Being an individual, having the ability to think your own thoughts and make your own decisions has been a rally cry of late. I believe this fervent need to assert independence has been born out of a real fear for our personal safety and a lack of trust out in the world right now.
We hunker down in the security of our homes looking out at the world through the screens of our televisions, computers and smartphones and absorb distorted views of reality. As conspiracies abound, who or what should we believe anymore?
So we turn to the only person we can be sure of – ourselves – and we become our own personal advocate. Look out for number one; who else is going to after all.
Individualism – a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual. The principle or habit of, or belief in independent thought or action.dictionary.com
Now before I start a debate on the need for personal power, let me say that I believe that each individual should have the right to self actualization; the realization of one’s talents and potentialities and the drive to be the best you can be at being yourself. If we never strived to be more, we would probably still be living in caves. A sense of self is a healthy state of being and differentiates us from the herd. In fact, that’s what the ego does. It helps us see the world from our own personal perspective. A healthy ego understands our role in life and where we fit in the hierarchy of society.
For the last forty odd years though, we have been indoctrinated in the belief that the rights of the individual supersede the rights of the whole. We have raised our children to believe that they can be anyone and do anything they want. We have taken competition out of schools so that everyone wins. We have demanded equal opportunities for all, even if the individual doesn’t meet the criteria set out. It is now politically correct to honour the rights and feelings of the individual over the needs of the group.
But there is a downside to individualism and we are seeing this ugly side more and more.
An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.Leo Tolstoy
“I have rights! I pay taxes! The government needs to do something!” are in fact the cries of the willingly powerless individual. The need to blame someone else for our discomfort, does indeed separate us into individual camps but does little to empower our personal lives.
Last month we saw a big dump of snow in my area. While snow is not uncommon during winter here, it is uncommon to have one severe snow episode after another, leaving our our roads a snowy, icy mess. One man wrote on a community social media group, that he called the city and lodged a complaint that the main road in our neighbourhood had not been plowed and salted. To him, this felt like a personal affront, he paid taxes after all, how dare they plow the hundreds of kilometres of other city roads first. He had places to go, even though the local authorities warned us all to stay off the roads. Arrogance not individualism.
The racist. The bigot. The bully. All individuals who feel that their actions and opinions are justified because their rights are above others, but so do the affluent and the powerful. We’ve all seen how society favours those who have celebrity.
When the rights of an individual supersedes the rights of the whole, we are in danger of losing the very foundation of society. This leaves us open to nefarious powers – corruption, divide and conquer. So while each of us are focused on defending our own personal rights and freedoms, our universal rights get stripped away.
As is the case with societal evolutions, the pendulum of change swings from one extreme to another before a new balance is communally decided upon and there is little doubt that the pendulum arm is swinging wildly right now.
What will this new balance be? That’s anyone’s guess but it’s my hope that a new equity is established. One that respects the rights of the individual within the framework of the rights of the whole. But to achieve that, we all need to learn that as individuals, there must be a basic understanding – a new indoctrination – that we have the right to self actualization but that our own rights should not interfere with another’s personal rights.
I call this new world philosophy, cooperation. The idea that we have in us the ability to compromise our own personal rights and desires to allow others the ability to enjoy their own rights and desires while including respect for the whole.
A new kind of balance for humankind? Is it possible? And could we compromise enough to include the rights and desires of ever other living thing on this earth?
I will end this with one last thought.
Don’t complain – contribute.
If as Leo Tolstoy suggests, that a human’s main task in life is to become a better person, then I will offer that every one of us can use our individualism, that we are fighting so hard to defend, and contribute this uniqueness towards something better than what is going on in the world right now.