Being Unique: The Fight Against Clichéd Humanity
Etymology of Electrotyping, Stereotyping, and Cliché
Electrotype is a new word for me. Stereotype is not. Both words rose out of the printing industry of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The word cliché was another word for stereotype in the publishing world. A cliché in the eighteenth century was a single metal sheet of copied typeset.
Electrotyping and stereotyping were methods of creating a permanent typeset for a specific publication such as a book or newspaper. The copied typeset, the cliché, could be used for reprints so the original typeset could be disassembled and used for other projects. These inventions were revolutionary in the publishing world. The words gained a much broader use outside publishing as time went on.
John Mellencamp, Peaceful World
Electrotyping, Stereotyping, and Cliché Defined
While electrotype may be a new word to many of us, we all recognize stereotype and cliché. The Collins Dictionary defines stereotype as "a fixed general image or set of characteristics that a lot of people believe represent a particular type of person or thing." Cliché is "an idea, action, or habit that has become trite from overuse." All three of these words, electrotyping, stereotyping and cliché, especially the latter two, have taken on the meaning of identicality or sameness.
As a fiction writer, cliché is something I am learning to avoid. It is the challenge to use my own vocabulary and style. I suppose every word in our dictionaries is a cliché. Language banks on sameness. But stringing together such words in a unique manner is the art of the writer.
When we read our newspapers, books, and magazines, we expect sameness, not of the words themselves, but of the printing of those words. If not for identicality of form, language would not work.
A good friend, Manatita, recently referred to Oneness as being infinitely more sublime than the word ‘unity.' Oneness, speaks of the arrangement of divergent pieces for the accomplishment of a single goal. This oneness that Manatita speaks of is not the sameness of electrotyping, stereotyping or cliché.
Can people be clichés? Can people with vast differences be one? Notice those two questions harbor different meanings. The first implies replicas of a master model. The second allows for individual differences while uniting around a single purpose.
Cliché surrounds us in secular society. We can see it in literature and in people. I travel for my work. Now I'm in Missoula, Montana. Before that were Billings, St. Louis, Columbus, Louisville, Colorado Springs, Medford, Philadelphia, Albuquerque. Everywhere I go, people talk about the same television programs. Television produces the ultimate, human cliché.
The Struggle Against Clichéd Humanity
Governments around the world struggle to unify cities made up of individuals from a variety of cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Added to that are the differences between one race and another, men and women, LGBT and straight, in addition to the fundamental idiosyncrasies of the individual.
We see unrest in the cities because people will always buck the system that attempts to pigeonhole them. Government only knows how to quantify, organize and file. But the people, the governed, want to thrive and live exciting lives. They want to be significant in their world. Sameness obliterates significance.
Communities of people, all different, must come together outside the reach of government and create a society that requires oneness, not sameness. Can you imagine the file cabinet in which no two pieces of paper were appropriate for the same file folder? That is the essence of oneness, the freedom to be unique yet belong to a single community.
The Difference Between Sameness and Oneness
Electrotyping and stereotyping sought to eliminate any flaw on the typeset. The result was the reproducibility of exact form. That has been good for the printing industry. It is death when applied to the human race.
The challenge is to discern the difference between sameness and oneness. The former leads to slavery, totalitarianism, indoctrination, and censorship. The latter is much more difficult to maintain. It is related to freedom. Sameness and bondage are bedfellows in a dictatorial state. Oneness and freedom are partners in a free society.