The title of this article is probably a little misleading, of course we are all individual and single human beings. It is actually directly challenging you to think about the fundamental grounds of individualism. Individualism is, by definition, ‘the habit or principle of being self-reliant and independent’. Immediately you’re thinking, “Yes these are the characteristics I want, these are qualities that will lead to my ultimate success.” Whilst there is no denying that individualism does have some positives, it is basically social suicide. We all feel like we’re unique and have something to offer the world, and whilst at least one of these is true it is very rare that you will be successful without some collective help from others. This is primary reason why individualism stems from capitalist regimes and therefore, does not work for the majority of people.
Whenever I debate with supporters of individualism about the selfish society which we live in, I always get the same answer; ‘Cavemen had to be independent and look after themselves’ and I always say, whilst I hold back my frustration, ‘But are we living in the Stone age?!’ It is time to accept that we live in the 21st century, and whilst the government is currently divided over issues which will determine our future, it is so important that we remain united, civil and if you like, collective. Most people who support individualism aren’t independent or self – reliant at all because, we’re human, and sometimes, we need a little help from our friends (if you didn’t sing that I’m very disappointed). Whether that help comes from family, friends, institutions or a stranger, we must understand that there is a such thing called society (sorry Maggie) and we all have a social obligation towards ‘in-group’ and certainly not ‘out-group’ (this means including everyone and not excluding minorities, which individualism inevitably does).
Whether you like it or not, you are always going to be part of a collective society, because where there are people, there is community. That community can be based on common interests, religion or something completely random. The point is collectivism enhances your ability to form relationships with other humans, as you work in a group. Compared to individualism, which ultimately undermines communities and the need for human interaction. The complete disregard to common human feelings and needs creates a metaphorical bubble of isolation, which has major impacts on society. Mass poverty, class divisions and social problems are all but some of the negatives and I’m sure you agree with the fact this would not help a country that already faces a divided government, a crippled welfare state and ‘no deal’ Brexit – not very strong and stable, is it?
This is the exact reason why we need collectivism, without it so many people would suffer. Imagine if we did live in an individualist society, where would you go for help? Who would you turn to in times of crisis? It’s so easy for people who have lived privileged upbringings to dismiss the act of working together to strive for collective goals, but try to imagine you weren’t so lucky; what would you do? It’s an individualist society and it’s not about all for one and one for all. The reality for some is very lonely. Yes, the stereotype that individualism is ‘selfish’ may be harsh to some, but, well, if the shoe fits…
It might be difficult for you to see, sat in your comfortable house with the heating on and food in the fridge, but individualism only works for the few and not the many. On a serious level, it contributes massively to poverty and social problems in our society, and whilst Margaret Thatcher promised ‘where there is discord may we bring harmony’, we all know that her ruthless economic policies and drive for individualism led to unemployment reaching 3 million and even more facing dire poverty. Individualism is often described as the ‘building blocks’ of society, but to be successful you need a collective group working toward one goal, together, to get effective results. Simply look at the way the NHS is formed – despite the Tories attempts to privatise the largest single paying healthcare system in the world – for 70 years it is still going strong. That’s 70 years of dedication, commitment and national pride. It appear to me ,at least, that collectivism is the only way to go forward to achieve ultimate social harmony.
Written by Rosie McKenna