Originally written in June 2012
There is no such thing as true self. Yes, genetically speaking everyone is unique, but genetic blueprint is not equivalent to self. Genetic blueprint is like a mold. It does in part shape the outcome as to how the individual would turn out, but the substance of the outcome also – and more importantly – depends on the ingredients of the inputs. These ingredients are thoughts and ideologies and other elements from the social environment the individual is exposed to through his life. These would determine what thoughts and ideologies the individual himself would have.
When whatever ideas one has are acquired from and influenced by the world outside (meaning, however the individual is he is shaped by the elements from the external world) how can one claim a set of ideas as truly one’s own? How can one say that a particular behavioral pattern is one’s true self? The term true self assumes a particular mind with specific thoughts and ideologies as a given.
People develop ideologies, tastes, preferences, wants, desires and so on, and begin to think they are their personal tastes, preferences,.. In a way they are, but not really. Moreover, people think that because there is such a thing as true self and since everyone has a true self everyone is entitled to live life the way they want. Pop culture tells them that following one’s true self is the only right way for a person to act. They call this entitlement individual sovereignty.
Let’s have a closer look into this to see whether one’s ideologies, tastes, preferences, wants, desires and so on (self) are really one’s own. When I am writing this, slim fit jeans are in fashion so I prefer those, as does everyone else I know. Ten years ago wide bottom jeans were in fashion. I do remember that I had then a couple of old slim fit pair of jeans (which would have been considered ultra-modern today) of my dad’s which I never thought of wearing. because in those times only girls wore slim fit jeans. I, like everybody I knew then, preferred wide bottom ones. And I thought that those looked attractive too, which seems rather funny today, because today slim fit ones are deemed attractive and everybody wants slim fit jeans. The fact that my dad had slim fit jeans means in his time they must have been in fashion, too.
How is it that people (a group as large as a community, city or even a nation) have one uniform preference at one point in time and another uniform preference at another point in time? Is my desire today of buying a pair of slim fit jeans my own desire? In other words, is the desire coming from my true self? Is it just a coincidence that my true self and the true selves of the entire world I know have the same preference in jeans? The fact is, what I think is my own desire is actually formed by what I see other people around me doing.
Whatever we think we are – our thoughts, ideologies, tastes, preferences, wants, desires, … – it is all shaped by our experiences with the world we live in, by seeing and observing other people, their behavior and habits, and many other things surrounding our existence. People from a particular religious or cultural background have similar traits and behavioral patterns. Most people behave in statistically predictable ways. It points to the fact that individual self is made up of shared and collective ideas and experiences. Self is not a genetic given and hence no individual has a true self.
The fact that one’s self or individuality is formed by the elements of the external world means that people can be systematically conditioned to have certain self. That’s what corporations and vested interests through media and advertisements are doing today. They make people desire things they don’t really need, but people think it’s their own desires.
No true self means that no one has preferences that are truly their own. No one has individuality in true sense, and therefore in my opinion there should be no such thing as individual sovereignty which is above the shared interests of humans as a group.