Looking at school children in uniform can be deceptive. Even though they wear the same colors day-in and day-out, every child is different. One kid might be from an exceptionally rich family, while another one might be the offspring of someone who is trying to eke-out a good education for his children. One girl might be very good-at-studies while another boy can be dull and poor with his grades. But from a general point of view, everyone is a student wearing the same uniform. People would not, otherwise, think too much about them; and they would classify them as similar.
Taking this example and applying to life-in-general can be an eye-opener. Everyone is an individual with different attributes. When people become too afraid to think different, and when they become too lazy to think for themselves, they become another cog in a cogwheel. A lot has been written about the importance of original thinking. We have to think for ourselves about what is best for us and act accordingly. But our thinking has to be high. As the great Chinese philosopher Confucius pointed out: The superior man thinks always of virtue, the common man thinks of comfort.
People in a society judge each other by the virtues they value the most. Since people see wealth as a desirable quality, it is quite natural that our thinking is skewed toward affluence. Businesses are aided by ads and TV commercials which are nothing but half-truths at the best, and outright-lies at the worst. They can influence us to think similar, and sabotage any original thought.
In certain societies, like in China, where Communism prevails, original thinking is not easy. Individual opinion is overridden by the opinion of the Communist Party. So even if one person thinks that he should have a big family, he can’t do it; since he risks going into the prison for this crime. (To prevent population explosion, the Communist Party has limited the number of offspring to its citizens; else the father goes to jail!)
Anyone in a free society can and should practice original thinking. Just as philosophers of all ages correctly observed, we just can’t please everyone in the society; at the same time. In a democracy, even the biggest winner in an election has nearly half-the-people voting against him!
In this world of smart phones and 24/7 connectivity, a few billionaires such as Warren Buffet are using flip phones without any ‘apps’ or Internet. Steve Ballmer, the then CEO of Microsoft, said that he prefers pen-and-paper to any PDA or electronic organizer. These are all examples of original thinking. These people buck the trend. They think for themselves. I do use a smart phone, because I find it good for me. And this is my take on original thinking.