Sunday, February 17, 2008

Individualism and Collectivism Examined

The Left/Right Jingoism of Political Gibber Jabber

I hear people separating "left" and "right" by saying things like, the political "Left" believes collective rights supersede the rights of an individual, and the political "Right" believes an individual's rights are greater than the collective. From that they conclude something like: "individualism is the opposite of collectivism." What I see involved is a series of fallacious conclusions coming from careless thinking that brushes hastily over the possibilities of meaning in the terms in order to arrive a pre conceptual conclusion. Clearly, individualism is different from collectivism, but not necessarily opposite. Individualism is about things like individual rights with respect to a collective group working together. You don't push for one without something to do with the other.

Human beings tend to do better in their survival tactics as organized entities than they do as hermits. So we have these different strategies we can observe called societies with their collections of groupings.

This left/right rhetoric is just a bunch of bull shit to me. It's just a collection of idealistic, jingoistic statements. It falls apart when I start looking at what the words represent and the reality of what people are actually involved in.

Everyday most people go to a collective organization and do some tasks they are directed to do. Many of those collectives are private tyrannies when you get right down to it, so most people spend their days in an authoritarian atmosphere where they comply with the directives they have nothing to say about because they want to eat, and buy all these pretty gadgets, like the beads and blankets that carried small pox across this nation after Columbus floated up to it under sail. Most are trained for doing this from kindergarten, so they don't know any different. It's just the way it is for them. They may have some vague symbols that they see on TV and in the movies about individuals behaving in some free way, but it's not really about their life, it's just entertainment.

Right now we have what I perceive as a set of elites, I don't care what party you want to see them in, and they aren't interested in democracy or individual rights. They are interested in organizational management issues and strategies that amount to power with regard to those. That's simply the nature of that kind of organization of groups getting together and involving themselves in the institutions that are already pretty well structured to be what they are. The playing field is set, now we, the public, get to watch it play out. The Big Fight.

We have a population that's predominantly programmed to accept authorities telling them what to do, and most individuals lack any real voice in what each may want out of their lives in respect to the larger macro organizational characteristics we imagine to be The Nation.

Because of the way I look at things, my "The Nation" is so different from other people's I can't even communicate most of the time. Mostly I don't even talk. I just listen.

The rest of that jingoistic crap you presented is meaningless to me when I see what people are faced with.

I made my choice a long time ago. I don't work for anyone, I do things in a contractual exchange, and I am involved in writing the contract agreements. It's not always easy, but those are my standards. I figure if everyone was willing to live by those standards, corporations would collapse, because there wouldn't be any employees, there wouldn't be any hierarchy of command. But I'd be willing to wager that won't come about. So people will go on pretending something else is going on and argue about the fine details of the make up of their cage and the intricacies of the designs on their shackles.

Fascism is a corporation. It's a bundle that's all together for strength, all right, but the bundle doesn't collectively think, it's directed by an authority who "knows." Whether it's privately owned or a government. It's hierarchically ordered and authoritarian in its format. "My way or the highway." A corporation is a collective, a corporation is bureaucratic in its organization. It has a specific goal, make a profit, and it does that through what is now perceived as something like "scientifically engineered" management techniques, something our universities began creating towards the end of the last century.

If the Republicans have put a unifying theory into reorganizing the presidency so that the president is like a CEO (and they have), that's moving our presidential system in the direction of fascism. Same with Democrats, and FDR was an example of one who saw that as a good idea, I humbly suggest. I expect all parties to do the same as long as we have a federal government with the legal and national enforcement capabilities of the one we have. And thanks to a two hundred year series of working at the interpretation of the Constitution through our court system, the Federal Government powers over the states have expanded, as the states have expanded. This is like a disease, once it begins it's hard to stop if the immune system is not set up to stop it, and legally, ours isn't.

With big government the urge is going to be towards decomplexifying the management tasks, and the president's job is to manage the bureaucracy, so what does that suggest? The only really efficient decomplexifying option we have is hierarchy and a pyramid top down authority scheme. That's why militaries have all become similar in their organization.

That's how it is from what I can see. I think folks often don't see their own life circumstances for what they are or they would know what trying to be an individual, making individual choices in the midst of all these very real circumstances that restrict their choice-making amounts to, and the jingoistic generalizations would fall away to a critical examination of the meaning of the words they use. It's not some abstract idea, its about tough choices every day that take contemplation. And that's where one finds one's individuality, not in some idea. I think many are just living in a fantasy world of words, and don't even know what the words mean because they haven't really taken them apart.

I figure it's facetious to argue there's anything else going on, but it certainly keeps people entertained.


Howard said...

Hello Ren - Well, I guess you posted this about 78 days ago, but it seems to be an issue which is always a current one.
As usual, (to my understanding), I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. The situation you outlined is a major reason I often feel compelled to call attention to such things as: "I think many are just living in a fantasy world of words," and: "a series of fallacious conclusions coming from careless thinking that brushes hastily over the possibilities of meaning in the terms in order to arrive a pre conceptual conclusion."

I tend to file this 'careless thinking' under the heading of 'auto-pilot All/Nothing habits'.
Which is why I often feel compelled to call attention to 'All/Nothing' thought.

The issue of 'living in a fantasy world of words', to my understanding, is the 'abstraction issue' that you and I seem to have been unable to reach any semblance of a somewhat mutual understanding of in previous conversations...(as much as such an understanding is humanly possible).

I agree that the left/right rhetoric is just a bunch of bull shit, but sometimes that's where one may need to start, provided one is interested in conversing with another person of this particular mindset.

Your statement: "I figure it's facetious to argue there's anything else going on...", raises this question for me: "So now what?"

Perhaps you've addressed this elsewhere on your blog, but this particular issue of "individualism and collectivism" is the one that caught my eye this morning, after noticing that you were a 'recent reader' on Thom's boards where I made an infrequent visit to this morning, which then led me to click on your name and discover your blog.

Regards - Howard

rén said...

Howard, I don't know how to get in touch with you, but if you want to contact me, here's an email: renhunt at

Most of what went down at Thom's is just inevitable miscommunication, which I don't take seriously. I hope we can reconcile whatever your feelings might be about that.


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