Sunday, February 2, 2014

Individualism Versus Being Independent

Recently I read something that caused an eye-opening AHA moment for me. However, for the life of me I cannot remember where I read it. I just want you to know this observation is not original with me. The eye-opening thought was an observation concerning the difference between Individualism and Being Independent.
Here in the U.S. we are witnessing a movement couched in the framework of old-time freedom and independence – as in our 18th century patriots who fought the British for our independence. However, this newfound sense of “fighting for freedom from government” or protesting government’s “encroachment on our individual liberties” is NOT what our Founding Fathers were doing. Our Founding Fathers were not simply against the British government. More importantly, they were collectively FOR self-government and personal self-restraint for their common, collective good. Their sense of collective freedom rested on the necessity of collective responsibility.
We have confused a 21st century sense of individualism with our Founding Fathers’ 18th century concept of freedom and independence.
What is missing from today’s “patriots” is this sense of collective personal interdependence – this willingness and acknowledgment that each individual operates with self-restraint for the common, collective good of the nation. It is a belief that we are all in this together. We all protect each other. We all respect each other, even if we differ. We all respect the democratic process, which means we encourage the voting process, respect the opinion of the majority, and operate within the “rules” if we want to change the majority opinion. It is an understanding that we, as a country, are only as strong as the weakest part of our citizenry.
Individualism, as generally expressed today, is much more like the independent freedom as expressed by explorers, early mountain men, or the earliest settlers. It is an understanding that you are on your own, must make your own way, solve your own problems, and – most importantly – survive.
A sense of individualism is absolutely necessary for individual survival. By necessity survival is based on the concept “It’s all about me.”
A sense of interdependent personal freedom is absolutely necessary for a democratic society. Collective freedom rests on a sense of collective responsibility. By necessity a democratic society is based on the concept “It’s all about us.”
These two concepts are not the same. An individualistic concept of freedom may be collectively expressed as anarchy. An interdependent concept of social commitment may be collectively expressed as a representative democracy.
That set of distinctions really resonated with me.
Immediately I thought of similarities with the “me-ism” of growing segments of our population, exhibited in a growth of the use of social media and an “I-Am-A-Star” mentality – the kind of drive that motivates someone to post Facebook pictures of themselves or Tweet about their shopping experiences at a mall.
From a spiritual point of view this all may lead to a further sense of separation – solidifying the sense that “I am me and you are not,” and I have to take care of me and mine.  If that idea of individual separateness continues our spiritual growth as humankind will suffer a setback. On the other hand this “Star” mentality may lead to a growing sense of Oneness – a sense that others are truly NOT so different from me – a sense that, in truth, we are all united as one single human race living on a beautiful blue orb floating in space. This is the type of social media use we have already glimpsed in the Arab Spring uprisings.
If the latter occurs, perhaps we will continue to evolve towards a caring, sharing interdependent society rather than a competitive, individualistic survivalist social system.
Time will tell.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 February, 2014

Copyright, 2014

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