A common trait of many groups and individuals is that they want everyone to conform. This is, of course, natural. Nature dictates that we should distrust what is different from us. Different is scary, after all. Animals survive through habit, and many humans have persisted with this instinct. But this instinct, for the most part, is outdated and often misused. It has been abused to such a point that not only are we abused under a dictatorship of government, but more often than not under a dictatorship of neighbours.

This desire for others to conform is understandable when discussing ethics – maybe even necessary. Consistent morality is important for a functioning society and very few of us feel that society should tolerate evil actions. Where the demand for conformity becomes unreasonable is in matters of taste and aesthetics.

No reasonable person would call a lover of Van Gogh evil. Our preferences differ but that doesn’t make them wrong. Preference isn’t a matter of truth versus falsehood. It’s a personal choice informed by a myriad of influences. Where preference in taste and aesthetic vastly differs from, let’s say, morality is that an abnormal taste should not hurt anyone.

Despite the harmlessness of many tastes, they have come under attack throughout the ages. Geeks and nerds are two terms, previously derogatory, used to insult individuals for their chosen activities. The sting of the terms have lessened, but the original intent remains the same. Some humans condemn the harmless actions and preferences of others.

Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO, an augmented reality geo-tagging game that is taking the world by storm.

This all arises from a particular type of ideology. Essentialism, also known as Perfectionism, is a term used to describe an ideology that prescribes how individuals should live. They vastly differ in their prescriptions and even in their enforcement – but have the common trait of demanding a singular correct way of living. Those who condemn harmless actions and promote a way of living as the only way of living are essentialists.

Libertarianism and Liberalism is not essentialism. The very concept of both is the recognition that we do not know the right way of living and that we shouldn’t force any prescriptions on other individuals. In this way, the fundamental enemy of Libertarian thought is Essentialism.

Despite this, many so-called Libertarians, Liberals and Conservatives have become essentialists. A minor point would be many responses to the new Pokémon Go fad. Without a doubt, it is a worldwide phenomenon that has made many people happy – yet many people, even people who claim to be Libertarians, are condemning it. They have adopted a form of “doctrine of maturity” whereby they believe the orthodox to be better than this new activity that they don’t understand.

While we are all allowed to criticise others, it is a very illiberal value to apply a universal way of life on people. The Libertarian and Liberal way is creating a society that allows us all to pursue our own way. If some people choose Pokémon Go as their way, so be it. It doesn’t harshly affect those who choose not to engage.

The right-wing are not the only Essentialists guilty of constructing a dictatorship. The biggest culprits are often the left-wing, who through a misguided maternal drive, seek to regulate what we can say, hear, eat, drink or even think. From health-freaks that want to ban fast-food to SJWs who want to ban vaguely described forms of “hate speech”, all are arrogant in their presumptions that they understand what is good for other people.

It is hard to tolerate difference, and sometimes we really shouldn’t. There are many valid times when those who are different need to be criticised and put in line, but not when that individual is doing nothing truly wrong – and no, eating McDonalds is not truly wrong.

As individuals seeking to improve ourselves, we need to learn the difference. We must condemn violence and force against innocents, but not condemn the individual who happens to like a different type of music from us. Diversity in opinion and taste cannot hurt us. If anything, it creates a more vibrant society which can more adequately please all its stakeholders.

Nicholas Woode-Smith is co-founder of the Rational Standard and its Technical and Marketing Director. He is a student at the University of Cape Town, with majors in Politics, Philosophy and Economic History. He is the youngest council member of the Institute of Race Relations in history and the Regional Director of Southern Africa for African Students For Liberty. He also writes science fiction – prominently, the Warpmancer and Cape Zero series.