Movember – Individuals In Collectives
Everything and everyone has a story to tell, a unique story. Though we tend to think in collective terms for most things, there really isn’t a collective story, just an uncountable number of individual stories that link and network and circle around each other. We assume so much in our desperate attempts to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Take this shoe for example. If shoes have stories to tell, One would assume that a person wearing a pair of shoes would result in both shoes having the same story to tell. But, they don’t. Each shoe follows an individual foot, a foot that is almost always anatomically different from its mate. Each shoe is placed on the path in a different spot, feeling the effects of different obstacles. If a shoe could talk, it would have a different version of reality to share with its mate and wonder why that mate doesn’t see or know the world in the same way.
One person commented to me today using a generalisation about people who shave off moustaches at the end of October as a symbol of support for the awareness of men’s health, particularly Prostate Cancer. It’s called “Movember.” There was a bit of heat involved in the comment. Of course, I am not immune to the ripples that flow from generalisations even if the generalisation would exclude me. The comment:
“I believe in supporting cancer, but supporting it by growing a moustache doesn’t help anyone, it does bring up awareness they say, but in my experience not one of the people who grow moustaches donate time or money to cancer. I found that its kind of a slap in the face, your simply making everyone think you support cancer when in reality you won’t do anything to help, even visit them in the hospital.”
I don’t know if this would actually describe even one person if we were to track each person through their lives. It is impossible for any of us to know another so completely as to “know” all they do, think and believe. Yet we do act in collectives that shift and change over time.
Movember is a collective of men and boys with a lot of support from the girls and women in our lives. I have taken part in this collective on occasion in the past and have decided to again be part of that collective thanks to my two eldest grandsons who will also attempt to grow a moustache. They issued the challenge though the challenge isn’t really about growing the biggest or best moustache. Being 14 and 16 years of age, they are just beginning to show signs of facial hair. The challenge is to be involved and to make a difference. So, like so many other men, I shaved off my moustache and became part of the collective.
I do understand how each of us often find ourselves resorting to trying to understand individual others through their collective associations and thus paint these individuals with that collective rather than seeing yet another puzzle piece that would help understand the individual. We do this in politics as we brand each other liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, capitalist or socialist. We do this in lifestyle and gender orientation. And in the process, we adopt a collective as our base identity. We see those groups who proclaim that only their group is the right group and that all others are damned, are the enemy. We blame these others for the woes of our society and our own individual lives. We resist owning our own lives, our own identity, our own shadows. It is incredibly hard being an individual when we are social animals that thrive in families, communities, churches, ideologies and special interest groups.