Often, one can hear people say: "I don't want to be different, I want to by just like everybody else."
But who is "everybody"? Who creates this entity? Who defines it? "Everybody" is not an independently existing term, but rather the outcome of imitation. One person imitates another, and everybody imitates "everybody." Who, then, is the first, the real "everybody" that everyone imitates?
Furthermore, is "everybody" good? Is it smart, understanding, religious? Not necessarily; because had "everybody" been an expression of good, there would have been no need to rely on it or use its awesome appellation; rather, one would have simply said – "I am doing X because it is good." The fact that this argument is not used proves that "everybody" is not good, perhaps even quite the opposite. Similarly, "everybody" is not clever, wise or characterized by any other virtue. "Everybody" is bereft of any good qualities, but still has more power than all the good qualities put together.
But if "everybody" is neither good or wise, nor endowed with any special virtue – what is it, then?
Had "everybody" been an expression of a specific person, it would have been more understandable; had it been the expression of certain positive qualities, we could have said that it is an abstract idealization of certain lofty ideas. But since it is neither this nor that, it is puzzling: who or what is the source that coins all the forms and creates the value system? Who is this mighty ruler, "everybody"?
The tremendous power of "everybody" is quite apparent. For instance, a person can adhere to a certain ideal and be willing to make great sacrifices for it; but at the same time, he can also be overwhelmed by the quasi infinite power of "everybody": "what will everybody say about me?" This great power seems to have no source whatsoever; it was not created by a specific person or ideal, and yet it is alive, strong and active in a very real and tangible way.
One may simply say that "everybody" is the average of all the members of a certain society. This is undoubtedly true, and constitutes sufficient definition of the external dimension of "public opinion." But the fundamental question remains: what is the source of this average? True, it is not difficult to point to the "average" of a specific society; but every society is made up of individuals, who are complex and multi-faceted human beings who have very different inner lives and many modes of operation. But often one is pushed to reveal certain aspects or possibilities … by "public opinion" – namely, by "everybody." This "everybody" is, then, like that legendary serpent that bits its own tail and appears everywhere as the most fundamental element. It is both the average, and what creates the average.
In other words: if we want to delve into the roots of "everybody," we must find more fundamental and stable reasons for its existence. In order to understand "everybody" we must analyze it a bit, because the emphasis on "everybody" is made up of various parts that come (as we shall see) from different sources, and which nevertheless form a well-defined entity.
One central quality that characterized "everybody" is cowardice. When we say "everybody," even if we fill this word with affection and admiration, there is always an element of fear there. Even those who follow "everybody" with all their hearts and fervor know that they must not rebel against this imperious authority. One can love it and identify with it, or not; but it is impossible to evade it.
Now, if "everybody" is not endowed with virtues, one may suspect it has vices. And indeed, if we examine "everybody" we will discover traces of various vices – traces only, because having real, actual vices requires courage, and "everybody" is characterized by cowardice. But we can certainly discern traces of selfishness, baseness, and some other ordinary evil material inclinations. "Everybody" will never encourage anyone to become ascetic or pure – quite often, the opposite is true.
But above all, "everybody" is characterized by mediocrity, or, more precisely, pettiness. One must distinguish between mediocrity and average. An average can be quite high, depending on the essence and size of its constituents. Mediocrity is not relative: it is a quality in and of itself. Mediocrity means shunning whatever is great, lofty and holy, and replacing it with easily digestable values that do not require tension or effort. It is not society that determines mediocrity, but mediocrity that determines what society is going to look like. In societies that entertain lofty ideals there is, of course, an average, which is surely a high average, but there is no "everybody." Because when people have a self, when they move – either individually or together – toward certain recognitions, then it is not what other people say or do that matters, but the aspiration for the good as a thing for itself.
Of course, this is not a summary of all the components of "everybody," but only the main ones. When all these components are joined together, they create the overall entity called "everybody." When people behave "like everybody else" they do not imitate anyone in particular, they are not being dragged: rather, they create from within themselves the essence of their own little desires, and then follow it.
This can be summed up in a sort of recipe: take pettiness, the evasion of any attempt to rise to real humanity, take what people call with the euphemism "mediocrity," add a pinch of selfishness, baseness and lust, wrap it all with cowardice – and what you'll get will surely look a lot like "everybody."