Whenever I hear the term “outsider,” I immediately word associate and next thing you know I am throwing out terms like, “PonyBoy, Sodapop, Greasers and Socs, (of course, from the novel The Outsiders)… West Side Story, The Great Gatsby, and dare I say Romeo and Juliet…
And what do they all have in common? In very simple terms, they all revolve around an “opposite sides of the tracks” storyline… They focus on the difficulty and peril associated with/resulting from crossing those tracks… They are all stories with sad and tragic end… Cautionary tales of trying to live outside of ones given “place” in life.
To be an outsider is to be without means. To be an outsider is to be of a lower social status. To be an outsider is to be of lower socioeconomic status. To be an outsider is to be lacking in power. To be an outsider is to be left asking the question, “And what exactly makes them/you so much fucking better than me?!”
In its basic, purest form, and outsider is exactly as it sounds… it is to be someone on the outside of a seemingly desirable existence, looking in. If the outsider is you, then whatever it is you want (status, respect, a woman)… you see it, you want it, you likely even attempt a go after it… But you are quickly reminded by society, “it is not for you.”
What a bitter pill to swallow. And many of the previously mentioned stories and their tragic ends result from the decisions and actions arising from an unwillingness to swallow that pill. (But, in many of these stories, society insists the pill be swallowed and forces it down anyway… tragedy ensues).
But these are not just stories, in the sense of something you would read, say you read, and possibly remember reading it a few weeks down the road. No. These are great, widely read, critically acclaimed stories, that you never forget, no matter how long ago you read them. And why?
Because of the way we can all relate to them. In some form or other, we all relate. There is an emotional connection to these stories. They resonate with all of us.
At some point in time or maybe even what feels like (or is) all the time, each of us can relate to what it is to be and to feel like an outsider. Maybe the group you want to associate with will not accept you? Maybe the socioeconomic status you are looking to acquire you have not yet achieved? Maybe the type of woman you wish you could be with is out of your reach, and you have to settle to see her pass by on the arm of “that guy?!” Maybe it’s racism, maybe sexism, maybe bullying…
Whatever the reason, we can all relate to being an outsider.
So, before I get too long winded, if we all can relate to these stories of lacking and want. If we all can see ourselves as the outsider from the wrong side of the tracks. If we all can relate to feeling we cannot have something we truly desire… then this begs the question:
Who the hell are the insiders?! And if the outsiders so greatly outnumber the insiders, and the thing that bonds the outsiders is the empathy of shared struggle, what is it that the insiders have exactly that we want? Beyond status, or money, or some other materialistic or socially constructed entity, what is greater and more powerful than the bond of shared human experience?
What is more powerful than being able to relate to other people?
They say its “lonely at the top.” And perhaps this discussion of outsiders is just one other way of confirming that expression. And yet, despite it all, we all climb as high as we can. We all scramble and hustle and grind… Trying desperately to improve our expereince, our socioeconomic status, and our social acceptance.
Why? Well, in short, The American Dream… but that is a post for another day.