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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Individuality vs Collectivism

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what individuality and collectivism mean. The most common understanding of the two is that individuality is people being all for themselves, and collectivism is people being together and working together. This is not what it means to me. When I speak of individuality and collectivism I mean something very different. The common description of individuality and collectivism are not good ones. They make individualism seem evil and collectivism be good. I have a different way of looking at these two, which makes individualism as a goal to pursue and collectivism something to leave.

There are those who advocate people to live entirely for themselves and for no one else. This is known as egoism. Ayn Rand is highly associated with this movement. She argued that this is the only moral system that there is. This is summarized in her famous quotation, "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." As I have said many times before, I am not an egoist. I do believe it is the responsibility of all people to help others if they are able to. But I am not really an altruist. I call what I believe in as "charitable capitalism", and I wrote more about it here. So when I speak of individuality I do not mean egoism.

What then is the meaning of individualism? Individualism is living your life by your own standards, and only your standards, without concern for anyone else. This does not mean you ignore the concerns of other people. This does not mean you are hateful to others. This does not mean you do not associate with others. This does not mean a society where everyone only pursues what he wishes.

Individualism is living your life in absence of all social norms and standards that damaged the great potential of mankind. It is a fashion norm not to wear socks and flip-flops. If you are a true individualist then you do not care about this norm. You ignore it. You wear what you want. If your own fashion style is not to wear socks and flip-flops then this is acceptable in individualism. If you own fashion style is to wear socks and flip-flops then go ahead and do it. But if your own fashion style is to wear socks and flip-flops but you do not do so because it is social norm not to then you are no individualist. You are not living your life by your own standards. You are living your life under the standards of the masses.

If you adore American 1776 fashion that people such as George Washington wore and you manage to actually find a clothing store that sells this fashion style, then go ahead, wear it! If you want to ride on a horse, instead of a car, because it is compatible with your fashion sense then be individualistic. Ride it. But do not break yourself to the wills of the masses, do not say to thyself, that you shall be an outcast. Ignore all of it. Live your life as you want it. Not what others think of you.

Individuality does not only end with fashion and style. That is just the simple beginning. It gets more difficult. Individuality must also be present in your thought. Have ideas and have beliefs that defy the masses. Do not do so for the sake of the rebellion. If you actually agree with the masses, then so be it. But if you were to find a disagreement, and find it you shall, then rebel about it. Do not let your thoughts die out. Do not be afraid of being wrong. Do not be afraid to state what you believe and be criticized for it. Just be honest in what you believe. Thus, if you believe there is nothing wrong with pedophilia, then say so. Say it loud, say it proudly. Because such a statement is a shock to all moral standards that the masses hold dear. Scare them with your ideas. If you believe in a violent revolution against any state that suppresses freedom of religion to the point of picking up your guns and calling for the death of the tyrants, then proudly stand by that, soak that tree of liberty with your own blood and with the blood of the despots.

This is the meaning of individuality. This is what will advance the human species. Every major change in human history has been the result of individuality. Every major idea, whether it was virtuous or vile, whether it was correct or false, whether it was atheistic or religious, has been a rebellion against the standard value. There hath never been a change in history that was in accordance with the norm. How can it? The norm, by its definition, is what people have always been doing. To change the norm requires defiance and bravery, whether for the better or for the worse. Individuality is what has changed this species. This is why individuality is what will break from the individual his true potential.

Then what is collectivism? Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Collectivism are people who unify and live under a uniform standard. Collectivists live without dissent. Collectivists are boring people, uninteresting, who never achieved anything in their life, and shall never achieve anything in their lives.

It is sad, but true, that evolution hath cursed our species with collectivism. The collective is the natural state of all things. Because for people to increase their reproductive success they need to fit into the collective. They cannot be rebels and outcasts. If they have strange fashion style they will be ignored by their tribe. If they have heretical thoughts they will be expelled or killed by their tribe. It is indeed sad that collectivism is the curse of mankind. Most people are collectivists. And perhaps it shall sadly remain so always. But this can be cured by individualistic pursuits.

Religion is collectivism. Religion has no dissent within it. It has standards and rules that need to apply to all others. Dress codes that apply to all others. And their members cannot have heretical thoughts. It is not only because religion is irrational and vile that it is so damaging to the world. But it is also because it is the biggest form of all collectivism.

Nationalism is collectivism. This is why I cannot understand people who are proud to be Americans. Or (secular) Jews who have a nationalistic feeling to Israel. Statism is, though not always, collectivism. Statists propose a society which is fashioned in their view and controlled to stay in such a manner. They do not favor dissent. They fear it, and silence it, if it becomes out of hand.

But individualism comes at a price. The individual must prepare his life for loneliness and fear. Many great individual thinkers through out history have been extremely lonely, and rejected from other people, sometimes even threatened. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

I remember a friend of mine telling me two years ago that if I do not wish to be lonely, and if I wish to be with someone, then I have to work on being normal. I told him that I had no interest in changing my ways, not to mention that I seem to have a rebellious gene in me that draws me to opposition and individuality. I told him that I do not think I am capable of doing that.

I am unhappy with my response to him. I should have not said that. I should have been more hardcore. From this point on, if anyone every tells me to try to fit in, I shall tell them, that if the price of individuality is loneliness, misery, fear, and living alone, then so be it, I will rather die alone, and cold, than live happily with others but without my own will. I refuse to be slave to the rule of the norm, I can be my own master, we can all be our own masters.

15 comments:

  1. Astounding... Beautiful... Inspiring article. Funny though, I am the greatest human that exists. Though you sir are a true "√úbermensch".

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  2. "Astounding... Beautiful... Inspiring article.":

    Thank you for calling it beautiful and inspiring. I hardly ever get compliments for what I write, most people tell me what utter non-sense I write.

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  3. Well, I'm going to disagree. When I go to a fancy restaurant, I know that, just as I am paying a lot of money for my meal, so too are those around me. They are paying, not just for the food, but for the atmosphere. One thing they are paying for is the social norm that I will dress nicely, because my clothes don't only affect me, they affect those around me as well. What is wrong with behaving in line with this expectation? Now, if you want to say they shouldn't force me to, that my fellow customers would be wrong to gang up on me and beat me if I were wearing white shoes this weekend, you'd be right, and I'd agree. What I'm talking about is not the use of force, but my act to obey social norms. I think that is a good thing. I think collectivism is a good thing, so long as it is voluntary.

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  4. "Well, I'm going to disagree. When I go to a fancy restaurant, I know that, just as I am paying a lot of money for my meal, so too are those around me. They are paying, not just for the food, but for the atmosphere. One thing they are paying for is the social norm that I will dress nicely, because my clothes don't only affect me, they affect those around me as well. What is wrong with behaving in line with this expectation?":

    Ruining other people's quiet time is not what I really mean when I say "being individualistic and reject collectivism". Not saying "thank you", is not related to what I am talking about.

    Individualism is having your own preferences, style, thoughts and your own values, for yourself and only yourself. To reject what the collective has been doing on these issues.

    "I think collectivism is a good thing, so long as it is voluntary.":

    I do not think so. Because collectivism has never made people grow or achieve anything. It has always been the individualists.

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  5. Here, I made a blog to sum up how I feel about collectivism in a novelist fashion.

    http://balderon.wordpress.com/

    My first blog post - Hope you visit ...

    Sorry to advertise on your blog, I think your views articulate great points.

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  6. "Thank you for calling it beautiful and inspiring. I hardly ever get compliments for what I write, most people tell me what utter non-sense I write."

    I'm more in the camp that believes that most of what you write is nonsense. I think here about half of what you wrote is good and half of what you wrote above is nonsense. The first part on individualism is good (although Emerson did it much better in his essay "Self Reliance", which you should definitely read if you have not. http://www.rwe.org/complete-works/ii---essays-i/ii-self-reliance


    The second part is where you jump the bend. The idea of the collectivist human being is a straw man. There never has nor ever will exist a collectivist man. Yes, people tend to use anthropomorphic terms to describe groups, but in no sense are those groups actually sentient beings. Rather they are a bunch of individuals choosing what they believe to be in their self interest based upon how they were raised and their emotional state. There are people for whom fellowship is the most important thing. They enjoy the company of others and will subvert some of their interests for that fellowship. This is not a stupid choice or a weak choice...it is merely a preference. Some people do not desire to be extraordinary. They are happy with more basic and simple outcomes for their lives. Who makes the better choice rationally...that person who is urged on by his inner demons to continue to pursue wealth, fame, or some iconoclastic fantasy of independence or that person who is content with his own lot knowing full well that life is short.

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  7. "I'm more in the camp that believes that most of what you write is nonsense.":

    I thought you said that everything I write is non-sense. Furthermore, I do not understand why you continue to read what I post.

    "The second part is where you jump the bend. The idea of the collectivist human being is a straw man. There never has nor ever will exist a collectivist man.":

    Then you missed what I said. I said there are people who sacrifice their own thoughts, their own fashion, their own personalities, to the tribe. This is true. Most people fit into that description. I am sure you would agree with that. This is what I mean by collectivism. And this is what I was arguing against.

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  8. "Then you missed what I said. I said there are people who sacrifice their own thoughts, their own fashion, their own personalities, to the tribe. This is true. Most people fit into that description. I am sure you would agree with that. This is what I mean by collectivism. And this is what I was arguing against. "

    I would agree that many people choose to accept the "wisdom" of the crowd rather than thinking for themselves. I'm not sure I would call it a sacrifice or suggest that it is inherently negative. Sometimes it is...sometimes it isnt. If one does not have an original ideas, it makes little sense to write a book about them; and there are plenty of people who write books without anything to say based upon ego alone. Secondarily, going with the tribe is probably fine if you have a desire to spill blood and you feel constrained by what others would think of you. I merely point out that conformity is a choice just like iconoclasm. Neither is more noble or better on its face than the other. Each is subjective and depends upon the individual as well as time and place. Yes, one can choose to follow ones impulse...lets say one feels like dancing and singing at a funeral. It is only conformity to societal norms that keeps you from doing so, but perhaps that is not a worse choice than obeying the dictates of your own ego, which makes one think that he is at the center of everything.

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  9. "If one does not have an original ideas, it makes little sense to write a book about them; and there are plenty of people who write books without anything to say based upon ego alone.":

    And this has exactly what to do with what I said?

    I accept evolution. But I do not see it as I belong to the tribe of evolution. Instead, evolution is an idea that makes sense to me. Since it makes sense to me I choose to accept it. There is no tribe of evolution, it is just people who accept this theory because it makes sense to them. However, there is a tribe of Judaism. Because Judaism often says stuff that you, as an individual, do not really agree with, but you sacrifice your rebellion to belong to the tribe.

    "Secondarily, going with the tribe is probably fine if you have a desire to spill blood and you feel constrained by what others would think of you.":

    Why is that fine?

    "Neither is more noble or better on its face than the other.":

    Collectivism is hardly changing. It never achieves anything. It has always been individualism that changed people. This is why I wish for world to consist of individuals. It is in this way that individualism is more noble.

    "It is only conformity to societal norms that keeps you from doing so.":

    The real reason what keeps me from doing so is that I do not want to be a douchebag to those people. Which is entirely unrelated to what I said about individuality. I made that very clear. I do not understand what you would use this example. In the same way I tell people thank you who open the door for me.

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  10. "Collectivism is hardly changing. It never achieves anything. It has always been individualism that changed people. This is why I wish for world to consist of individuals. It is in this way that individualism is more noble.

    The world consists of individuals as it is. You are setting up a false dichotomy as if an individual can actually be part of a body known as the collective. There is no collective, there are only a bunch of individuals making individual choices to either conform to the group or not conform to the group. Individuals can achieve things by themselves and also by joining other people that they agree with. If Lenin did not have followers he would have just been some guy ranting in a park and would have achieved nothing. The fact that he led and others conformed to his ideas (individually)and followed him was what allowed him to achieve things (including trying to force collective solutions on his country). What you really are saying is that you wish that people would be less conformist and more willing to be independent. I'm not sure what your justification is. If everyone was trying to lead at all times it would be chaos...NOTHING would be achieved. It is only the fact that there are times when people can assert their own independence at times and subvert their ego at other times that allows anything to happen.

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  11. "What you really are saying is that you wish that people would be less conformist and more willing to be independent. I'm not sure what your justification is. If everyone was trying to lead at all times it would be chaos...NOTHING would be achieved. It is only the fact that there are times when people can assert their own independence at times and subvert their ego at other times that allows anything to happen.":

    People can follow other leaders. Why is that a problem? What does that have anything to do with what I said. Do you even understand what I am saying? You keep on creating situations that are not relevent to me. There are people who I would follow, and do not consider myself a leader. I like Ron Paul, in that way he is a leader, and other people like him, but I am also individualistic. I follow him because I agree with his ideas and support him for that. I do not follow him to make myself part of a tribe, because if the ReLOVEution started to support creationism I would mostly likely seceed from it. I do not make myself part of ReLOVEution and make the group define who I am, I define who I am myself. Is this really so difficult to understand?

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  12. "I do not make myself part of ReLOVEution and make the group define who I am, I define who I am myself. Is this really so difficult to understand? "

    Perhaps you should read over your own words to determine whether you are saying what you think you are saying. You have been arguing that individualism is better than collectivism. I am telling you that everybody is an individualist; making their own choices about how to lead their lives and who to follow and when.

    Your argument to the contrary is mushy and lacks precision and rigor. It clearly is based upon your deep psychological need to defend your actions against what you perceive to be the negative reaction of others. You are attempting to create a heroic role for yourself as the principled non-conformist. Everybody who has ever read this blog knows this except you!

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  13. "I am telling you that everybody is an individualist; making their own choices about how to lead their lives and who to follow and when.":

    Back when I was religious I used to follow Judaism even if I did not agree with it myself, just because I identified myself as a "Jew". According to you this is still being an individual. But how? I substituted group thought into my own thought.

    Or just consider religious people in general. Can you really say that religious people are individualistic? They sacrifice what they are to be part of the group, even if they are uncomfortable with the group, even if they think the group may be mistaken. This is not individualism. And I cannot see how you can say so.

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  14. Individualism usually means selfish, from what I can tell. You must have a low-IQ for a member of the Capitalist class.

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  15. Individualism usually means selfish, from what I can tell. You must have a low-IQ for a member of the Capitalist class.

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