There is no value in having the same thing as everyone else, doing the same thing as everyone else or selling the same thing as everyone else
Zachary M.C. Harris
Friday, April 26, 2013
I was thinking about this for the past two weeks through a series of different conversations [of course] with a number of different people. What started as a sounding board/devil’s advocate for one friend actually brought a lot more to the discussion and to the surface.
The funny thing is that people always say that they are different or want to be different, but wind up doing the same thing. This is more evident in closed environments, whether they are big or small, because they all essentially behave the same exact way, with the same limitations and same empirical breakdowns. We men argue that most women are really the same, and women argue the same thing about most men. The difference is that we men are unnerved at the things which are all the same damned thing and we also lament on the fact that no matter the man, women still don’t realize what we all enjoy and want, and no, I am not talking about sex.
The key of life is what you bring to the table that every other person doesn’t, or like Mint Condition sang, “what you bring to the party.” Not many people really look at that, but simply think that doing the same thing that everyone else does is good enough. When you become the norm, and the norm can be found easily, you need to be what the norm isn’t whether you want to call it exceptional or abnormal. The norm in itself usually becomes pretty pathetic, and this is what makes people think that the grass is greener on the other side.
If you look at people, and you look at the trends of the day, you’ll see nothing but a lot of the same, though every adherent will say that they are unique. I remember the days of middle school and high school where everyone wanted a bomber jacket and a fat gold chain. And while there was a fair amount of variety in the clothes and sneakers everyone wore, it was essentially the same limited amount of brands and styles that were chosen. What was utterly ridiculous were the imitation Gucci and Guess sweatshirts that people wore en masse; the irony is that neither of those companies, or others that were counterfeited ever made those items in the first place. But you couldn’t tell the folks who sported it, as it was their false testament to having money.
The items have changed but the mentalities haven’t, which essentials shows no forward growth or mental progression. The same thing that everyone’s parents once said to them rings so true today, which is “if everyone else was jumping off of a bridge, would you do it too?”
The other day, I was laughing inside my head as I joined an associate for a quick libation in a local watering hole, to see a woman wearing a shirt that showed her lower back and the tattoos that she had on it. I thought how ridiculous she will feel if and when she matures, or in the least, ages. It’s very interesting seeing women who are now mothers, if not grandmothers, bedecked with the ubiquitous “tramp-stamp” which always shows itself to the world at the most inopportune times. And it’s even worse to see older women getting [visible] tattoos because they think that it makes them look sexy. While I also can’t stand the beards that some African American men are wearing – it’s sad when a news report always shows essentially the same mugshot though the person is different -- at least at some point in time, they can simply shave them off and never repeat it. And yes, to some of those guys out there, be real with yourselves, you are simply following a fad and you are not at all a devout Muslim.
After the look becomes the issue of possessions; having the same things that everyone else does which can include cars, clothes, friends, and even men and/or women ( I really want to say cars, clothes and hoes). A thing most often loses its value when everyone else has it, no matter how expensive it is, and the only people really making money are those that are making it or selling it, not those who are buying it for the most part. A Rolex used to be a sign of excess, but that day has come and gone. And people with real money, aka long dough, rarely like to be seen with the same things that those with noveau riche wealth – which might be very temporary – are also sporting.
It’s funny because the transition of possessions and what you are selling can both be accomplished with the aspect of Traci Lynn jewelry, which has interestingly become a new commodity within a certain demographic. Now, I am happy that this one woman has developed a nice business for herself, but it’s funny to me that women are readily buying this stuff up and then turning around and wanting to become sales agents for it. Now, I will never totally understand women, but I would think that they would want something that very few other people had. I mean, they’re always giving examples of how women are when another woman shows up with the same dress as them. The items are very inexpensive, and as far as I am concerned not the best looking baubles to adorn oneself with, so I then can’t understand how some people think that they can make a ton of money selling the same items to a bunch of other people. It harkens back to the days of art parties in the 90s in which prints of bad, good and mediocre artwork where sold with the expectation that it would appreciate in value. I don’t know many prints of varying degrees of quality I have seen of Moorish Chieftain, but again, the more there are of a certain thing, the less its value.
I continually see a number of people throughout the “community” all selling the same exact items and I just don’t get it. You can go on any “business corridor” in the inner city and see exactly the same items every three to four tables. I don’t get it, but I guess if people weren’t buying then they wouldn’t be selling, but then again, those vendors are normally just barely eking out a living themselves.
And back to the issue of what you bring to the party, which is also akin to what you are selling is the aspects and concepts of who you are, and what you can do, which is not necessarily relegated to what honors you hold, but more on that later.
One of the easiest ways and places to see this is in the military. Not only can the size of your "salad bowl," that cluster of medals and commendations that you find on someone’s uniform jacket tell you something about what they have done, but also each warfare qualification badge that they have and the amount of hash marks on their sleeves. And in the land services, it’s also the unit patches and tabs that you also wear. For instance, you might wear a green beret but unless you have the Special Forces tab on your sleeve and the insignia on your lapel, you are not a Green Beret (those just wearing it might be attached to a Green Beret, a.k.a. US Army Special Forces unit, and that is the approved headwear for everyone in the unit). I remember being at one of the base graduations and seeing one of my trainers in attendance; everyone eagerly saluted him when gazing upon his uniform, from lowly ensigns to high ranking admirals. I myself had no idea of what all of his commendations were for, but he wore the SEAL/UDT Trident – also called the Budweiser – as well as a master or senior parachutist’s badge and also a Navy Diver’s badge (notice that I capitalized “Navy Diver”). Some things like this easily show your potential and your abilities, without you having to speak a word.
When my drill instructor, who was also my assistant company commander, was promoted to E-8 from E-7, they had a ceremony. Notwithstanding that he made that rank in either fourteen or sixteen years in the Marine Corps [as a Black man] whereas most people are just making E-7 at that time, if they make it at all, but when they read off his achievements, he was always in the top five of his classes, if not number one. There was not one person present at the ceremony who wasn’t in awe of him.
Some things are instantly recognized by others with similar abilities or who have dealt with people who have done certain things. It could be something like the way that you move, or your posture, the movements of your eyes, or even the calluses on your hands. Certain trainings and disciplines impart certain things that stay with you forever. Once you have done certain things, you exude an unspoken confidence that others who know can see. It’s like the Jaegermeister commercial with the private club for men.
And this is where it all comes together, to the issue of what you bring to the party. Knowledge is power, and the accumulation of knowledge can easily be seen and recognized by what you have done, what you embody and what you have in your head. This is not to say that simply attaining certain pedigrees mean that you are special; there are a lot of incompetent as well as immoral people who have graduated from many esteemed institutions and what not. It’s what you bring above that, or even aside from that, which can make you a special person. But being like everyone else is not what your life should be about. Be you, but be a shining star.
The question you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself is whether you are selling, being, or doing the same as everyone else. If you say yes to anything, then it’s time to get up and start doing something differently. Even Beyonce might say that you're not irreplaceable.