Individualism has been given a bad name in recent years. It has been hijacked and corrupted by capitalism and neoliberal ideology, rendered disgusting and selfish. The ghosts of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand both hover awfully above our greed-indulgent societies, threatening to push us off the edge of the social and economic cliff.
We have been sold an idea: that selfish self-interest is the highest goal one can have for from it springs wealth and prosperity for all. It is a ridiculous notion, one that deserves to be surgically removed from our collective minds and cast upon the flames.
Individualism, on the other hand, is the glorious practice of personal freedom – a sterling and honorable aim, one that should motivate us all to follow our true souls. But it should be obvious – for anyone with some sense – that personal freedom is not the same as selfishness.
Jesus, this should be obvious.
The absence of compassion, consideration, cooperation and compromise is not freedom in any real sense of the term. Without community, freedom is meaningless – the lack of anything solid to refer back to. This kind of existence, one without connections, is far from freedom – it is a form of bondage. Where one is the prisoner of one’s own meaningless isolation.
Capitalism has imprisoned us so – in the gilded cage of consumerism. We are now hostages to a world where everyone is out for themselves at the expense of others, where greed and fear are the defining characteristics of our age. We have been deformed by our phony desires and wants and are becoming less and less able to connect in ways that require sacrifice or compromise. We have become spoiled upon the fruits of over-productivity. We are now credit-junkies and simulation-whores – the craven consumers of human forgeries and fake experiences.
The beautiful soul of existentialism – authenticity – has been smothered to death with a St Geneve Eiderdown Pillow.
It is time to reclaim individualism from the clutches of capitalism and restore it to its natural place within society and community. Selfishness must be purged from all forms of our existence if we are to survive the trials ahead.
Ayn Rand image source: www.salon.com
Milton Friedman image source: www.fuw.ch
Kierkegaard image source: www.newrepublic.com
St. Geneve pillows image source: stgeneve.com