individiual v collective

Obama promised to “fundamentally transform America.” What did he mean and how is this change to be accomplished?  It starts with a change in perception, with the expectation that over time, the perception will become the reality. That perception begins with a change in the descriptive adjectives of identification, some subtle, some less so.  We are now discouraged from thinking of ourselves individual Americans, distinct from group identity, but are encouraged, even threatened and bullied, into identifying ourselves as members of some group, by ethnicity or by affiliation.  We are now supposed to be Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Women, Men, Gays anti-unionists, Tea Partyers, right-wingers or Christians clinging to our religion and guns. And these categorical descriptions are not meant to identify us as individual members of those groups, but as masses, collectives. These identities are based on the dual principle that the best lie is built on a speck of truth and that a lie, if repeated loudly and often enough, becomes the reality, even to ourselves. Thus the perception becomes the reality.

In the famous movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Sidney Poitier says to his father, “You think of yourself as a black man. I think of myself as a man.” The character in the movie was fiercely independent.  He took his chances, not merely by falling in love with and marrying a white woman, but as an independent, individual thinker, willing to acknowledge, but unwilling to be intimidated by, the collectivism of racial prejudice.  There is a lesson in this.  It lies in recognizing the difference between the individual reality and the collective perception.

Terms such as “racist” and “feminist” are collective terms.  They disregard and degrade the personal view of each of us as independent individuals, and in fact are meant to bully people into categorical masses.  When one person accuses another of being “racist” that accuser is most often not describing an actual attitude, but is placing the accused in a collective category in order to shut him up.  In some cases, the term may be accurate, but these days, terms such as “racist” most often are wildly inaccurate.  But, accuracy does not matter to the person hurling the term, because the term is intended to intimidate and not to describe.  Such collective terms as “right wing” are frequently used to silence the expression of attitudes which disagree with the collective spirit of the accuser.  One sometimes hears “accusations” of being Republican, right-wing and rich, as though these were insults. These accusations are often angry.  They also often come out of the fear that deviating from the mass or collective beliefs can be dangerous to the status quo. This practice indicates the alarming reality that a shift in perception has already taken place.

No greater area of this shift in perception exists than in the area of the perception of “rights.” But that’s a topic for another post.

FJ Rocca

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American Conservatism.  Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital in human discourse.