As a child, I had a bit of an inherent wish for uniformity. I always wondered why there were so many different brands of products on store shelves. Why are there so many different building styles? Why do people wear so many different clothes? I wondered why we could not just agree on one model for everything. As I grew up, I realized that such extreme uniformity is absurd, yet I kept wondering why such a need existed in the first place.
Uniformity for the sake of Justice?
The first hypothesis to this dilemma that came to my mind was that uniformity was a form of achieving justice. After all, socialism, which was an ideology built around social justice, has long pushed for uniform city layouts, jobs, and even goods. In the not so distant past, our store shelves here in Algeria were full of identical products without any brands. There was a single type of most types of goods. But was such uniformity a byproduct of central government planning or an intentional aim? I lean towards the latter explanation. Since what justice is there in making different people with different needs buy the same things?
Uniformity for the sake of Simplicity?
Another plausible explanation is that uniformity makes things simpler. We humans have quite a fascination with categorization. Hence, it would make sense for us to simplify our categories. It could be argued that standardization is effective in simplifying many aspects of our lives. This is very notable in electronic products and software. Industries in particular have benefited greatly from standardization. So perhaps, simplicity is in fact the key driving factor for this urge for uniformity. However, this type of uniformity is concerned with standardizing processes and protocols and not the aesthetic uniformity I wondered about.
Uniformity for the sake of Conformity?
Conformity could also be the potential culprit behind this need. It might be an internal instinct to shape the world around us in a unified style. The same instinct that pushes us to behave the way society expects us to behave. Conformity is, after all, an attempt to create uniformity of individual behavior. Aren’t uniforms and unified building styles the ideal reflection of a conforming population? However, even if this conclusion is true, it would only mean that the need for conformity does stem from a need for uniformity. And Therefore, the root of this need is yet to be uncovered.
Uniformity for the sake of Perfectionism?
The idea that conformity and uniformity are two sides of the same coin does offer a clue into their shared root. Perhaps, these needs are driven by the implicit idea that there is a “perfect thing”: The perfect soap, the perfect house, the perfect clothing, the perfect culture, the perfect beliefs, the perfect morals. This need is potentially not a need for uniformity but a rejection of differences. To accept differences is to accept compromises, which is in conflict with the idea of perfection. Then, perhaps if a perfect thing exists, then there must be a choice to be made in defining it. And that would imply a need to reduce said options to minimize the burden of making such a choice. Perhaps we only wish for uniformity to escape the need to make a choice, as choices always imply regrets.
Is this a need worth fulfilling?
It is very entertaining to contemplate one’s implicit wishes, yet uniformity is in blatant opposition to reality itself. It is true that diversity creates conflict, yet it is through conflict that prosperity is procured. One does not obtain new knowledge and insight by reciting the same ideas over and over again. But by contrasting and comparing them to different ideas. It is also in direct opposition to freedom. Even if the ideal solutions exist it would require someone to designate them for others to follow. And this is in complete opposition to individual freedom. As the economist Dr Thomas Sowell once said:
“The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”
Author: Wail Rimouche