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.
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