The cult of individualism
- OrganizerMarch 7, 2021 at 05:47
I had a discussion earlier about food waste, and I was pretty certain that, at least in the western world, along with many other negative societal impacts it had it’s foundations in individualism. It has long hypothesised that people who had strong individualistic values and beliefs within an individualistic culture would have smaller social support networks, lower emotional competence, lower intentions to seek help from a variety of sources, and poorer mental health, if you look at yourself and your community honestly you’ll see this is true, you’ll certainly see it true online. However, such individualistic systems or environments can also have potentially negative effects. In particular, individualistic systems urge people to pursue personal achievement, which creates competition between individuals, these systems can also result in high social mobility, which consequently leadsto high social anxiety, tell me you haven’t felt social anxiety in your life? In addition, the focused attention on personal achievements can bear a significant cost on interpersonal relationships, which has a human cost of it’s own within society. Take America for example (sorry not sorry, America is an easy example to use, and Europe is usually not far behind) They have long been infected by the disease of selfish individualism, this is the country that produced Ayn Rand, the novelist who also wrote a book called The Virtues of Selfishness, this is the country that produced Wall Street billionaires who go to every length to avoid paying taxes, this is the country where an anti-vaccine and conspiracy theorist minority and its irrational beliefs put the majority at risk, this is the country that elected a president who refused to take any individual responsibility for his actions (or lack of action) over coronavirus. Instead, he blamed everyone and everything from Barack Obama to China. Donald Trump’s narcissism is a particularly virulent strain of his country’s selfish individualism. America suffers from a number of life-threatening infections: racial inequality, gender inequality, economic inequality, etc etc. But the infection that will ultimately prove most harmful for the country will be its selfishness. Too many Americans belong to the cult of the individual. As the coronavirus is exposing very rapidly, this religion is in fact a death cult, and if Americans love anything at all it’s religion. As for Europe where I’m from, specifically the UK, and I can remember writing about this 25 years ago, individualism has become symptomatic of dominant and prevailing social and cultural narratives and directly links to our neoliberal consumerist society. We inhabit a world where the general narrative or understanding of the world, our society, ourselves and others is read through a now familiar defensive, reactionary approach and understanding, whipped up and fueled by media sensationalism and echo chamber panic – this could be in relation to the EU, immigration and of course now the coronavirus, however, this is a deeply ideological construction, this form of understanding society, and oneself within it, have long historical, political, and cultural roots in neoliberalism and our hyper-individualised consumer-based economy. We have become atomised self-reliant consumers detached from a wider sense of communal co-operation and responsibility, one where we have become weened away from the state and the services we need and desire – not to mention responsive government and communal power, For oneself to flourish in a society you need all of society to flourish. We live in a society where we have a moral and ethical responsibility towards each other. This society will fall apart if we allow individualism to guide our actions and choices. Indeed, we have seen the fraying of the very fabric of society under the Conservatives. Crises magnify society’s failings, but they also show us the best means to solve them, this crisis will be over, and its impact will be measured in terms of victims, which will hopefully be minimal, however, what is becoming clear is that the pandemic is exposing the myth, and it is a fucking myth, that has dominated our society for so long: that we can have a fully functioning and sustainable society based upon selfish individualism, instead, this crisis could serve as a positive moment after which it will be no longer possible or plausible to deny that if we really want to overcome the huge challenges and crises we collectively face as a society and as a planet we must embrace a shared sense of collective responsibility and mutual cooperation. So basically, that’s my long answer as to where food wastage comes from. ?
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