Monday, August 10, 1998

Week of 08/10/1998

The Possessiveness of Collectivists
- by David Matthews 2

I am an individual.

Not an in-DUH-vidual, i.e. one of Scott Adams’ clueless people from his Dilbert books, but rather an individual. One person. Unique.

I make that distinction because there seems to be a problem with people recognizing the existence of individual citizens of late. And when they do recognize the existence of individuals, it’s often only in derogatory terms, as in "the lone individual open fire on the crowd of people." Or "the individual bombing suspect eluded officials for a fourth straight week."

Did you ever wonder why sports figures always bring God into their successful plays? It’s as if they’re not allowed to admit they were simply using talent and training that they themselves invested in. Of course, if they fail, they don’t bring God into the play. Often, they just blame it on their own individual failings.

There have been some pretty hefty debates of late about society. I’ve often referred to it as the magical, mythical society because it’s often used in Pollyanna terms, as in "a civilized society." That kind of elite snobbishness we Yanks picked up from the British, who in turn picked it up from the French, who picked it up from the Romans, who got it from the Greeks, who probably got it from some barbarian who frowned down on his fellow barbarians when they decided to pillage and burn a town instead pillaging before burning. According to these modern-day myths, a "civilized society" is not supposed to have any crime, poverty, spousal abuse, homelessness, illiteracy, moral troubles, teen pregnancy, divorce, juvenile crimes, bad breath, obesity, baldness, ugly people, endangered species..

The greatest proponents of this magical, mythical "civilized society" are the collectivists. These are the people who believe that the end-all, be-all in the universe rests with something, anything, larger than the individual. It doesn’t matter if that "something" is a group, a church, family, a political party, a work shift.. if it’s more than one person, it’s somehow more important. They often go by many names: environmentalists, socialists, liberals, communists, conservatives, theocrats, or the best one - "concerned citizens."

It’s sort of ironic that in the 1950’s, conservatives who were socialistic in nature were attacking communism, while at the same time fighting against individual rights for blacks, which they considered to be a "liberal" movement but often called those people "communists." Mister Pot, meet Mister Kettle.

It should be noted that collectivists have a pretty set view of society, no matter if it’s Karl Marx or Hillary Clinton or Pat Buchanan. And it’s often THEIR view of society that they want established. That’s why those 50’s conservatives were able to be against both individuals and communists. True, they were socialists, but they were THEIR particular breed of socialists, and they fought against anything that would threaten THEIR view of society, even if it bastardized their own principles.

And therein lies the fault of collectivists - that they rely on a pretty self-centered view of society.

Collectivists, by nature, do not trust the individual initiative to do something, even if that task fits the plans of the collectivists. Generosity is nice, but they would much rather have obligation. They can trust people when they’re forced to do something, even if it’s something they don’t want to do.

But you can’t sell a collectivist’s view of society through force, which is why they often mask their intentions with what comedian George Carlin calls "soft language." You don’t call mandatory social service for what it is, you call it "volunteerism." You don’t call paying taxes "mandatory," you call it "voluntary." You don’t ask for an outright "ban" on things that offend you, you simply ask that that sector of the public be "regulated." Nice, neat, politically correct sound bites that sound great for the ten second news clip that any air-fluffed anchor can recite with a straight face.

Unfortunately, individual initiative is what really changes society, for good or for ill. A collectivist movement still needs a leader, an individual who stands out of the crowd. The Nazis needed Adolph Hitler. The Soviets needed Lenin. The American socialists need Bill Clinton. The American theocrats need Pat Robertson. Every collectivist movement still needs to follow the self-centered standard of one person to direct them.

Ironically, an individualist has no such self-centered delusion. It’s hard for a true individualist to say "we believe" in anything, because an individualist knows that he can’t speak for anyone except himself.

An individualist has tremendous trust in other people. They trust that an individual will do what they believe is right, not how they would want that other person to behave.

An individualist takes personal responsibility seriously; they don’t fob off their responsibilities to other groups. You will never hear a true individual blame their child’s shortcomings on what’s on TV or the Internet. Collectivists, on the other hand, are quick to pass the blame to as many people as possible.

In the annals of human history, you will not see too many instances of collective achievements. Often, those whom will be remembered won’t be groups, but individuals who follow their own initiatives and decide for themselves how to live their lives. They take charge of their own lives, instead of letting someone else take possession for them.

No comments: