I want to start by recognizing a couple of RNL readers, FloridaCracker and WMGates. What follows is largely due to the stead-fast position these two men have when it comes to rejecting any attempt to label them and insisting that they be seen and treated as individuals and only as individuals. Because of their past comments and some studying I was doing in the Scriptures this past week, something suddenly clicked inside my head and I realized that any of us who try to define individuals in terms of a group are as guilty of collectivism as the people we often oppose. In other words, trying to refine our definitions of Liberal, Conservative and Progressive and then stick people into these artificial boxes is no different than what the people we oppose do to us. Once this clicked in my mind, I realized I had internalized the ideology of my enemy and that I was blind to this fact until this past week. However, unlike many who chose to remain blind, I am trying to peel the scales away from my own eyes. That means, when I discover I have been wrong, I do not try to force reality to fit my continued mistake; I change my understanding to fit this new found truth. So, having discovered the error of my position regarding labels, I have changed the way I look at people. Where I once saw political ideology, I now see only individuals. I hope this will reflect in my posts from in the future, but for now, I’d like to try to explain what it was that led to this change in my thinking. I’m afraid this may be one of my longer posts, but it is also one of my most important. I hope you’ll take time to read it and give it some careful consideration.
For whatever reason, I found myself suddenly confronted with the realization that I had been “collectivizing” myself. For as long as I can remember, I have been thinking of myself in terms of group identity. So, true to who I am and how I approach these things, I went to the dictionary to check my own understanding of things. Please indulge me as I share three definitions with you that will be relevant to the rest of this post:
Definition of COLLECTIVE
1: denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole <flock is a collective word>
b of a fruit : multiple
3a : of, relating to, or being a group of individuals
b : involving all members of a group as distinct from its individuals <a collective action>
4: marked by similarity among or with the members of a group
6: shared or assumed by all members of the group <collective responsibility>
Definition of COLLECTIVISM
1: a political or economic theory advocating collective control especially over production and distribution; also : a system marked by such control
2: emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity
Definition of INDIVIDUAL
1obsolete : inseparable
2a : of, relating to, or distinctively associated with an individual <an individual effort>
b : being an individual or existing as an indivisible whole
c : intended for one person <an individual serving>
3: existing as a distinct entity : separate
4: having marked individuality <an individual style>
Now, I knew that these two terms were contradictory, and that the ideas they convey are at the heart of the political divide in this nation and even in the world. But what I had never realized is that I was in the collectivist camp all this time. You see, as long as I think of myself as a “Conservative,” or “Libertarian,” or even a “Classic Liberal,” I am identifying myself as part of a group, having a group identity and being treated collectively as that group – not as an individual. I was thinking as a collectivist, and I was projecting the way I though onto others. Now, I may be a Johnny-come-lately to this revelation, but – judging by the way so many of us write on the RNL – I don’t think so. In fact, I think far too many of us have been seduced into this manner of thinking, and I believe we can trace it directly to our education system (but that is a subject for another post).
As I started to understand just how deeply this way of viewing the world had been drilled into my head, I started to think about the founders. That’s when I realized that, while you will find some examples of collectivism in their writing, they didn’t use it nearly as much nor in the same way we do today. It is human nature to think of others in terms of group identity, but not because we are part of a group, but because we are lazy. That’s right, lazy. It is easier to lump people together and deal with them as one entity than to address everyone as a separate individual. Our founders didn’t do this. If you read their writing, you will notice they are very deferential to the individual. And, when they spoke of groups, they did so in terms that were somehow different from the group politics of today. Here, read this and see if you notice the difference:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Notice that they included all members of this nation in their words. Nor did they speak in terms of Left/Right, or even in terms of Party politics. Our founders spoke in terms of Liberty vs. Tyranny. Today, even if our leaders speak of the nation as a whole, we understand that there is an un-spoken implication that they are only referring to those in the groups they support and which support them. There is a divide in this nation. Though too few of us will openly acknowledge it, we know it’s there. It is at the very foundation of what we call “political correctness,” and it divides along the lines of group identity. It creates an us vs. them mentality, and control of the “them” becomes the primary goal. The individual, as well as individual rights and liberty, are quickly lost in such an environment: ask any soldier who has ever been in combat. The question in all of this is, “How can the individual be protected in an environment where he/she is not even acknowledged?” So, for me, it is no longer a question of Party or group, but of Liberty vs. Tyranny: are you for the freedom of the individual, or control of the group?
Our founders wouldn’t have this problem. They were very aware of the individual. Everything they did was intended to protect and preserve the rights and liberty of the individual. Yet, today, everything we do seems to be focused on protecting and advancing the rights of the group. We have GLBT rights, union rights, minority rights, women’s rights; we even have animal rights. But where is the concern for the rights of the individual? It’s nowhere to be found. In fact, they are under direct assault. The Bill of Rights is nothing if not a charter of protection for the individual’s rights against the encroaching power of government, yet, today, our government – supported by our social institutions such as the press and schools – actively campaign against the protections in the Bill of Rights. We’re told the individual’s rights must yield to that of the group. But is this actually the case, or is it by design, a design intended to suit another agenda?
In reading RNL reader, Karl’s, comments, we note that he argues for and in terms of the collective (i.e. the workers vs. the capitalist, and “workers’ rights”), yet he refers to himself in the singular – as an individual. He even claims individual rights, but he does so in connection to his group identity; as a member of that group. To Karl, while he believes he has an individual right to “better his lot in life,” that right comes as part of the group’s right to have a higher station. Still, the fact that – as indoctrinated as he is – Karl still refers to himself as an individual, with individual ambition, proves that there is something fundamentally flawed with the collectivist model. And that is the point where I found my mistake: any conceptualization of individuals in terms of a group is a violation of Natural Law!
I have written on this point many times, yet I never saw my own mistake. Natural Law deals only with individuals because individuals are all that exist. Groups are not real. They are artificial: conceptualizations invented to help us understand larger issues that are beyond our ability to comprehend or manage if we were to deal with every part individually. Think about it: how do you deal with 315 million individuals in this nation? But if you think of them as “society,” you suddenly have only one entity to deal with. And this is where we find the hidden agenda in collectivism. If you are one of those whose nature it is to want to control others, and you are faced with having to figure out how to and manage control over 315 million individuals, then you will have a task on your hands that is beyond the ability of any human merely because you won’t be able to think in those terms. However, once you break that 315 million people down into neat little groups, then you can think about how to control them and manage your plans to do so. And that is why the notion of collectivism was invented: not because we needed to think in terms of groups to understand the individual, but because we needed to think in terms of groups to control the individual.
So, there it is: why I have undergone a fundamental shift in the way I think of others. For me, this will be an evolving theme. I will continue to post on it as I work my way through the changes that come with such a shift in personal understanding. Hopefully, it will also reflect in the way I deal with people in my other posts. For change in our understanding of the world are useless unless we incorporate it into the way we live. Still, even if this is old news to most, it was a bit of a shock to me when I stumbled upon it. I just figured I’d share it – just in case I’m not alone.