being wrong can be therapeutic, potentially beneficial for how we develop as human beings and something that helps the greater good. At what point did the process of ‘wrongfulness’ at a base level become so shameful to our own being? This search for perfection has seen many people grasp for youth as our body informs us that we are growing older. It teaches us to take 45 selfies when you’ve got a couple of beauty spots, it quietens us in a class when a simple question is being asked due to our own developed insecurities, it holds us at the mercy of others, and in western society at least, it has left many of us so deeply afflicted by the very notion of growing older that we attempt to quash any sign of it occurring, despite knowing full well that the ocean will continue to breathe salty. How helpful is that to our personal development? We might never be wrong due to these actions/inactions but we certainly won’t look back on those moments with any sort of longing pride and resilience. Not only does it inhibit our personal development, but it has caused so many problems stemming directly or indirectly from our insatiable desire to be right, or seen in the fancied light. That is not humanity. We are not here to shut out the voices of those who do not buy into sheer and utterly absurd ego and vanity. We are not here to slink around behind closed doors getting our face in the right light for a shot to send to our ‘bae’ and then get so inordinately impatient when someone takes a little too long with our soy latte. Placing ourselves on a pedestal doesn’t make us ‘right’ or ‘correct’ or whatever we want to call it. It makes us fickle and full of contradictions that will plague us when we come to the realisation that we cannot continue with such a mirage of a life.
I’m still unsure whether recent trends have exacerbated or improved our relationship with perfection. I’m referring to our exposure to ‘reality television’, selfie sticks and social media. Reality television and social media were both partly introduced for a look into the lives of people living in different circumstances. Big Brother was a social experiment akin to a God controlling a group of willing subjects. Survivor tested the very humanity of the tribes participating in the show. Pop Idol was a talent contest on steroids, celebrating talent that had not been found… and laughing hysterically at people who mustered up all that courage to sing when they probably should have been sitting at home feeding their cats – that’s not such a good example but hopefully you can identify my point. With their success, we saw a new brigade of shows. The Osbournes, the Kardashians, Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of the OC, New York, D.C, New Jersey, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Melbourne, Miami, Athens, Vancouver, Cheshire… I’m sure there is a spinoff brewing along the lines of Real Housewives of Riyadh that might ease the political and social barriers between the West and the East considering the immense power and substance of these programs. What is their purpose? Are for they for analytical purposes in considering the human condition? Possibly. Or is it a partially scripted, perhaps even extensively scripted television event that appeals to people who refer to their need for ‘trash television’ or those who the snobs amongst us refer to the ‘lowest common denominator’? Whatever it is, maybe it is important in dragging down the celebrity to our level. Or perhaps it again sets impossibly high standards for us to replicate, and forces us to either enter the battlefield for perfection and a desire to live far behind our means or accept that we belong in a different zone. One thing that strikes me about many of these shows, be it bloody Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians or Embarrassing Bodies is that it celebrates dysfunction, and not in a way that is healthy for the viewer. For some people it is seemingly addictive to catch up with the latest trouble, the next fork in the road as their own lives simmer into boredom and a lack of purpose. These shows parade around people in varying situations, attempting to make their lives look challenging and exciting when really they are just thrown in front of us in their wonderfully rehearsed, well produced lives so we can get a cheap laugh at their antics that seem to range from, well, deranged to narcissistic. Do people feel better about themselves as they watch Honey Boo Boo drink another energy drink served up from her incompetent mother? Does it gratify our own direction in life when we watch a bunch of neanderthals head out for another night of gettin’ loose and tashin’ chicks as their on and off girlfriend cries into a toilet seat at the club? I get it, we need to let our hair down from time to time and escape the reality of 9 to 5, annoying customers, micro-managing bosses, but to escape reality through watching quasi-reality television where the joy comes from the ineptitude of others? It seems quite sick to me. WE’RE DUMBING IT ALL DOWN! WE’RE DUMBING OURSELVES DOWN! AND WE ARE CHOOSING OUR OWN FATE! God fucking dammit.
More relevantly for a cross section of society, social media has introduced this bizarre notion of personal accountability for our every move. We are no longer in a circle that occasionally clashes into another circle. We are in a circle that moves within another circle, which moves within another circle, which moves within another circle, which moves within a circle, WHICH MOVES IN ANOTHER CIRCLE, WHICH. MOVES. IN. ANOTHER. CIRCLE (FUAAAAAAAAAAAARK, I CANNOT ESCAPE!) and so on and so forth. We are so connected, so utterly and intrinsically connected that it has become almost impossible to lurch back to our former ways of remaining something of an ‘island’. You either buy in or you fall out. Again, these choices sound drastic and I’ve probably ramped it up for dramatic effect, but it sort of is akin to a choice to belong and a choice to go rogue. It is not easy to go rogue and still succeed in life. You have to be a particular type of character. Someone who isn’t scared to offend, scared to be partly rejected by the mainstream. For those brought up in stable homes, stable schools and stable minds, this is an inane idea. Why go against a solid and conservative base? Such an idea has left many of us terrified to go against the grain in fear of being left behind. With that, we see subsections of society morph into something of a desire to be non-conformist when we are essentially conforming to the norm in a way that leaves us feeling more insecure about our own position in ye olde scheme of things. Boom boom, hello #trends, goodbye #spontaneity.
Living in Australia, a very conservative, risk-averse nation where economic stability is king and radicals are viewed as rousing unwanted questions and interference, it is as if you are splaying yourself over the windscreen if you shove your arms out beside you and scream ‘I am an individual, I am not perfect and I will not be held down by your judgment!’ You can do it in your own home, you can do it with your friends, but don’t you dare do it in public. You’ll be treated like every other supposed madman or woman you come across in your daily travels. But are we just scared of erratic people or scared of wasting time on someone who we perceive to be insane, or is it something deeper? Isn’t that person who has yelled out to the sky and thrown his or her whole self into the action taking a risk? That’s kind of a nice notion. It’s almost like we have so few avenues to take a risk without being perceived to be that unit whose sanity is hanging to their body by tenterhooks. Music festivals, when we are drunk and when we are with intimate friends remains one of the last bastions for being ‘so totes random’. We deserve more from this life than wandering around like zombies, scared of tripping over our own shoelaces, being judged for our every move and bullied into insignificance. If that is the Australian way, then forget it Marge, it’s CHINATOWN!
Considering social media’s influence also leads us back to the notion of perfection and illuminating the best and most exciting parts of our life, and keeping the dull and squalid out of view. Most individuals who use social media are creating a highlight reel of their existence, some are creating ironic montages poking fun at the system, but most use it purely and simply for flattery. As I mentioned before, we are kept within circles within circles within circles. We know exactly what Kathy who works at EY did with her weekend. She bought a round of shots and got wasted in the VIP. We know John, that boring fuck in accounting, went away with his girlfriend, who I feel desperately sorry for, for a lovely getaway – #views, and the guy you met out a couple of times has had his Facebook hacked by his mates, and is telling the world that he is a homosexual. This is the pinnacle of our existence. I know, I sound irrefutably cynical and it pains me, because essentially social media can be a wondrous tool of self-discovery, enlightening ourselves to the many undeniably beautiful aspects of our existence, but we’ve just kind of planted our feet in the bog and stopped still until something better comes along. So many of us are totally addicted to having our mind numbed, and it is thoroughly depressing. I’m starting to get to the point where there exists only a handful of people who are willing to discuss things above their heads to avoid sounding like a fool. We’re all so scared to die that living is becoming a boring household chore. I fear I may be becoming one of them, subscribing to the preemptive state of my life. Married, overweight, balding and boring because I didn’t take the risk to poke my head out of that crack and scream out ‘I am an individual, I am not perfect and I will not be held down by your judgment!’… ‘Nobody cares buddy’, responds the naysayer. I care. I really do.
We’re not stupid, I think we all understand that perfection does not exist, but sometimes you do start to wonder. I can understand the cynicism in reading this, the questions over my own drive and my own naivety. Maybe I am a little naive. I just see an issue in disassociating ourselves from what makes us human. When you think about it, it isn’t the systems, the beliefs, the inventions, the facilities and the skills. It is the connection with our fellow human being. It is our connection to this planet and our connection to the confusion of why we exist, why we belong and why we suffer. Not being a man of God, I don’t see any other option than finding this connection, whether with a select few or a broader grouping of beings. To paraphrase Courtney Barnett, if we put ourselves on a pedestal, we will only disappoint you… whether that is you, your fellow man or the wider community, it raises an important notion of remaining connected to what is essentially our livelihood. It is nice to believe in the idea. With legal systems, our financial institutions, the international economy, the fear of being viewed as a failure, the incomparable fear of death, the challenge of making your parents proud, of creating your own fortune, we are slowly losing our collective appetite for risk and reward. So I’m jumping up on my rooftop, I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, I’m not fearing the retribution of the tiniest chance that I may be lost to the world and isolated by my peers (who fucking cares, there are so many beautiful people in the world) and I’m stripping myself of my clothing to show people that this is me. I’m not fucking perfect and I’m sick of being scared. And Billy the high school hunk is now addicted to ice because people thought he peaked at 17.