Sometimes, the one who has the clearest view of what is happening inside a place is the outsider living within.
The outsider is not quite sure of what they’re seeing through that invisible, intangible glass sphere that surrounds them. It is a membrane that allows them to see, hear, taste and otherwise experience everything that other people experience but still keeps them at a distance. It is invisible but powerful enough to prevent the outsider from becoming an insider.
What is that invisible force? What is it made of? I’ll get to that, but first I’ll give some examples of how it works.
You spend years, even decades, in a certain place, abiding by its unspoken, unwritten guidelines and thinking you are a part of that place. You believe you have earned the right to be FROM that place thanks to your support, attention and observance of The Rules.
You speak like they do, taking note of expressions, typical quotes, tone, speed and mannerisms.
You comply with most of the customs, traditions and mores on a daily basis. You are active in the defence of the place, its history, its inhabitants (present and past) and you take personal pride in saying you are FROM that place whenever it is required. You do it all and then some just to feel you fit in and have a place to belong to.
After a while, it seems that the thin membrane gets thinner. It almost disappears. In fact, at certain times it is practically imperceptible.
At a neighbourhood gathering where you make an effort to forget your weird ideas and preferences and ‘enjoy’ in their style.
At an unfortunate fire where all the help everyone can offer is welcome, strangers and friends alike.
Then you take up the task of rescuing a failing/ ailing part of the communal everyday life that others just let slip because, as they see it, nothing can be done. At first you receive smiles and a couple- don’t wanna overdo it, you see…- of pats on the back. When they see that you intend to follow through, however, you get some well meaning advice to stop and reconsider the consequences of what you’ve got yourself into. You feel surprised and cannot fathom why someone would indirectly ask you to give up your beneficial actions in favour of the community. They don’t express it like that, actually.
It goes like this:
‘It’s too difficult. /No one will benefit. /No one will thank you for it. /It takes up too much time/. There’s no point in trying! /What’s meant to end should end’
The once virtually inexistent membrane just bounced back into full force and snapped your bewildered face.
You are not one of them. You have misunderstood an unwritten, unspoken law and are being relegated to your proper place, reminded that you don’t have the right to defend what’s not yours, nor will ever be totally ‘One of theirs’.
That membrane is woven by the herd instinct. It protects everyone that belongs to the herd by birth or because they have been assimilated to it. There are no rules on why some people ‘belong’ and others don’t, in spite of theoretically being more similar.
The membrane isolates potentially different individuals because differences are perceived as dangerous. It is transparent enough that everyone can pretend it doesn’t exist. Its existence is denied vehemently if the outsider even dares to hint at it. They will be gaslighted into thinking they are losing their capacity to think logically.
‘But HOW can you say that? You have been treated the same as everyone! I can’t believe you’d be so arrogant/ insensitive to think that… It’s you that isolates yourself! You always want to have it your way! Why don’t you try asking people if they want help instead of barging in and doing those weird things you do?’
All your prudence and good will have amounted to nothing. All your efforts to adapt were meaningless. All gone, disintegrated, useless. You have been wasting your time.
Because the Herd only wants what it knows and you are unknown to them, alien and foreign. They love their miseries, adore their shortcomings and thrive in the midst of their chaos, defying logic and convenience. These things define who they are.
Because you, The Outsider, are the flamingo in the chicken coop, the green dog in the Herd.
Your value is of no use to them.
The Herd values originality insofar as it stays within safe limits and especially if it provides a solution to a problem, but it is intolerant with what it doesn’t understand or deem useful.
In the end, I have come to believe that it is just a question of accepting what I cannot change. I cannot change the Herd. Nevertheless, I will not let the Herd change me.