THE PHONY CONFLICT BETWEEN INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM

When he mentioned IS MAKING OTHER PEOPLE “DO THE RIGHT THING” THE RIGHT THING TO DO? in When the “greater good” is not so good, Mel Wild gave me a kind H/T. Then Mel took an idea that I had started to develop and further developed it.

My idea? Instead of using our government to protect each other’s rights, we have allowed our leaders to use our government to force each of us to “do the right thing.”

Mel’s addition? Well, neither of us are inventing something new. So, Mel chose to use the video above. To encourage folks to listen to it, he described the video’s content. That video describes how collectivists answer this question.

Is it not a display of compassion to sacrifice our personal interests for the greater good of our society?”

Collectivists give that question an answer of “yes.” Mel’s video points out that the answer “yes” is wrong because the question presupposes something that is not true, that society has a concrete existence. Since a society is composed of individuals, those individuals have a concrete existence, but society has no being of its own.

Consider. Does an army have a concrete existence? Not really. Without killing a single soldier, an army can be disbanded. What is destroyed? An organizational entity? If an army has no one it must fight, what difference does it make if that army is disbanded? Similarly, the intricate web of relationships we form and call a society exist to serve the individual purposes of the people who make up that society.

Because armies are not beings with an existence of their own, that is why soldiers train and go into combat in small units with their buddies. General officers know that while we may pay homage and lip service to fine concepts like duty, honor, and country what we fight for when we are frighten and afraid are the people we call our friends, individuals we know to be real.

What have the advocates for collectivism done? They have distorted and twisted two related concepts: selfishness and altruism. They have tried to make possible through the state what Jesus made clear we could only accomplish with the help of the Holy Spirit. They have used their idol, a being they only imagine to exist, their great and glorious state, to overcome our selfishness with the altruism of the state. But the great and glorious state the collectivists worship has no being, and it never will. So, even a great and glorious state does not possess altruism. Only individuals can be altruistic. Yet without God’s help we cannot set aside our pride and selfishness and be good to each other.

God’s help? Mel’s post, because the video used was created by an organization that appears to have a secular bent (Academy of Ideas: Free Minds for a Free Society), uncharacteristically Mel did not mention what the Bible has to say on this subject. So, let’s correct that oversight. Let’s take a detour and read Matthew 5-7 NASB – The Sermon on the Mount – Bible Gateway.

What is our reaction when we read Jesus’ words? Is it not something to akin to horror? Doesn’t Jesus demand what appears to be an impossible selflessness? At the same time, don’t we wish we were as good and holy as Jesus calls us to be? But there has never been people capable of producing the virtuous behavior that Jesus calls upon us to strive for.

Is the selflessness demanded by Jesus something any sane people would expect of politicians? Even when some of them actually are among the best of us, don’t we know they still don’t possess sufficient character and wisdom? Then why, when we know they will abuse that power, do we give politicians the power to force us to sacrifice our personal interests for the good of society? Well, the answer is we get a bit confused. Things are never perfectly black and white. Consider the example of eminent domain. What happens when some people, for example, start clamoring for a new road? Don’t others, many who live along the right of way, start fighting that new road because they want to be forced to sell their land, including homes and businesses? Isn’t that “proof” society exists? Isn’t eminent domain an example of people being forced to sacrifice their personal interests for the good of society? Sure looks like it, doesn’t it? But think about what is involved. “Society” isn’t involved. Eminent domain requires us to balance the rights of the people who want that new road against the rights of the people who don’t want to be forced to sell their property. Eminent domain requires us to balance individual rights versus individual rights, not the good of some nebulous thing we call society against the rights of the individual.

Read Matthew 5-7 NASB – The Sermon on the Mount – Bible Gateway. Does Jesus call upon us to sacrifice anything for a governmental collective? No. Jesus did not call upon us to love society. He called upon us to love the Lord our God and each other.

Questions to Consider

  1. Which words best describe politicians? Sales person, or wise man (or wise woman)?
  2. Does a collective have rights? What are the differences between a right and a privilege?
  3. Does a “society” or a “collective” love anyone? Does our vote for a politician guarantee that that politician “feels my pain” and loves me?
  4. Did the “wars” on poverty, cancer, addictive drugs, ignorance, and so forth fix problems, or did the busybodies who demanded “war powers” cause more problems than they fixed?
  5. How is a society perfected? What does it mean to perfect a society?
  6. When we vote to give our government the power to redistribute “other people’s money,” does that meet our personal responsibility to love our neighbor as we love our self?
  7. What can we trust our government to do well? Why do we need a govenment? What must we trust govenment to do as well as it can?
  8. What is individualism? What are the extremes of individualism?
  9. How is the individual perfected? By society? Through his or her own efforts? Through the workings of God?
  10. Are individual rights unalienable? What does it mean when the Declaration of Independence refers to unalienable rights?
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6 Responses to THE PHONY CONFLICT BETWEEN INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM

  1. Salvageable says:

    Interesting video, and fascinating thoughts. I can see danger and evil in both extremes–collectivism and individualism. Rather than seeking a compromise, I would defend a paradoxical both/and: the importance of the individual, and the significance of individuals within a common body. (And the last minute of the video seems to affirm that position.) For myself, I am a valuable individual, but I am also first and foremost, a Christian, making me part of the body of Christ, a living stone in his Temple, and a member of the Church. At the same time, I am an American, a displaced Chicagoan, and a fan of the Chicago Cubs. Each of these identities makes me part of a larger whole, but in none of them do I surrender my individual value. J.

    • Tom Salmon says:

      @Salvageable

      We form into groups with common interests because then we are stronger, and we can bring our individual talents to bear more efficiently. So, the real issue is to what extent a collective can rightly demand our obedience. Historically, Christians reject the commands of the state when those commands come into conflict with the commands of God.

      • Salvageable says:

        I have been writing about medieval times lately, when loyalty to the Church exceeded loyalty to the state. But later in history loyalty to the state become more significant. We have arguments today about pledging allegiance to the flag and whether that allegiance is to “one nation under God” or not. You and I agree that human rights come from God and not from the government. But our individual human rights are always tempered by other loyalties, whether to Church, to state, or to other common interests. J.

        • Tom Salmon says:

          @Salvageable

          Well, the Pledge does include that qualification, “under God.” Before Jesus said we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, He first asked who’s image was imprinted upon a coin. Upon each of us is God’s image. To Him we owe our self.

  2. boudicaus says:

    Reblogged this on boudica.us and commented:
    H/T Citizen Tom

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