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Thread: Individualism?

  1. #1
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    Individualism?

    Well what's it all about ?? I have some serious concerns as follows;

    I see the so-called cult of Individualism is obviously opposed to good things such as "community" and empathy between humans
    and allied to nasty things like selfcentredness & aggressive western orientalistic imperialism (grr boo hiss etc.)

    yet at the same time...
    i have this fierce kneejerk sense of individualism that seems somehow wired up to my own self-respect... is it becos i am an institutionalised konsumerist clone - product as i am of the dredded thatcher generation (shivers down spine)?
    or is it just an illusion created by longterm exposure to brain-rotting late 20thC western media? is it that being an 'individual' is the ultimate cosy conformity ??


    ....maybe that's not really so very deep at all,
    but could someone pls explain cos this whole ego ego ego thing does my head in...


    ....while i nip off & read the theism thread,
    gracias!

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    i always (perhaps naively and ignorantly) assumed it was good to be an individual who belonged to something.

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    My problem with individualism is that it priviledges what makes people different from each other, rather than what they have in common. (What we have in common essentially being the root of any kind of collective ability to transform the world, and ting).

    It feeds into how you approach relationships with people - individualists make judgements about difference (essentially - I am better than this person because I do X and they do Y)

    Individualism a la Max Stirner (or Ayn Rand) basically posits people as discrete individuals, and easily tips over into elitism - the true individual must rise above the masses and their herd-like mentality blah de blah. Every man for himself.... there is no such thing as society... you make your own world...

    Then again there is "individualism" marketed as teen/subculture fashion accessory. All the individualist goths who look exactly the same.

    Clearly everyone has their own talents, stories, history - and this makes things interesting. But what makes things even more interesting is how we come together with our different perspectives and find out how much we have in common and what that can mean for doing things together....

  4. #4

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    The definition of community is too vague - there's a tendency for analysts to see every working class community as a budding Red Clydeside, when that doesn't really equate to my experience of it in London. In Ireland, communities can be extremely stifling - the pro of having a bedrock of solidarity and support can be counter-balanced by nosiness and gossiping over other peoples' affairs. I agree that it is interesting to observe the differences between people, and the areas where common interests overlap.

    As for elitists, I'm not really bothered about them, as once they've elevated themselves from the lowly cattle, they often end up stranded in their bedrooms, isolated. I think the difference is in "individualism" and "individuality" - you can be yourself and as unconventional as you please, but that shouldn't make it impossible to get on with other people, nor does it grant you the right to trample on their beliefs. And let's face it, how good is it when you have a really bizarre hang-up about something, and then someone mentions the exact same thing, with humour, and allows you to realise we've got more in common than we realise? Part of the fun of when I used to look like a 'punk /skin' would be getting on the bus and then shocking the driver and half the elderly passengers by saying 'please' and 'thank you'. Whereas I met all these alternative kids who couldn't hold down a conversation if it wasn't about their favourite band or how nobody really cares about them. I do consider myself better than them, cos they were cunts - but does this necessarily make me more of an 'individual'? Who knows...

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    Individualism vs Community is a false binary and if you think about it in those terms, of course it looks dodgy.

    Individualism means, what? In the legal sense, probably the assertion of the individual's right to choose their own destiny and identity. In the personal sense, probably the celebration of originality and individual creativity as opposed to conformity.

    I think what happens is that a very pernicious thought process tars individualism with all sorts of crimes it isn't really responsible for. I think the argument goes something like "libertarian free market enthusiasts talk a lot about individualism and they are also anti-community and anti-working class and generally western cultural imperialists therefore individualism must also be anti-community and a form of Western cultural imperialism".

    But this is about as bullshit as saying that because skinheads liked reggae, reggae must be racist music.

    Similarly saying individualism is allied to Western cultural imperialism is a bit like saying Islam is allied to mass murder. Yes the two concepts are congruent occasionally but that doesn't imply a causal relationship.

    Indeed its basically impossible for individualism to be anti-community or culturally biased because surely it also protects the right of the individual to be community minded or to define themselves in a non-western manner, no?

    So, me, I reckon individualism is pretty much free from negatives in itself, but it certainly doesn't always keep very good ideological company...

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden
    My problem with individualism is that it priviledges what makes people different from each other, rather than what they have in common. (What we have in common essentially being the root of any kind of collective ability to transform the world, and ting). ....
    I'm not sure about this binary setup. Because doesn't it risk denying the concept of a community that embraces, or even can honestly handle difference?

    I don't want to concede that difference in itself can only be divisive, that payting attention to difference is divisive - why can't it be completing/fulfilling?

    not to be too Irigaray about it but does the mother say "O I'm different from this squalling thing and therefore cannot help it?" (yeah it's gendered, but ya get me?) or is the difference the source of connection, and the source of the ability to connect, as well?

    Couldn't you say language itself exists because of difference? and language is a great thing to have, and I'd say we're the greater for having it (them)..

    I see individualism with having to do with how interests are defined, I think. can't get clearer than that at this time of night..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi
    "When matter dissolves in the Ocean the particles glow. As who I am now
    melts in a candle flame, identity becomes one vast motion."

    The flesh (nafs) and the Devil (Iblis) have been (essentially) one from the first, and have been an enemy and envier of Adam. (Rumi 1982, III 3197) ... Only a self which has purged itself of vices and base qualities arising from the dominance of the nafs and adorned itself instead with virtues (fada 'il) and attributes of God, is perfect; and consequently, attains the utmost limits of the innate potential of the human state. Thus, to be a witness to the divine Unity, man has to 'die unto himself;

    "What is Tawhid? To burn one's self before the One " (Rumi 1982, I 3008).
    thanks for those excellent and considered replies... they have provoked plenty of (self-indulgent & self-conscious) contemplation ...

    i see individuality very much as a modern obsession - obviously reducing to dualitys of individual vs. community is gonna become a bit spurious.. but compare Rumi's 12thC 'By any means necessary' approach to Bun Up da ego with someone like Twain's casual concessions that self interest will always overrule altruism

    I really feel what Rumi say: ego/soul/nafs نفس is the aspect of the human character that connects up with bad behaviour in contrast with a spiritual unity/tawhid توحد that transcends self - attained by spinning like a top or indulging in 'wine'



    more please.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by ripley
    I'm not sure about this binary setup. Because doesn't it risk denying the concept of a community that embraces, or even can honestly handle difference?
    I don't think so, because I think what I am getting at is that the differences which are prioritised by "individualism" are actually quite trivial, and that recognisiing this is part of recognising that underneath all that everyone has basic human needs/drives/failings/skills in common.


    Quote Originally Posted by ripley
    I don't want to concede that difference in itself can only be divisive, that payting attention to difference is divisive - why can't it be completing/fulfilling?

    not to be too Irigaray about it but does the mother say "O I'm different from this squalling thing and therefore cannot help it?" (yeah it's gendered, but ya get me?) or is the difference the source of connection, and the source of the ability to connect, as well?
    Well it seems to me that mothers form bonds with babies for a number of reasons, some biological and some societal. and some don't, possibly for the reasons you give, but pretend to, because of societal pressure. But I feel connected to my daughter because of what we have in common just as much (if not more) than what we don't - the ability to speak a common language and have little in-jokes for example mean more to me than the fact that she has differnet colour eyes or tastes in books.

    Quote Originally Posted by ripley
    Couldn't you say language itself exists because of difference? and language is a great thing to have, and I'd say we're the greater for having it (them)..

    I see individualism with having to do with how interests are defined, I think. can't get clearer than that at this time of night..
    What sort of interests are we talking about? Cultural interests seem to be the sort of things which "individualists" I've met are so keen on (ie I am way cooler than you because of my cultural preferences, you mere mortal). But Marx would step in and say that interests are also defined by things like class, if you look at things more broadly.

    Going around knocking on people's doors in an area and you find people have different tastes, but very similar needs.

    Loving your mix CD, btw, got it off Jason Aphasic when he stayed - will try and do a review soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi
    I really feel what Rumi say: ego/soul/nafs نفس is the aspect of the human character that connects up with bad behaviour in contrast with a spiritual unity/tawhid توحد that transcends self - attained by spinning like a top or indulging in 'wine'
    I'm wary of people being judgemental about egotism because it leads to all sorts of metaphysical gymnastics where people try to deny that part of their nature. Good things can come from egotism too - music and writing, for example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden
    I'm wary of people being judgemental about egotism because it leads to all sorts of metaphysical gymnastics where people try to deny that part of their nature. Good things can come from egotism too - music and writing, for example.
    Ah, this is why you never quite "got" the whole "spirituality" thing and went off to become a godless communist . Broadly speaking I'm with Sufi -- HOWEVER. I fear Sufi may be conflating different terms. There's a difference between individualism, egotism, and ego (and its transcendence). So I am forced to concede Eden's point in the context that he uses these terms (i.e. a largely political one). I'm not sure I can immediately link the paradigm (related concepts) of ego and its transcendence to avoid suffering, and that of individualism and its abiding "existential" value. But maybe we should try!

    But I'm sleep deprived so I may have got the wrong end of the stick
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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi
    compare Rumi's 12thC 'By any means necessary' approach to Bun Up da ego with someone like Twain's casual concessions that self interest will always overrule altruism
    as humans are pack animals, altruism is always self interest, in my book. That's what makes it so rewarding.

    (on holiday in turkey recently, every time the mosques broadcast the call to prayer, i wished good for each of the people I'd encountered recently, one by one. it made me happy)

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    apposite negri quote i found today which is v cute....

    'there's something very beautiful in the images of groups of crystals. Because crystals don't refer back to themselves, since each is a reflection of another. So, there's a kind of singularity here which has nothing to do with individuality. Individuality is something that lives on its own, but if I put one crystal next to another, the crystal presents itself as singular only insofar as it reflects its neighbour, and on and on, all the way back to infinity. When I talk about a multitude I'm talking about a group of singularities. These singularities don't exist in the way that individuals are classically thought to exist, as as something with a substance all its own. Here it's a question of singularities that only exist as parts of relationships, or only insofar as they reflect one another, or place themselves in a mutual relationship. That's what's absolutely fundamental, the fact that a crystal is also a crystal with an ability to exist in relationships, and not simply to exist for itself alone.'

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    That's excellent, Owen - it reminded me of this:

    Everybody is a Star

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    Quote Originally Posted by egg
    as humans are pack animals, altruism is always self interest, in my book. That's what makes it so rewarding.

    (on holiday in turkey recently, every time the mosques broadcast the call to prayer, i wished good for each of the people I'd encountered recently, one by one. it made me happy)
    The outcome of altruisim is often much more complicated than just self interest, the idea that overall a person will benefit from helping people isn't very realistic and slightly pompous i think, and a person has to be aware of this and stand by their actions and admit when they wrong or even that their altruisim is sometimes wrong.
    Also don't expect anything back from all people, some people are self interested full stop, never mind the altruisim section of 'human nature'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mms
    The outcome of altruisim is often much more complicated than just self interest....[snip]Also don't expect anything back from all people, some people are self interested full stop, never mind the altruisim section of 'human nature'.
    I was talking about the motive for altruism rather than the outcome, it is the action that is rewarding regardless of whether when the karma comes around it is in the form of getting something back from that specific person or community
    Quote Originally Posted by mms
    the idea that overall a person will benefit from helping people isn't very realistic and slightly pompous i think
    I am not unhappy about being 'not very realistic and slightly pompous', it's quite accurate anyway why isn't it realistic? examples?
    Quote Originally Posted by mms
    a person has to be aware of this and stand by their actions and admit when they wrong or even that their altruisim is sometimes wrong.
    what you mean, admit that it's motivated by self-interest?

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