• Tomislav S. Šola

You do You

Encountering the new meme “You do you” brings a new understanding of the world. That is, it may happen if we understand “you” with some wisdom. That is what memory is for. That is why we have memory institutions.

However, the increasingly chaotic Internet offers an explanation, simple, but nevertheless, intriguing. We are told “It is an idiom mainly used in the US as informal and used to say that someone should do what they think is best, what they enjoy most, or what suits their personality: In fact, being one's true self is one of the biggest pieces of advice Douglas gives. "You do you," she says. Aug 31, 2022“. Check the text simply by typing the title.

Does it not sound like an interesting celebration of self-indulgence? The humanist version of this contemporary meme by which one does best if one is true to the own personality may well be different. Modern mythology is increasingly claiming that being oneself is the utmost we can achieve. There are undeniable aspects of truth in it. However, we do live in the age of overemphasized, far-reaching and perhaps risky individualism. Therefore, the meme is seemingly done upon the presupposition that we are best when we think we are such or that the way we are, we are at our best already. It probably uses the correct requirement of unpretended, sincere behaviour but implicitly comprises that we are just fine by definition and dismisses our social responsibility and the “obligation” of constant personal improvement and refinement.

Even if simplifying it by saying that being oneself comprises being best to others may sound too Christian a benevolence. The world is cruel and the individualism gone wild, is destroying our species. Therefore, we need some hope in opposing it and seek a solid basis for solidarity, for maintaining the ever lifesaving expectation we should nourish within humanity, - common striving for the better world, in fact, - trans-generationally, trans-culturally, - while being all equal and all different. Heidegger would probably say that bridges not only connect different banks but finally make both sides aware of their difference. We have lost that good globalisation.

So does it have anything to do with the museum or heritage context? It does. Exactly that perfecting process is done as the process of selection, collecting, care and use/communication of the best, morally tested and societally responsible choices from the collective accumulation of human experience. This time the mythification of ego with its damaging effects for society imposes again the existence of an individual to the continuing existence of society: its memory, its changing character and its morals. Our only eternity is our species (Barthes). Thus, we have lost the word “progress” from the functional vocabulary due to the same tendency. The very, incessant, improvement, even if it is sabotaged by predatory, casino capitalism, - is probably the only legitimate and therefore the most difficult but rightful, eugenics that was given to people. Being self-centred leads to legitimate greed (now often called privatisation), - turning into a scenario for universal disaster. Public memory, as knowledge turned to wisdom, can help. Why is this transfer done in museums and other memory institutions so important has to do something with public memory is a long story. It lasts (at least in the museum sector) for two and a half centuries, often as a misleading theorizing. This site, containing critical texts and the books freely proposed there, offers many arguments.

Image source: https://quotefancy.com/quote/930009/W-Clement-Stone-You-always-do-what-you-want-to-do-This-is-true-with-every-act-You-may-say