There’s an essential freedom in being alone with one’s thoughts, oblivious to and unpolluted by anyone else’s. Diminish that aloneness and we start to doubt our own perspective. Do I really think Blue Bottle coffee is that great? Or Blazing Saddles that funny? Do I really not like that pizza place because it isn’t authentic New York-style? Sure, it’s entirely possible to arrive at one’s own opinion amidst a cacophony of others. But it’s also possible to bend, unknowingly and imperceptibly, toward a position not naturally our own.
Not “naturally” our own? When do we ever have our own “natural” opinions, uncolored by the years we spent as impressionable youths, unknowingly and imperceptibly absorbing the ideas, prejudices and social mores of everyone from our parents to our teachers to our peers to the commercials during our Saturday morning cartoons? And why is he talking as if we are born with preexisting, uncorrupted, pure opinions on consumer products anyway?
Of course, I don’t dispute that it’s a good thing to try to consciously resist going along with advertising campaigns or the mob’s collective opinion, but the idea that we ever develop our sense of selves outside of our context as social animals is ludicrous. Every idea you have has been thought of in some form by someone else before. The language you use to formulate your thoughts and express your hopes and wishes has been a work in progress for thousands of years with contributions from countless other people. As the Zen koan says, show me your original face before you were born.