When, in my freshman year of high school, we assembled at that year's first pep rally, we enacted a tradition in which class pride was showcased, and which also set the freshmen in their inferior place. Or so it seemed at the time. It was a simple cheering for one's self as a group, in which each class after being introduced, "the graduating class of <whatever year>!" would cheer, as though for a favorite team. Of course we had been asked to sit grouped with our class to help the process, so there we were in the bleachers, left to right, underclass to upper. This typically set up the freshmen for the weakest cheer, not having done this the previous year. It worked again, cheers growing louder moving left to right, ending with the Seniors' biggest, loudest, and longest cheer. They obviously had a stronger sense of class identity, as well as something the rest of us utterly lacked: The shortest distance to freedom.
I remember my own reaction as something along the lines of, "oh, that's stupid. Of course we're not going to cheer loud, we only just arrived." Although I fully expected the proper pattern to arise at next year's pep rally, I had no intention of going along with a rigged game. In this I thought myself an independently minded exception to my herd-like peers; they would go on with the tradition.
To my surprise, and delight, next year's pep rally failed to produce the expected results. My sophomore class was again least loud, less even than the new freshmen. The next year found a similar result, with my juniors again the least enthusiastic. By now it was clear that this whole class had the same non-conformist attitude, and we showed our inverted pride best at that rally of our senior year. We barely made a peep, while the freshmen might have been the loudest, if not tied with the sophomores. The poor juniors seemed to share our obstinacy, but to a lesser degree.
From this arose the paradox of apparent independence, expressed spontaneously like a veering school of fish. I was (and remain) unaware of any outside influence on my decision to resist tradition. In fact, I don't recall even mentioning my impressions and intent to any of my classmates. Yet, it was common enough that we each made the same choice. Could I deny a common influence existed?
A bumper sticker says, "Don't Trust Everything You Think." It's a funny turn of phrase. But it's clear that I can think the thoughts of others on my own.