IT IS a paradox that while we live in the most supposedly hyper-liberal of ages, society is marked by stifling conformity, manifesting itself wherever the casual observer casts his or her eye.
I do not think this uniformity is peculiar to our times. Despite our belief that we are autonomous actors, most people happily go along with society’s shifting currents, regarding each new belief to be held with robust conviction. That this is the case has long been noted: look, for example, at the crowds in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, who lend their undying support to whoever happens to speak last. Being independent-minded has always been a minority sport.
The difference today is that modern technology enables more efficient enforcement of this homogeneity. Nowhere is groupthink and a marked detestation of individuality more visible than in the world of business.
(Forget for now that businesses today are primarily concerned with social engineering; their profit-creating function secondary to their woke mission. Such sentiment was reflected recently by John Lewis chairperson Dame Sharon White who, after a £99million loss, said that the company was merely ‘forgoing profit’. I cannot think of a surer recipe for long-term success.)
I recently came across an article that asked why every company’s logo looks the same, with the adoption of almost identical black-and-white fonts across the tech sector. While there are practical reasons – better formatting on mobile devices et cetera – it is hard to suppress the feeling it is part of a wider attempt to negate any semblance of individuality.
Marking oneself distinctively is to invite attack. Better to hide amid a sea of similarity than to fall victim to the orthodoxy’s commissars, who hate nothing more than a tall poppy.
A key tenet of conformity is a rejection of the past. People, places and things are, ultimately, the sum of their history. Were you to wake up tomorrow with no memories, you would not still be ‘you’ in the true sense. Your wonky teeth and hairy back would remain, but something fundamental would have been robbed from you. Destruction of the past is the only way revolutionaries can create a fresh start. Hence why Pol Pot and other unpleasant types forever try to implement Day Zero.
Had the Khmer Rouge et al just waited around long enough they would have seen their much-hated enemies in the West go down the same path voluntarily. No need for all that shooting and shouting – a steady march through the institutions would have worked just as well, as such a march promotes the steady erosion of history and, with it, identity.
Take Oxford University Press. Founded in 1586, it is the second-oldest university press in existence. One might expect it to take pride in its past.
However its decision to redesign its branding suggests not. Not only has the font been changed to conform perfectly with every other firm under the sun as shown above, but the old logo has been done away with.
Once accompanied by Oxford University’s coat of arms, which itself is adorned with the words Dominus illuminatio mea (‘the Lord is my light’) and three crowns, the Press is now represented by a stylised ‘O’.
Opinions vary as to what it looks like. To some it’s the opening credits of James Bond films, to others some kind of pastry. To me it resembles the flushing of a toilet and the accompanying swirl of water as one’s waste is swept away. It is a fitting analogy for an institution which appears more than happy to flush its history, and hence its identity, down the loo. Its new branding makes it look like a company that sells anything from swimming pools to financial services. It is utterly bland and free of character: a perfect representation of the modern age.
Not that anyone should expect anything more from a university, after all. They are key engines powering our civilisation’s decline. But still, the rebrand seems to encapsulate so much of what is fuelling our modern, identitarian, malaise.
This appeared on Frederick’s Newsletter on September 26, 2022, and is republished by kind permission.