“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind,” once said a wise man. Individuality must be respected; conformity is a slow poison that will kill any society. When you follow the herd, as unfortunately many people in Dubrovnik do, you become lost in the fog.
Some people try so hard not to stick out, not to raise their heads above the ramparts, they spend most of their lives blending in, and when they succeed they become invisible. Of course in a small place, any small place, sticking out from the crowd takes courage. Dubrovnik lacks individuals. It can be seen at every turn. It is slowly but surely suffocating the creativity of our society.
“It must be hard to be a black sheep here,” joked the friend across the table from me. “Everyone seems so desperate to be a white sheep,” he added. He had been in Dubrovnik for exactly three days and already he had got to the heart of the problem. “There are a few grey sheep but black ones are killed at birth,” I said with smile. “It is a small town, so fear of the unknown is normal, much easier just to go with the flow, even if the flow is against your principles,” he concluded. He was right.
Differences are often treated with fear. Being part of a mass only helps to nurture that fear. We spend so much time worrying what other people think that we ignore our own feelings. I have found that I am beginning to conform, I realised it the other day. It may have been growing for a few years, and I don’t like it. I actually found myself agreeing with the gossip, towing the line, nodding in unison, all to avoid being myself. I didn’t realise at the time, it took a few days to dawn on me and now I feel disgusted.
I have been trying to purge myself over the last few days, going out of my way to be nonconformist, trying as hard as possible to return my status quo of self. It is hard. No one truly succeeds alone, or as the poet John Donne wrote “no man is an island.” So a certain amount of mutual conformity is useful, after all the most beautiful flowers in the world couldn't grow without the soil. But it is probably better to be the flower than the soil.
“It seems to me that when one thing is in fashion every one copies...it is a copy/paste culture,“ added my friend. He was right again. Sometimes the fashion here reminds me of North Korea, only much sexier. Teenagers are by nature rebellious; they are finding themselves and will experiment. But on the other hand they are trying hard to be accepted by their peers. They all have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Unfortunately it seems to me that the angel wins to many times in Dubrovnik.
If a certain hairstyle, a certain pair of trousers, a certain bag or a certain gadget is “in” almost every teenager will have one. Rather than creating their own style they are too quick to raise their arms in surrender and get what everyone else has. Like I already said a more fashionable of North Korea. It is also incredibly boring! I mean painstakingly dull. All the life has been sucked out of them and they are swimming with the rest of the fish, holding back their own style.
It may not be important to be individual, but it IS extremely important to be true to you. Be black or white...don’t be grey. “This is a place in desperate need of fresh blood, new life,” he had finished his coffee now and was ready to chat again. “How strange that the only thing that is unique in this place is a city that was built hundreds of years ago,” now he was in full flow. “Imagine combining the uniqueness of this glorious breathtaking city with some new and contemporary innovations. And how ironic that the city has been chosen to be in one of the most futuristic movies,” he rubbed his brow, deep in thought.
The first step is always the hardest, but there has to be a willing, a desire, to take that step. It’s much easier to stay in the crowd, criticise from a distance, it takes bravery to stand up whilst the rest are sitting. I am not sure that we are ready, I don’t see a desire for change, I am not even sure if we are brave enough. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” wrote the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.