Collective Individualism – The Nerve it Takes

Do you have the nerve? Are you someone who is willing to stand up and hold their ground? People with idealistic alternatives to prevailing socio-economic-political ideologies – those who seek to remedy the inequities and injustices that prevail within, and because of, human society – are often lambasted by those around them. They are told they’re not properly comprehending the complexities of the world and are misguided for putting such faith in the goodness of humanity. It isn’t easy to deviate from the norm, to hold ‘unrealistic’ views and be perceived as being naïve to reality.

I view life as a series of nows, a sequence of present-moment events. You may already be judging me for daring to suggest that I take life one moment at a time. Perhaps my philosophy on existence is different to yours. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily; we are at different points in our lives, and we have had different experiences, socialisation and influences along the way. It is important to recognise that the way we perceive our existence is a result of the unique insights we have gathered along our unique journeys to the here and now. We must give credit to those who make sense of their experiences in novel ways.

The nerve to stand by such idealistic ideologies, particularly those regarding our collective experiences as a society, does not have to be limited to the realm of the ‘greats’ like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. To make a ‘difference’, you do not necessarily have to be perceived by others or yourself as being exclusively devoted to a specific cause. Instead, there is an alternative: ‘collective individualism’. Collective individualism allows for one to be part of a collective movement for good and change in society, by playing your part as an individual. Emphasis is placed on the importance of the individual’s role as a person motivated by collective interests. This type of living requires a sacrifice of individual ego. It is an approach that accounts for the ever-changing stages of one’s life and capabilities.

There are many sceptics who view such unorthodox ideologies as ill-informed and unreasonable –they lack empirical and scientific evidence for their beliefs. They may argue that while these ideologies – communism being a typical example – are sound enough ‘on paper’, their practical application will naturally fail, due to the inherently flawed nature of human beings.

Others are simply intimidated by ideologies that compel them to diverge from ‘socially acceptable’ ways of being. The fact that a particular view is supported by a majority within society does not necessarily legitimise it. What is important here is that the norm does not always serve the best interests of society as a whole and may, in fact, benefit a privileged few while having unjust implications for most others. It takes courage to deviate from societal expectations in the face of the ridicule that this often entails. It only takes a moment looking back at history, however, to realise that almost all major progressive changes in human history originated as radically idealistic alternatives to the mainstream.

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