The middle class, those who can afford non-essential items, is torn between two impulses. The first is projection of status which leads to a desire to be noticed (in public contexts), aggressive self-expression and experimentation with new modes of style and design. The second, in vivid contrast to the projection, is protection, a fear of sticking out too obviously or challenging existing hierarchies and social restrictions. The Chinese saying – “the leading goose gets shot down” – is as true today as it was yesterday. People want to “advance,” be acknowledged by society as “special” but they can not afford to be too ahead of the crowd. Western-style individualism is like Eve’s apple – succulent, enticing, desired. Biting into it, however, risks banishment to the Land of Outcasts.
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