It is bound to happen eventually. An individualist living in the land of individualism is routinely going about his or her business when he or she runs into a horde of collectivists.
The career women, as they were often called, of the early-to-mid twentieth century so frequently found themselves in this precarious situation. Spurned by traditionalists for refusing to settle down after high school and promptly produce babies, they had only each other to rely on. This resulted in, to a large extent, second-wave feminism, a movement which extended from the early 1960s through the late 1990s. It completely blew the top off of what a women’s place was perceived as being, and resulted in many females delaying marriage or motherhood, if not bypassing them altogether. Rather than busying themselves with oppressive husbands or baby formulas, women earned graduate degrees and went on to hold powerful positions in the private and public sectors.
While I find that personal economic stature tends to be the best indicator of individuality, a plethora of other factors can act as good determinants too. Ethnocultural standards, especially when unassimilated with America’s quintessentially diverse macro-culture, have already been mentioned as one of these. Geography, however, might play an even larger role.
As those who lead their own lives and those who allow their lives to be led for them have vastly different worldviews, it comes as a given that members of each category move in different circles. It is in urban or suburban areas that more individualistic circles are found, as these regions offer cognitive-based employment opportunities. In rural or isolated areas, meanwhile, collectivist circles are prevalent as these regions mainly have muscle-based jobs.
Why are individualists attracted to cognitive professions, such as teaching, engineering, computer programming, journalism, artistry, banking, or something in the medical profession? Because these all require advanced thinking skills, and chances are that if one is a deep thinker, he or she has a profound sense of self. It is next to impossible to be a good painter, investor, or lecturer and feel no personal value.
Likewise, why are collectivists usually, to summarize it in a phrase, the renters as opposed to the landlords? Because, considering that collectivism and generational poverty go hand in hand, this is a default setting. Since collectivists let their contemporaries define them, they have low self-esteem. With such a crucial deficit, the will to aspire for a better life has no basis, and is thus nonexistent.
Looking at American history, individualists and collectivists only clash when a major social shift is in the works. As said shift impacts everybody, then all of the people that had previously passed each other by on the sidewalk, or in traffic, begin to notice one another. While the circles that we all move in do not overlap, they bump against one another, and this creates conflict. The gap, both figuratively and literally, between individualists and collectivists has never been bridged at any time, nor shall it ever be. If it were, then earth’s entire population would be one or the other.
Accepting this reality does not mean that we all cannot make earnest attempts to get along. Respecting and trying to understand one another’s opinions would be a great start, but far too many on both sides of the gap neglect to do this. Such a flaw is an outgrowth of what I call the Plato Syndrome; defending an opinion relentlessly instead of evaluating it rationally and searching for a more beneficial outcome. It is one of the most crucial problems that humanity has ever faced, and persists in spite of the facts on almost every occasion.
With this being said, can the future of America’s distinct individual-societal relationship be predicted? I will have a few closing words on this.Powered by Sidelines