By Simon Stertzer
This article was originally printed in the Concordiensis on Feb. 19, 1955. Its original spelling, grammar and capitalization have been preserved.
“The Nature of Existence”
As I exert an effort to momentarily withdraw myself from involvement with society, and to objectively consider the nature of peoples’ existences, I find — as others have previously seen — that success in modern American life seems only possible when people yield themselves.
This modern “loss of self” is causing a correlated loss of individuality and suffocation of creative thought.
And the yielding of creative thought in any age is a grave symptom of stagnation or retrogression.
What is occurring around us is simply that people are no longer interested in long term plans of achievement on individual or original levels.
In fact, people are no longer even motivated by their own thoughts. Instead, existences are being motivated by the insidious character of group emulation.
You are existing only by living with the standards of your contemporaries as guides to all of your acts.
You choose careers not out of a sense of personal interest so much as from a sense of which career gives you the greatest academic, social or financial prestige. You dress, behave and react in compliance with the vacillating standards of your contemporaries.
On the collegiate level, the standards are fraternities and short hair and white shoes and beer etc.
All that is necessary for you to do to see the mass unoriginal conformity and emulation, is to step back and look around. Freshmen feel obligated to drink beer, wear specified clothing, pledge fraternities, and adopt the general collegiate attitudes immediately upon arrival, so that they can demonstrate their ability to conform to the standards of the malignant campus system.
Everyone is reacting similarly in all situations these days, because his only goal seems to be recognition and approbation by contemporaries.
Indeed, “keeping up with the Joneses” has been extended from the material level to the general levels of social and intellectual life in America too.
Everywhere, people are living constantly in attempts to vie for a group standard.
They strive merely for approval from friends, associates and other group members.
The ethics of this situation are, for my considerations, negligible.
But, the practical results of this trend are dangerous.
What is the future of medicine to be, if physicians are more interested in their finances, and their pieces in society, than in their patients?
What is the future of the intellect to be, if teachers become preoccupied with administrational advancement and “progressionims?”
Indeed, what is the future of all the progressions, businesses and institutions in America to be, if the people involved become primarily interested in social approval rather than intrusitic advancement?
The answers to these problems do not necessarily require extreme realignment of our lives. It is not necessary to become solitary individualists.
It is not mandatory for college students to throw away white shoes, stop drinking and break up fraternities.
However, a vast reappraisal of values and motivations is necessary to combat group emulation and over conformity.
We must develop new spirits of creative, individual thought and have less emphasis on conformation to stagnant, social superficialities, if our future is to be at all productive!