The “Versus Everyone” Paradox

Luke Burgis
12 min readMay 18

Detroit Vs. Everyone, and the problem of the One and the Many

Learn what you must do alone.

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.
—Charles MacKay

I’m from Michigan, so the “Detroit Vs. Everybody” (TM) slogan that emerged in 2012 resonated with me a bit. The city and my Detroit Lions simply don’t get a lot of respect. That’s probably well-deserved.

But I’m from the westside of the state, so I didn’t understand the slogan because of the Detroit part; I understood it for another reason: because, as an only child, I grew up often feeling like nobody in this world except for my parents was looking out for my best interests. And so I developed a healthy-sized chip on my shoulder.

My Luke-versus-everybody mentality came to a head when I walked into my high school guidance counselor’s office during the fall of my senior year — this was a man who had spent a grand total of 15 minutes with me during my high school tenure — and he tried to convince me to apply and go to Bowling Green State University (which I’m sure is a fine school) merely because he himself had graduated from there, and he had had a “good time” and gotten a “decent education.” This was ‘probably’ the best option for me, all things considered, he told me.

Something about it didn’t sit right with me, even in the moment. Even for me as a super-confused 17 year old. I trusted my gut.

Were my grades great? No. I was bored out of my mind in class (I spent most of the time writing music lyrics), and I was not given the personal attention I needed from anyone, not even my coaches, to understand me on anything more than a surface level — what really drives me and motivates me, what I truly cared about, and why I was so disengaged. If you asked any one of them what kind of person I aspired to be — in Girardian language, who my models of desire were — none of them could have told you. But this would have been invaluable information for them.

This was a fairly expensive and prestigious Catholic school, too: they should have been engaged in this kind of work. Around this time, I listened to several albums on repeat. One of them was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Luke Burgis

Author of “WANTING: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.” Find more at