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The Cult of Individualism

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  • The Cult of Individualism

    The Cult of Individualism




    God died. The seas of metaphysics were limitless again. A new horizon of possibility opened for all beliefs and ideals. Values were re-evaluated, re-molded, re-constructed – and each new value was made in the image of its creator: the individual self.

    We were “freed” to think whatever we want, say whatever we want and believe whatever we want – more or less, that is. What we got: apparent freedom, inalienable “individual” rights and in America, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Later came the prevalent I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude – with all its cool and edgy indifference. But I-don’t-give-a-fuck really means I-don’t-give-a-fuck-because-it-doesn’t-affect-me – this is the prevalent attitude of non-judgmentalism meets moral relativism. Sociologist Charles Smith found, after interviewing 230 young Americans, that the common response to standard moral questions (about rape, murder, theft) was one of bafflement. Young people lacked anything substantial to say about even extremely generic ethical questions. The default attitude was that moral choices are a matter of individual taste, where one’s morality is just a small piece of a carefully crafted individual self that one fashions at whim. “It’s personal,” many interviewees responded: “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say? Who am I to judge?”

    When beliefs, aesthetic preferences and moral proclivities are all left to personal style, we have the hipster mentality, where nonchalant nihilism is cool. Indeed, the word “moral” itself is a dirty word amongst anyone outside the realm of conservatism. But the cult of individualism transcends politics: we are all in the cult. We’ve all had its invisible lens pulled over our eyes such that we perceive the world through a warped and myopic tunnel vision. Aiming to find and remove this lens is as futile as trying to bite your own teeth – for it is built into us.

    The great myth of our time is the heroic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps tale of His Majesty the Autonomous Self (and how convenient is it that this selfsame trope is the foundational myth capitalism needs most for its continued political survival). But this myth needs no creeds to perpetuate its dominance, for it is woven into the very fiber of our being.

    We were all inculcated into the cult of individualism – by our families, who tell us we are special; by the vision of the American Dream; by schools, who demand that we specify fields; by advertising which compels us to carve out who we are by consuming certain commodities; by capitalism which teaches us that to succeed is to win in a competition of yourself against all others; and by the ever-growing new-age and pop psychology œuvre which tells us to create our own realities…

    But if everyone were to believe themselves as the center of their own universe in which they create their own world, values and all meaning – civilization would quickly deteriorate into solipsism, narcissism, megalomania and/or collective insanity. So it comes as no surprise that “we” are in decline – for what is really wrong with the united “us”? There is no “we,” no “us,” just me, myself and I. This nation is not a unified whole but a cacophony of atoms, each spinning alone to their own idiosyncratic rhythm – and frequently colliding. The Declaration’s axioms are relinquishing their sacred aura, for the glue that holds us together is… well, it isn’t there.

    The marriage of this egoism to rationality – the hubris that comes with our self-awarded status as the sole “rational animal” – this may be the fatal flaw of Western civilization, we just don’t know it yet… or do we?
    "There are four lights!"

  • #2
    The great myth of our time is the heroic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps tale of His Majesty the Autonomous Self (and how convenient is it that this selfsame trope is the foundational myth capitalism needs most for its continued political survival). But this myth needs no creeds to perpetuate its dominance, for it is woven into the very fiber of our being.
    I never attended an Occupy rally, but if I did, I would get a T-shirt that says:

    Get your
    Invisible Hand
    off my
    Ragged Dick!
    Enjoy.

    Comment


    • #3
      Wait What.

      I thought we lived in a society of "you didn't build that".
      Science that cannot be questioned is propaganda.

      Cameras in classrooms now.

      Comment


      • #4
        This sounds awfully familiar..like something that was posted on the old site by the user formerly known as Bok.
        May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
        Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
        And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
        may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Michele View Post
          This sounds awfully familiar..like something that was posted on the old site by the user formerly known as Bok.
          It seemed appropriate to revisit it considering the recent Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis.
          "There are four lights!"

          Comment


          • #6
            The marriage of this egoism to rationality – the hubris that comes with our self-awarded status as the sole “rational animal” – this may be the fatal flaw of Western civilization, we just don’t know it yet… or do we?
            You could cut the irony of this author writing this sentence in the middle of this piece with a chainsaw. That she doesn't even recognize her own hubris and self-awarded status in the middle of writing that article is just freaking hilarious.

            It's been a year since she penned this idiotic claptrap. I wonder if she's figured it out yet.
            Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
            No one will be denied:
            Big law suits and bathroom toots;
            We're all getting Dixie-fried.
            But somewhere Hank and Lefty
            Are rollin' in their graves
            While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

            Comment


            • #7
              This is a pretty typical PoMo viewpoint and one I've read a dozen times. The author has a post-modern view and detests that view but is simply unable to conceive of any alternatives. We're just wired that way. End of analysis.

              In fact, most human beings don't share that view and they do know what to do about it although acting on the solutions isn't popular.

              The truth is that even the most disaffected hipster is actually a roiling sea of judgments that range from the moral to the trivial. The hipster simply refuses to label these positions as judgments - they are personal preferences. This is just semantics but it does effectively render the believer powerless. He can neither apply his judgments across cases nor can he defend them when questioned.

              He has no principles. Without principles, he must constantly make new judgments based on emotional factors which change from case to case.

              This isn't really the natural state of human affairs. Humans are profoundly affected by cultural norms and have lived within norms for pretty much all of human history until now. Prior to the post-modern era, people did pretty well in the United States when it came to moral judgments. The failures don't outweigh the many successes and the average life of the average person was more enhanced than degraded.

              As always, perfection is the enemy of good.
              "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

              Comment

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