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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    To the beat of your own drum

    I’m not a joiner. I don’t like clubs, groups or associations. I also feel no need to align myself with any subculture, class or creed. I just want to be myself.

    Unfortunately, nowadays most of college life seems opposed to this liberating state of independence. Indeed, from the moment many of us began our first campus visit, we were told that those who are highly involved in groups excel better in school than those who don’t.

    Therefore, we were encouraged to participate in the greek system, to sign up for a minority organization or to become active in a campus religious group. Yet, as a senior looking back, I realize that many of the social groups we were encouraged to join actually obstruct much of what makes college a truly great experience.

    By the time we enter college, most of us have spent the majority of our lives in narrowly defined social roles; we have played the part of the school nerd, the popular cheerleader or the devout churchgoer. Unfortunately, these roles have often hindered us from truly communicating with those of other “”groups”” as well as fully developing our own personal interests.

    Ideally, our college years should give us an opportunity to break out of these roles. We should use the time to discard our former caricatures and prejudices. Unfortunately, many of us are placed right back into our comfort zones.

    For instance, too often American Indians group with American Indians, Christians with Christians and rich white Californians with their Scottsdale counterparts. Surely, such homogeny is detrimental to personal growth as well as an undesirable contribution to the diverse educational environment we hope to cultivate in a university setting.

    I’m not asserting that all university organizations are terrible because I know many of them do great things for the community. I also know that social groups are often very helpful in what can be the daunting task of adapting to life within a large campus population.

    But if college is truly a time for exploring and learning, then ultimately, it is not a time for groups. College must be a time for individuals, individuals with a desire to expand their cultural and social awareness and individuals with enough courage to explore willingly and independently. For by doing such things independently, we can acquire a variety of positive attributes.

    We can develop strong coping skills by not necessarily clinging to our familiar supports. We can discover our own true opinions by stepping out of the traditional ones of the group with which we have previously aligned ourselves. We can even develop a strong sense of self-worth knowing we can do good deeds and make friends on our own terms.

    Ultimately, the greatest people of the world have never been joiners or followers; they have always been creators, leaders and revolutionaries. They were people who thought for themselves and believed in themselves. They were individuals.

    Regardless, the desire to conform will undoubtedly lead many away from achieving such greatness. In fact, it is one of the greatest ironies of our society that it reveres figures like Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., yet indirectly (if not directly) coerces its citizens into a conformity that prevents any of them from emulating such figures.

    It seems we love to revere individuals, but shy away from imitating them.

    Indeed, all of this foolishness is enough to make me long for a time when some modern-day Henry David Thoreau will appear on the UA Mall and remind everyone of the importance of individualism and marching to the beat of one’s own drum.

    And maybe, just maybe, Monty Python’s Brian will be there to back him up with his famous reminder: “”Look, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!””

    Jared Pflum is a religious studies senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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