Harry Smith

Indivdualism

Were all an individual, but at what cost?

A women has come forward, rejected from seeking help for suicidal thoughts. She was a member of the royal family. A prominent news broadcaster immediately leaped to their feet, “I don’t believe her”.

A young, beautiful women is dead. It has sparked a national discussion on how safe women feel on the streets. Immediately, other men have leaped to their feet, “Not all men, I wouldn’t”.

A year ago, the black community demanded to speak. The police had murdered a black man. It wasn’t the first either, it won’t be the last. We could not hear their words in silence. “What about me? What about white lives?” cried the middle class, white, privileged societies of the world.

What about you?

Individualism is running rampant, and it’s destroying us. We are more alone, more isolated, more separated than ever before. We’ve turned our focus inwards. The self rules and we all suffer.

Encouraged by social media giants, we lend our voices to every discussion. Tell us how you feel, they whisper, share your take. Each moment in time punctuated by unneeded perspectives. The real victims left shivering in the cold, we take our place on the throne of opinion. Under the spell of ego, we make our contribution.

Our sense of self has become so strong it dwarves that of community. The tribe is dead, and we hold only to ourselves.

A member of our community is dead. A women who married into the royal family wanted to kill her self after she got there. Millions of black people feel scared and oppressed. Instead of broad consensus, there is polarity.

Through the lens of the individual, everything seems like an attack. We can not see beyond our own feelings and experiences.

Individualism is the right to personal freedom, self realisation. It is a good thing in principal. A vital thing. Though like any philosophy, taken to its extremes it becomes dangerous. In the pursuit of individualism we have abandoned the good of collectivism. It has pushed aside what bonds us, our humanity.

We are individuals, but never at the expense of the community.

What is the value of these obvious, but combative statements? It is under no doubt that not all men are a danger to women. It is also under no doubt that a majority of women experience sexual assault. Men are responsible for the majority of that sexual assault.

Our sense of self tells us to defend ourselves. It refuses to acknowledge that the collective has failed. We will not assign to ourselves the failings of us all.

We are living through a pandemic that has affected the lives of every global citizen. It calls us to act in the good of the collective. Even now, in this moment, individualism has poisoned the well. We have refused even basic sacrifices. Rejected minor inconveniences. As a collective we have failed.

Our failure did not, as some might have hoped, become a galvanising moment for change. It drove us even further apart. There are those that follow the rules, and those that don’t.

It has become acceptable to act counter to the good of the whole because of your own desires. This is our failure.

It is time to abandon our desire to self-actualise at all costs. Your every whim, thought and desire are not valuable. Not every opinion is equal. Freedom to express yourself should not equate to your desire to express yourself. Our systems of collective good must be rebuilt.

Instead of having an opinion.

Or a defence.

Or an explanation.

Have love. Look around you, and love. Bring comfort to their pains. Hear their fears. Gain strength not in the defence of yourself, but in the defence of others.

It’s not about you.

It never was.

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