Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

10 February 2009

The Strange Anti-Individualist Mentality

There are heroes who walk among men. These men are those who want to and are capable of managing their own lives. They have the desire and the ability to think independently and rationally and the courage to choose their own values and to act to achieve them. They are optimistic enough to expect that they can realize happiness on this earth. These heroes feel worthy of happiness.

Then, there are the ever-popular anti-heroes. These are the people who want someone else to take on the responsibility of providing them with rules for living their lives. They want to know that if they follow the rules, others will be forced to provide their basic necessities for living to them. They are more interested in everyone having as little as everyone else than they are in lifting the average quality of life in society. These are the people who dread having to think for themselves. They dread having to choose their own values and having to figure out how to achieve those values in their own lives. These anti-heroes do not feel worthy of their own happiness. When they do feel a moment of happiness, they feel guilty for having had that moment of happiness. Generally, they are not very happy people, since it is impossible to be happy and to feel guilty about being happy. These people are then very reasonably not inclined to expect happiness on earth and they are therefore generally pessimists.

There have always been men who were willing to provide the rules and the authority to direct the lives of the many anti-heroes. When life was very tough and primitive, that very fact probably convinced a larger fraction of mankind that they were incapable of taking charge of their own lives and this led to a great demand for leadership who would substitute rules for the lacking effort of many to manage their own lives. The rules were always a combination of those of religion and those of the leaders who led people in wars and who provided police powers within a geographical region. This system of substituting rules for personal self-direction led to thousands of years of painfully slow development for civilizations and squelched the personal initiative that allowed the self-directed man to make technological and artistic innovations. Rulers, whether tribal leaders or kings, were seldom willing to encourage the independent thinker, since such thinkers rarely took all of the rulers rules seriously. It was also easier to rule if change occurred as slowly as possible. Stability was sought, not the dynamic upheavals which come with new innovations.

The development of a larger merchant and professional class of men occurred over time. These men were doers and problem solvers, who the kings and other leaders of Europe came to need in order to live luxuriously themselves, to fight their wars well with the slowly developing technology, and to finance their palaces and their wars. Of course, the nobility disdained such men, but they found them essential nonetheless, so long as they were tightly controlled. It was among these men that the philosophical developments of the Age of Enlightenment came to recognize more and more that each man had the capability to think for himself, if he chose to do so. They recognized that each man had the right to his own person, to the direction of his life, and to pursue happiness and the creation of wealth. The many religious wars of Europe also helped to convince them that man should be allowed freedom of conscience and should not be forced to conform to a particular religion or belief.

But, these men were still largely Europeans with a long tradition in rule-following. It was the Americans who in the United States made the greatest innovations in government by making a republican form of government designed to preserve, protect, and defend the right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The government consistent with this purpose was a very limited government which left men on their own to manage their own lives. This limited government allowed men for the first time to really enjoy freedom of conscience and the freedoms necessary to develop ideas and then to create the organizations and wealth privately to put their ideas to work. For the first time, men were secure in their freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom of assembly with others to share and develop ideas. With adequate avenues for information, the creative thought and energies of Americans became a phenomena for the ages. More and more men were heroes. It was seen by many that man was capable of living his own life and able to achieve his happiness. Many men felt worthy of the happiness they did achieve.

But, the pessimists, the followers, the anti-heroes of self-doubt and self-loathing remained among men, even among Americans. For some reason, wherever men are more crowded together, they seem to turn more sour and lose that knowledge that man must act individually to control the environment in which he lives. The Northeast, the Pacific coast, and the major cities of the Midwest, all turned more and more to socialism. The day of the king leader was gone, but the day of the socialist Messiah has come. Socialism with its myriad rules and its vacuous promises that everyone else will provide for each of us, so that none of us is burdened with managing his own life, has taken the place of the king as rule-maker and authority.

The socialist is an individual who longs to submerse his individuality into a group. As an individual he does not feel worthy. His personal identity has never been discovered and has certainly never been developed. This is the person who worries terribly about how he appears to others, because he has no strong anchor in his own personal assessment of himself. He always feels unworthy of happiness and guilty for any shred of happiness he has achieved. If only he could belong to some group and give up his happiness to that group or another, he could escape his feelings of unworthiness and guilt. If only some group or combination of groups would tell him what to do and then tell him he has done the right thing. If only he could lose his individuality!

So, the socialist, like many of those of religious belief and like many of the impoverished followers of kings, is an anti-individualist. He is a man who fundamentally feels incapable of living his own life and unworthy of any success he may actually have in living it. Unfortunately, for these people, the great lesson of the 20th Century was that socialism comes with serious problems. Because it squelches the individual with his own thoughts, his own values and goals, and his own initiative to action, the creation of wealth stagnates and then the wealth of mankind shrivels. The people become more and more impoverished and dispirited. They turn to drink and any other available distraction from the bleakness of their lives, both spiritually and materialistically.

In socialism they sought an equality of material goods, but in the process they always lose the even more important spiritual values which in a free market induce them to produce those material goods and generally to seek out paths to happiness by investing in their own knowledge and in sharing values voluntarily with others. The involuntary sharing of the socialist system, deprives the sharing of values of all of its value. Socialist systems always become totally focused upon material goods in a way no free market system can ever be. In the free market system, personal values and goals are the motivator for thought and action. The system allows for a great diversity of values, with all men able to live harmoniously, provided only that they agree not to initiate the use of force. In the socialist system these values and goals simply make one a renegade and they must be squelched with the brutal use of force. This is indeed what happened time after time in the 20th Century when all sorts of variants on socialist systems were tried. Among these were fascism, it Nazi variant, and several forms of communism.

Since socialism was widely seen to have failed, many of the anti-individualists came more clearly to realize that they are anti-man. They loathe themselves, so of course, they loathe mankind. Now those who loathe mankind can turn to a man-hating god, or at least to a god that thinks men are sheep. They can also turn the earth or nature into a god. If they do the latter, they come to think of man as an adulterer of nature and the earth. Man is the defiler of the natural beauty and some intrinsic good represented by the earth and nature. This is a very effective outlet for the self-loathing. It is also a rationale for chaining those men who seek to create wealth and to make mankind more comfortable and secure by controlling nature and by altering the environment for the pleasure of man. The anti-individualist resents the individualist mightily. He hates to be reminded that some men are capable of living their own lives and that some men seek out, choose, and develop their own values.

The popular perception that socialism had failed at the end of the 20th Century caused the unworthy feeling man to seek out environmentalism and catastrophic man-made global warming alarmism as substitutes. These served his purposes very well. Then, along came a Messianic socialist leader of the old school who had added environmentalism and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming to his repertoire and many a socialist who has taken refuge in anti-man environmentalism, is now also returning to his socialist roots. Among other discredited theories, Keynesianism has made a comeback. Labor union bullying, the nationalization of the healthcare industry, mandate-chained energy industries, heavy-handed controls of the evil banking industry, further entrenchment of the communist government school system, and much more of the old-time socialist agenda is back in a big way. This is the best of times for the determinedly anti-individualist anti-hero.

Except for one little problem. It must be awful to feel incapable of managing your own life. It must be terrible to feel unworthy of happiness. It must be the ultimate boredom not to be able to think for yourself. How I pity these socialists, rabid environmentalists, and man-hating anthropogenic catastrophic global warming alarmists. They suffer such a lack of spiritual values.

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