The program to erase the individual
“The less government we have, the better, — the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government [taking more power for itself], is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)
“If it were felt that the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being…there would be no danger that liberty should be undervalued.” (John Stuart Mill, 1859)
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Henry David Thoreau, 1854)
“Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.” (Oscar Wilde, 1891)
I could have added a number of other countries to those in the title of this article. In those I mentioned, there was once a tradition of the free and independent and unique individual. That tradition has faded like a photo on an old postcard.
The individual is now considered a) a criminal by definition, or b) a member of a group defined solely by ethnicity, color, religion, gender, or c) either in the 1% or the 99%.
But the individual is not considered to be himself/herself. Certainly not. Anything but.
In any of these countries, go back through the speeches of recent presidents and prime ministers and try to find a significant, positive, extensive mention of the individual. Good luck.
These days, mention “private property” and “individual” in the same sentence, and if you’re understood at all, chances are you’ll be labeled with some slur—because public-everything is supposed to be the utopian answer to humankind’s ills.
At one time, it was believed that a centuries-long struggle to liberate the individual from both church and king was meaningful. It was where history was heading. It was about more than economics. Freedom of thought and expression had something to do with it. Of course, the individual had to have an operating mind, if his independent thoughts were to add up to anything.
The power of the individual. That phrase carried a message. It was well-received. The idea that government existed in order to enforce a basic minimum of laws which would support the individual; that idea made sense.
The idea that innovations were made by the individual, not the committee. That notion had currency.
But this trend stalled and reversed.
It reversed, for example, in the hands of people suddenly called social scientists. These were bloviating academic analysts of societies, who were unleashed to pontificate opinions as if they had been confirmed by laboratory experiments.
One of the founders of sociology, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), coined the phrase “collective consciousness.” Durkheim insisted there were “inherent” qualities that existed in society apart from individuals. Exposing his own absurd theory, he went so far as to claim suicide was one of those qualities, as if the “phenomenon” were present beyond any individual choice to end life.
He wrote: “Man is the more vulnerable to self-destruction the more he is detached from any collectivity, that is to say, the more he lives as an egoist.”
In other words, according to Burkheim, the individual who rejects the norms and conformity of society must be wrapped up in himself in some morally repugnant way. There are no other alternatives. He’s either part of the collective or he’s tinged with criminality.
In his book, The Division of Labour in Society (1893) (wikipedia), Burkheim spun moral conscience in the following fashion: “…Make yourself usefully fulfill a determinate function.” He cited this as a kind of command issued by collective consciousness. This is the presentation of the individual human as machine-cog.
From the mud of sociology’s beginnings, the long sordid history of the academic discipline brings us to something like this. Peter Callero, of the department of sociology, Western Oregon University, has written a book titled: The Myth of Individualism: How Social Forces Shape Our Lives (2013, 2nd Ed):
“Most people today believe that an individual is a person with an independent and distinct identification. This, however, is a myth.”
Staggering. But as public relations and propaganda experts have learned, hauling a really huge lie in front of the public gives you a better chance of being believed than telling a small lie does.
When Callero writes “distinct identification,” he isn’t talking about ID cards and Social Security numbers. He’s asserting there is no significant difference between any two people. There aren’t two individuals to begin with. They’re a group.
This downgrading of the individual human spirit is far from accidental. It’s launched as a sustained propaganda campaign, the ultimate purpose of which is top-down control over the population.
Here’s another gem:
“The cold truth is that the individualist creed of everybody for himself and the devil take the hindmost is principally responsible for the distress in which Western civilization finds itself — with investment racketeering at one end and labor racketeering at the other. Whatever merits the creed may have had in the days of primitive agriculture and industry, it is not applicable in an age of technology, science, and rationalized economy. Once useful, it has become a danger to society.” (Charles Beard, 1931)
Beard, a celebrated historian, sees no difference between individual racketeering and the individual freely choosing and living his own life. In making this judgment, he becomes an intellectual/propaganda racketeer of the highest order.
“British empiricist philosophy is individualist. And it is of course clear that if the only criterion of true and false which a man accepts is that man’s, then he has no base for social agreement. The question of how man ought to behave is a social question, which always involves several people; and if he accepts no evidence and no judgment except his own, he has no tools with which to frame an answer.” (Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values, 1956).
Bronowski is quite sure that hearing other people’s evidence and then keeping one’s own counsel is wrong. One has to accept that evidence on its face. This is sheer idiocy. Individuals are capable of deciding, on their own, what social agreements to enter into. They aren’t permanently enmeshed from birth.
Even more to the point, Beard and Bronowski were both high-achieving individuals—who then turned around and celebrated the kind of society that would try to flatten and level the individual to an average.
The world has many such experts. They rise high enough and then they preach collectivism. They become social meddlers. They believe they have the tools to plan what kind of world we should live in—since they are not part of that world anymore.
Freed from the obligations with which they want to bind us, they can scheme and fantasize about social, economic, and political constructs in which The Group is all.
This is elitism par excellence.
What is the primary power of the individual? It is the power to create. If that idea seems shop-worn or vague, it is only because the creative force of the individual has been purposefully downgraded from a hurricane to a drizzle. The force is now viewed with a blank stare of non-recognition—or it has been transferred over to used car salesmen and other hustlers who have rebranded themselves as self-improvement gurus, who reduce their proclamations to the language of infomercials.
Cheapening the most profound human impulses and energies is part and parcel of engendering a civilization that looks, sounds, feels, and tastes like a cartoon. We live in it. It is often vicious and painful for many people, but it is a cartoon. Intellectually, it imitates life with shortened perspectives and short-circuited ideas.
But…the individual does not have to buy any of this. The individual can refuse. He can take up a different position. He can invent from the platform of his own freedom.
He doesn’t have to play the part of idiot or slave.
He can reject the collective and the group. He can pursue the unlimited space that opens up when he is launching his best future.
The tradition of the individual, in the nations where it once existed, where it was fought for, may be dead; but the individual himself is not dead.
He can find his way. He can return to the center. He can live through and by his own imagination, come hell or high water.
He can walk away from every fungus-ridden collectivist scheme and invent his own destiny.
He can stop prostrating himself before the billion possible little phony gods the salesmen are selling.
The endless volleys of contemporary criticism aimed at “the human species” and its desecrations, crimes, and insanities do not distinguish The Group from the individual. They attempt to bury the individual, but they fail.
You are not everyone else, and everyone else is not you. That absurd prescription is glazed, re-fried, many-times-boiled, and sold-on-a-stick “ancient Asian wisdom,” in modern-mall “spiritual centers” of the West. It has been recycled to conceal its collectivist message.
The individual, no matter how hard he tries, can’t rid himself of his independence, creative-force, power, or freedom. He can induce amnesia, but somewhere within himself, he knows what he is doing.
Dedicated slaves are a dime a dozen. But there was once a tradition in some nations, and it stood for the unique individual. It was real. It was never perfect; far from it. But it existed. That tradition was hijacked and turned inside out.
As the battle for individual freedom and independence gained ground, education was seen as the means to teach boys and girls what it meant to be a citizen in a limited Republic. That was a major purpose of schooling.
But as education was turned into a quacking duck, as too many students refused to learn, as too many teachers refused to teach, as too many citizens didn’t care, as government slyly expanded its reach and size and control, the public education experiment went down the drain. And so did limited government.
The resurrection of the individual by the individual is now the course. It can only be understood by those who know that “average” and “normal” aren’t the objectives.
There are many, many people who are living half-blind, while believing that they can see clearly, and that everyone else should see on this level. That is another feature of the cartoon.
Don’t buy the cartoon.
The group has no creative power or imagination. It merely pretends it does. It passes a gross imitation from hand to hand…and if it ever stops, it will find dust, only dust…