Running to your OWN beat……REALLY???

running to your own beat


by Kenneth Justice

~ I’ve always admired individual achievement and courage…..

–) Rosa Parks sitting in the ‘whites only’ section of the bus and standing up for her individual rights

–) Gymnast Nadia Comaneci from Romania and her perfect 10 in the 1976 Olympics

–) Barack Obama becoming the first ever African American president of the United States

Individual achievement has become such a fascination of the Western World that there are organizations such as the Guinness Book of World Records which tracks individual achievement from the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble blown by Chad Fell to Mr. Ivo Grosche who holds the world record for the most garter belts removed with his teeth in one minute.

Individual achievement can be awesome and in the case of people like Ivo Grosche…interesting?

However, I fear that in our admiration for the individual we sometimes lose focus of the common good.

Consider for instance this statement by Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez from their essay The Common Good,

“Our culture views society as comprised of separate independent individuals who are free to pursue their own individual goals and interests without interference from others. In this individualistic culture it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to convince people that they should sacrifice some of their freedom, some of their personal goals, and some of their self-interest, for the sake of the “common good.” Our cultural traditions, in fact, reinforce the individual who thinks that she should not have to contribute to the community’s common good, but should be left free to pursue her own personal ends”

This was a point made by one of my reader’s recently; that in our quest for individualism the Western World has in many sacrificed the common good.

Have we?

Are we guilty of pursuing our individualistic goals to such a degree that we have ignored the plight of the poor, the struggle of the downtrodden, and the cares of the afflicted?

To be honest…..I’m not entirely sure.

Growing up in Protestant Evangelical culture I saw the extremes of individualism on a regular basis; any time people disagreed or wanted to believe in some crazy biblical belief they merely cut themselves off from the church and started their own!

Evangelicals are notorious for church splits and church hopping. It is rare for protestants to stay at the same local church for any significant length of time.

The problem with this kind of radical individualism is that it allows people to create their own wacky belief systems and because they’ve cut themselves off from other people……there is nobody to challenge them on their beliefs.

Radical individualism isn’t limited to religion. It permeates all sorts of belief systems.

Anytime people cut themselves off from others or from the culture at large….they risk closing their minds to truth.

Author Deepak Chopra says what really divides people is keeping the doors of perception shut

When we cut ourselves off from each other we lose all of the wisdom and experience that others bring to our own lives.

One of the fascinating elements of the blogging world is the way in which readers can be as much a part of the experience as the blogger; comments are often more interesting than a blog article itself!

Thus, through the back and forth of community, conversation, and connection, we allow our minds to grow in a much more dynamic way than if we had cut ourselves off from others.

This is also what concerns me when I see generation gaps; when older people cut themselves off from younger people (or vice versa) we risk a major positive force that has been integral in cultures throughout the ages.

Another positive aspect of blogging and the Internet is the way in which cultures from around the world are now able to connect. No longer am I limited to only the experience of men and women from my backyard…..but now I can hear the thoughts and ideas of women and men from all around the globe.

However, I believe its important for me to recognize my culture’s tendency towards radical individualism in order to prevent myself from succumbing to the pitfalls that are so often associated with that mindset…….

For now, I believe it is time for another coffee and I’m so glad they are serving Veronna this morning.



Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. I do believe that I spend too much time on the internet, for that very reason you mention, but relatively the results are poor. But the internet hardly is a way to stay in touch with the world. The connection with up close real people to achieve real goals is more useful and the time we spend on the net is time missing from there. And our communication skills slowly but steadily are fading away. I totally agree with your reader, only thing is not to trust our freedoms to politicians and governments. It should be done in a personal level and be able to revoke it anytime.

    • Vassillis,

      I 100% agree with you……communication skills are slowly fading…’re in Europe where I don’t think it has degraded as much as it has here in the states. At least people in europe still have certain expectations of being with each other for meals, and whatnot….

      here in the states things are getting really bad.

  2. this is a very interesting post… it raises a few things I’ve been thinking about lately. If not for my online persona I would be a hermit cut off from civilization. I don’t really believe society allows us to explore our individualism, but it does allow for us to exploit our divides… I have wondered if I am a radical… and while some may call me that, I don’t believe I am… I believe that because I have a belief system which is not conventional, conventional views will see that as disruptive…and hence slap me with a false label… I look at my intent and the underlying motive of my actions and for the most part I believe I am trying to better the world around me. Maybe now a days that is Radical…

    • TJ,

      Your online persona is so ‘outgoing’ that is difficult to think of you as someone who would ‘be a hermit cut off’ without the Internet……too bad we don’t live near by each other…i’d meet up at coffee with you all the time!

  3. My adopted literary father “…lacked the innate selfishness to become the successful author he could have been,” was the way a friend put it at the retirement party for this friend of mine. That truly made me think of how selfish artists usually are, nothing can get between them and their drive to document their view of the world. Vonnegut always goes on about a guy named Robert Redfield who speculates primary societies must have been truly hard on individualists…much more than a specialized society who doesn’t need every members efforts to fulfill the basic functions of survival. It breeds a lot of non-normal people, that’s for sure.

  4. The thing is sometimes we start with the intentions of serving others (depending on the career/focus) and then it ends up being wholly and solely about me me me. A lot of people have great intentions and even our own good intentions can sometimes corrupt us.

    Hmmm, nice post, keep it rolling.

  5. I think it is important to be true to yourself HOWEVER I do think that egotism and narcissism is more what we see … not true leaders daring to break with convention and changing the rules for the better of all

  6. i agree, but i would say i think that it depends on what the individualism is meant to accomplish. by that i mean… if there weren’t the leonardo divinici’s, or the ben franklins, sir isaac newtons, etc., or other individuals who challenged the whole on occasion, then we would never make progress. that said… i think when it’s for selfish reasons, then bah humbug to individualism! okay maybe not bah humbug but sorta. 🙂

  7. Balance is the key, perhaps. I think the current conservative politics is way too devoted to the individual, and the communists were way to devoted to the common good. So devoted they both became self-destructive. We do not know how to keep our balance and are always falling off the cliff on one side or another.

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