In response to Caitlin Johnstone’s article, I’d like to offer this rebuttal. I have loads of respect for this journalist, I agree with her on most of her points of view, except this and the fact she’s clearly not researched weather modification/geoengineering, but that’s another post.
Rugged Individualism Cannot Save Us, Only Enlightened Collectivism Can
I know the arguments and I’ve lived them in post-Soviet countries. Being the simpleton I’ve been called I do find it valuable to make the complicated simple, whittle it down to the essential. Socialism is unethical. That’s all that matters to me.
I don’t like to be bullied, most folks don’t. Whether that bully is another individual or a group, it’s wrong. What happens in practicality with collectivism, after the niceties of fairness and group-think wear off, is manipulation, a constant shifting of the goal post, gaslighting, dehumanizing, celebrating mediocrity.
Imagine this as it often happens within a typical master/slave dynamic, like with parents toward their children. When Mom wants her teenager to think for herself she’ll say: “So, if all your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you do it too?”
Yet the very same mom will insist her daughter does not elope and wears white to her wedding, and invites the right people, and all sorts of other group-think behavior if it suits her fancy. You might chalk this up to that’s just how the world works, but clearly upon deeper reflection it’s obvious this is not ethical: It’s not based on consistent and universal principles, it’s based on the whims of what the mother finds ‘right’ in the moment.
We are naturally collective, that’s why we need the balancing power of strong individuation. ‘Rugged individuals’ don’t go off to conquer new territory, whether in land, mind or sea, in order to be alone, alienated with their creation beyond kin or company. They do it in service to something, and that something is often called ego, but in fact ego alone doesn’t get one very far, unless there’s a crowd there serving that ego.
To see what collectivism, or socialism as it’s currently named, will look like as a worldwide system, one needs only consider it in a practical confined context. In healthy families it works brilliantly. But what happens in unhealthy ones, or when the tribe gets larger?
What about in a business setting, for example? Someone in that business is taking a bigger risk, someone is more competent, more popular, more trusted, more diligent, more something. That’s just how we are wired, we follow the weak at our peril.
Organizing around the weakest links is what’s required of socialism, for ‘equity’s’ sake, but in nature this creates the same predator/prey situation as in any work environment. We must collaborate, we must cooperate, but not at the expense of the will of the strong, the natural leaders.
“It is precisely these generalities of character, governed by forces of which we are unconscious, and possessed the normal of individuals of a race in much the same degree—it is precisely these qualities I say that in crowds become common property. In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individual, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened. The heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneous, and the unconscious qualities obtain the upper-hand.” Gustav LeBon’s The Crowd
I don’t believe in free will. I think will is very expensive indeed. What will the strong do if they are constantly undermined, manipulated, bullied by the crowd?
The incompetent will pull too much on the competent to the point they quit, or to the point their mojo is reduced to such a level as to become ineffectual. This is why Ayn Rand’s work is so relevant and poignant on the political level. How does power work? Well, above all, it’s an aphrodisiac for those who seek it.
But, is that what the ‘rugged individualist’ is seeking, necessarily? This is an assumption that’s often brandied about as fact by collectivist types.
”In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. It is not all the world, as is so often repeated, that has more wit than Voltaire, but assuredly Voltaire that has more wit than all the world, if by ‘all the world’ crowds are to be understood.” LeBon
We need more rugged individuals, not fewer. We squash them, even in this supposedly most free country and beacon of individualism, we force them from the earliest age to conform and comply.
This feeds tyranny, no doubt, but not for the reasons collectivists think. It’s not because a few rogue elements get past the socialization and rise up to rule the roost out of sheer force of individual will. The tough skin the individual acquires by fighting group-think his entire childhood and adolescence becomes armor for some, but more often the individual succumbs to the pressure. Only the toughest survive not because they are beaten down by the competition, but because their potential rivals are beaten down by the crowd. That works really well for the ruthless.
”Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has a multitude? They force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to live this way or that by masses of men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says to me, “Your money or your life,” why should I be in haste to give it my money? . . . I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.” Henry David Thoreau ‘Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
The rugged individualists I know are more interested in adventure than in conquering; more interested in creating than in destroying, more interested in ethics than power.
The technocracy is ruled by the ‘law of large numbers’ that is — “BIG DATA” — that is, the crowd.
I wonder if the average person were to be presented with a simple and straight-forward question whether the answer would come out in favor of the ‘rugged individual’:
“If you were forced to have someone rule over you, would you rather it were a great individual or a machine of collective consensus?”
I don’t think I need a ruler at all, but if there were no other choice, I know my answer.
But then, I consider myself to be a rugged individualist.