How Unique Is Being Unique

/ Guest Column / Monday, 19 July 2021 17:00

By: Fr Paul Lelen Haokip

Introduction
We live in an epoch of instantaneous copycat culture, severe competition and polarised ethnic identity politics. The idea of copyright, patent, DOI, etc., are all geared towards maintaining the uniqueness of something, an idea, an art, a music note, a literary piece, etc. Over the centuries, humans construct their patterns of categorization (Brosius et al, 1986), culture, language, worldview,vastly influenced by their past experiences and geographical locations. For example, people who settled near the oceans have myths connected with the sea; so also, people who have lived in the mountains carry myths related to trees, animals, mountains, streams and rivers. All these people (naively) think that their habits are (so) unique. At best, people who can trace their origin as distant as possible will be sensible as they possess some sort of scientific temper leading to social learning (Social learning theory suggests that new behaviours can be attained by seeing and emulating others). Open-mindedness is a linchpin for societal harmony (behaviour). But if you converse with people who do not regard (or have no idea) the million years of the evolutionary process from Ameoba to Homo Sapiens but begin their origin from their (about 100 years old) villages, it will be hard to come to a sensible discussion.
What is so unique
Uniqueness arises from a common mental exercise of “comparison” while mingling with others. If you are not associating with others, there is no chance to find out that you are unique from others. C. R. Snyder and H. L. Fromkin (1980) predicts that the perception of extreme similarity (SM) of self to others leads an individual to seek a behavioural strategy that gives him/her a greater sense of uniqueness.Therefore, others become a reference for your uniqueness. True, there are some things unique and irreplicable on this planet. On the other hand, there are many things commonly found in many places but unscientifically claimed by a few. Food items and preparations may be unique but when broken down into scientific analysis – they are either protein, carbohydrate, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc. Some people claim spears, knives, spades, chicken, ducks, sugarcanes, onions, beans, rice, chillies, yam, etc with some prefixes (of their tribe or culture). If you ask them details such as – who invented it, who discovered it, who first brought it in, who planted and harvested it, the chemical composition, etc, they would be flabbergasted. Perhaps, they had to give those local names for the sake of identifying them from other things. That process is tolerable for the sake of communication. But, fervidly claiming these unscientific and village-level names are just a sign that they have not seen the same animal or crop growing in others parts of the world. So, if the so-called unique things are found in other places, then they are not so unique. The only explanation could be “ignorance or lack of exposure”. You may think that your idea is so unique until you find out that someone already had that idea before you. It is similar to “re-inventing the wheel”.
Is uniqueness shareable
Yes,it is shareable. The uniqueness of a particular species, tribe, community, music, dance, embroidery, astory is itself shared by people of the same or similar type. Either this is pointed out as unique by an external force or the people within the community feel and find that their peculiarity in something is unique.Considering oneself (one’s community) as unique but not considering others as unique is a wrong syllogism. This thought pattern itself can be considered unique and one can apply for “patent”. Ha…ha…ha… If uniqueness exists in you, others must be different from you. That difference itself is unique. If you cannot consider the other as unique, you cannot be unique either because the principle of “uniqueness” is a borrowed English word. What does not exist on this earth cannot possibly exist in you alone. You may not share similar patterns of life with others but at least you can share the concept of uniqueness with others. At times, unscientific and cocooned ethnic frames of mind blind people from seeing larger truths. It is like asking, “Is there anymore village beyond my village?” If different groups of people share the same thing, it is not so unique anymore; rather it is common to many. Then the idea of uniqueness vanishes.
What I find unique
I find it unique – how people magnify micro differences for geopolitical gain and consciously numb their senses in acknowledging macro similarities; how people accumulate countless things on this earth but cannot carry anything after death; how people fight for the uniqueness of their history, culture, land, tribe and community without having a civil sense that others also feel the same (or similar) level of uniqueness; how people try to annihilate others while at the same time claiming to be worshipping God (their God would be amused); how people use convenient pieces of written or oral histories to stitch their myopic ethnic pictures while forgetting that others also can read them through and through. These human behavioural patterns are truly unique.
Conclusion
The farther you can trace your human origin along with migrations, settlements, destructions, developments and refinements, the more likely you will have a wide-ranging outlook in life. Histories (oral & written) are man-made but humanity is divine, and being “humane” is an innate quality we all have. Very few enlightened people (like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, etc) can cultivate, nurture and practise it. A multi-cultural mindset is what we require to survive in the twenty-first century. Despite the hype on uniqueness,at the end of life, humans return to earthas manure for plants. We eat plants for survival and after our death, plants use us as manure for their growth. After all, what was so unique humans claimed in their life when they all die and perish? It is unique that humans claim to be so unique but all end up as dust. This mindset is so unique tothe human kingdom (if not to animal and plant kingdoms). If you consciously feed your brain with lies over and over again, your subconscious mind will assume as truth. Get closer to truth, far from fabrication. Genuinely ask “what is so unique about being unique?”
(The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

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