Paradox Populous

by Edward Le Prieur

no civilization is built by individuals

Individuality was not known until the advent of individual wealth in the ancient world. Indeed, it was impossible before a particular point in history for a man to live exempt from his group, his tribe. It was certain death to be exiled from one’s community. No one man was capable of making every tool, weaving materials into clothing, or reciting all the knowledge the past. Now that is something of a concept that is far on the reaches of our minds. We are all capable of being the lone wolf, the character so lauded by films and the media. The film industry brings great virtue to the one who pays no heed to the call of others. We all have seen the films, the lone cowboy, the barbarian that slowly trudges across a country and lays waste to an army of men alone.

How is it then to the general public then when we find ourselves populated with an entire world of individuals. Indeed ones who call themselves sociologists would place people who are “other-regarding” on the same spectrum as Totalitarianism or Collectivist. People who would consider their community, or their peer group are merely victims of a social contract of pre-conceived reference standards.  To most people these are referred to as morals, indeed caring for your fellow-man would make you a victim to the guilt society – sounds rather intimidating doesn’t it? or a shame society – these guys really, really like attaching negative adjectives to moral codes. Probably best to avoid consulting your friends on issues as well, this might get labelled group think.

In the past individuals of a tribe were held with respect for their skills, knowledge or virtues. It seems logical that someone would be recognized for their contributions to their group. At some point however it was decided that being skilled was far too much work, and we should be heralded simply for being different. Now, who might you think would believe this to be a good idea? Interestingly enough the word individualism itself originated as a pejorative term. A more positive spin on the term in Britain came to be used with the writings of James Elishama Smith, who was a Christian Israelite. He eventually rejected its collective idea of property, and found in individualism a “universalism” that allowed for the development of the “original genius.” Without individualism, Smith argued, individuals cannot amass property to increase one’s happiness” To find the root of this trend in socialism should be of no surprise to anyone.

Some philosophers would suggest that man is inherently an individual, we are self-interested by nature. We seek survival, then to control. That the exorbitant levels of individualism leads to deception, criminality, and conflict. It must be then from sustained self-control then that through tens of thousands of years that humans have no destroyed each-other in the goal of self preservation. I would argue instead that is impossible for a man to be a true individual, if he is then he must cooperate on some level to ensure survival. Even in the modern age if a man survives on his wealth alone, never asks anything of anyone. He is still cooperating in society by engaging the economy, and whether intended or not assisting other people. What this modern dogma creates is a society of individuals, what kind of society could that be? The only answer is an incredibly weak society, not a society at all. Which is exactly the result they desired.