Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Individual vs Collective


Some time ago I began a writing. It started out as an essay about dualism. It has since grown into much more than that. In fact, it is well on its way to becoming a small book. For some reason novel does not seem appropriate. I typically associate the word novel with a work of fiction; of course when it comes to the human psyche, who is to determine what is real and what is not? That's straying off a little so back on track we go. I have re-worked what I have written three times and with each proof, something new is added, something taken away. I think you know how the creative process works; it is the same anywhere the imagination is used. Today's post is one chapter from this book. I would definitely love to hear some critiques; positive or negative. Enjoy.

Individual vs Collective

“Dualism is the act of standing in front of a mirror and claiming that there are two of you.”


One of the greatest dualities we face as both individuals and as a society is that of the importance of the individual versus the collective. This monumental duality is quite possibly the largest contributor to our rapidly increasing apathy; the individual ideal is winning. Stating that, I think perhaps I have already come across as bias as most likely you are reading this from a capitalist society and the idea of individuality being bad probably invokes feeling of distrust for my words but I urge you to continue. You shall find, as I have come to that the statement, despite its boldness, is true. Let us begin by talking about the individual and the importance of individuality.

In a world we co-habit with over seven billion other people it is sometimes difficult to feel unique and there is a particular need for each one of us to express that uniqueness about ourselves. That is called individuality. That ‘something’ that helps you to stand out from the crowd; that helps you to succeed; that makes you, you.  We all desire to feel special and that is a basic human need. In pursuit of that need we strive to discover ourselves and find our ‘something’ that makes us an individual.

Individuality is so very crucial to the mental and emotional development of a human being. When someone discovers their true individuality, more than just the discovery of individuality is changing. The entire psyche must change. Recognition of one’s true individuality increases self-confidence and ability. These two necessarily complement each other as self-confidence increases ability which increases success which increases self-confidence and so on and so forth. Insofar as I would ever dare to theorize, there is no end to this process; thus no end to the possibilities except that of the individual’s own creativity.

As the individual grows in ability, so does his mind in creativity. With creativity comes ingenuity which one might call the mother of invention. The possibility for the human potential is boundless when human beings discover their true individuality; their true uniqueness; their true abilities; and are left to pursue them. This is the importance of Individuality. Now, let us talk of the importance of the Collective for truly I will be hard pressed to prove that anything be valued above the individual.

The original collective, the foundation for society, is the family; more specific to North America it is the patriarchal family. It is a very comforting thought to know that the idea of the original family unit is presently changed. No longer is the ‘family’ considered to be the traditional male head figure, then female servant and child squires. No, today the family collective is bordering on the edge of equality of all; children and adults. And it is no longer just male and female bonds being openly accepted, though a fight still to go, it is man and man, woman and woman creating a new idea of a family collective. 

As I believe that any collective is a direct reflection of the individual consciousness’s of the people within that collective, society has developed into a patriarchal structure as well. Unfortunately, society does not adapt as easily as the smaller collective units and in the rule of majority, it is the will of the majority that rules. The numbers continue to grow and one day you will see this reflection of equality within society. However, only the importance of the family unit has been shown here and there is so much more to say.

There are several very important reasons why the collective is essential to human growth. Let us start with survival, our most primal of instincts. Individually, people may be able to exist for quite some time without too much difficulty. However, this will not be true of most and never will it be true for the entirety of any individual’s life. Being party to a collective ensures the survival of each individual who openly participates in the collective. A benefit of this insurance is that each individual is now relieved of that burden of survival and left with more time.

When the individual is left to pursue its own interests at its own leisure, this is when true invention occurs; invention being any creative, scientific, mechanical or technological discoveries or ideas. These will in turn be able to be shared amongst those inside the collective. This is the second great importance of the collective. The sharing of information births an entirely new form of creativity. The collective, able to freely access all, can, as individuals, improve and add to any idea or creation. This opens up an even greater doorway to personal development.

A third great importance of the collective is that of satisfying the basic needs of the individual. Human beings are social creatures. They naturally possess the tools to work and live alongside one another peacefully. They have the innate skill to empathize with one another. The collective fulfills these built in human needs. They are not the only ones. The need for reproduction is also built in to all living creatures and as stated, the original and smallest collective is that of the family. Human beings require each other to at least some degree.

The importance of the collective is very clear. It is as essential to human development as individuality. This poses the question as to why society pushes so hard upon on the idea of irrational self-interest. Our egos are constantly being inflated through advertising and marketing campaigns aimed at one of our most vulnerable needs: individuality. As the idea is imprinted into our minds and bred into our culture, our empathy is inversely turned into apathy. Apathy is the poison of a collective. There are times when the importance of the collective is sold to us as equally important however. Sadly these are during times of strife and war; times when the state turns the collective into an individual through nationalism and patriotism to fight against another collective individual most commonly called a ‘terrorist’ in this day.

It is suffice to say that this duality has also infected political and economic systems that create entire societies. Capitalism and Communism are the fore-runners to this duality. The capitalist, while under the guise of democracy, stressing the importance of the individual and self-achievement and the communist who demands the sacrifice of the individual to the collective. Neither can be said to be successful. It can be disputed that capitalism advanced countries more quickly than communism did but I am certain that that is at least questionable.

What is the solution to this perplexing duality? How is it decided which is the most important? It isn’t. There is no decision to make as like in all the other examples, there is no duality between the individual and the collective; they are a singularity; two parts to one hole. They are of equal importance when speaking in terms of the development of a sustainable, peaceful and harmonious society. If the reflections of individual consciousness’s within a collective are society than in order to attain the mentioned form of society, humans must first fulfill their basic needs. These needs, as stated, include specific things that come only through individual self-discovery AND through a collective society of some form.

A collective or society must be devised in such a way as to allow each one their individuality while at the same time maintaining a growing, developing and harmonious collective that benefits each individual enough in some way that they remain a part of it. This is not as difficult a task as one might imagine. By understanding and embracing the singularities of human development as singularities and not dualities, human beings change and necessarily so must their society. It is plain to see that the importance of the individual must be valued equally to that of the importance of the collective and not higher, nor lower.


As I stated at the beginning, the individual is winning and as I hope you can now see that so long as one is winning then the other must necessarily be failing. This in turns means that depending on your geo-political location, if you are an adult you are quite possibly poorly undeveloped beyond your true potential as a human being; we all are. It is only the very few that I have met that have understood the dangers of dualities and their non-existence.