While many divisions within our society are arbitrary or engineered, there is one division that represents perhaps the most pervasive and important conflict of our time; the division between collectivists and individualists.
Now, people who do not understand the nature of collectivism will often argue that individualism and collectivism are not mutually exclusive because individuals require groups in order to survive and thrive. However, a “group” is not necessarily a collective.
For some reason the core fundamental of collectivism – the use of psychological coercion or physical force to compel participation – goes right over the heads of many skeptics. A group does not have to be collectivist. Any group can and should be voluntary. Collectivism is NOT voluntary. Therefore, collectivism and individualism are indeed mutually exclusive. Collectivists and individualists cannot exist in the same space at the same time without eventually coming into conflict. There is simply no way around it.
From the position of the liberty minded (or the average Libertarian), collectivism is by far the inferior of the two philosophies. Collectivists often boast of the social and economic “harmonization” collectivism creates, as well as the mobilization of labor to “streamline progress.” The reality is that artificially rigged harmony is no harmony at all. If people are forced to homogenize and get along through fear, then peace has not truly been accomplished.
Human beings must come to their own conclusions on cooperation and tolerance in their own time. They cannot be manipulated and shoehorned into a “utopian” framework. Problems will result, like genocide, which tends to erupt during almost every attempt at collectivist utopianism.
Economic harmonization is even less practical, with government force inevitably used to confiscate resources from one group to give to another group, essentially punishing success or frugality. This creates an environment in which achievement becomes less desirable. When people do not have individual incentive to pursue achievement, they see personal effort as wasted. Innovation and entrepreneurship fall by the wayside, and society as a whole begins to diminish in prosperity. Without individual accomplishments and ingenuity, the group is nothing but a hollow mindless ant hill.
Another argument which usually arises is that individualism leads to “selfishness” and the dominance of wealth devouring machines like corporations. I would remind collectivists that corporations exist only through the legal framework and protections of corporate personhood created by governments, and without government protections and favor, corporations could not exist. It is by collectivism, not individualism, that corporatocracy thrives.
At the same time, collectivists consistently blame individualist "free markets" for the numerous ailments of nations. Yet another misrepresentation considering America has not had true free markets in well over a century, and most other nations have never had true free markets in their history. Feudalism and its child Socialism have always been present to plague mankind.
There are no merits to collectivism that are not accomplished with greater success by individualism and voluntary community. In fact, collectivism only serves to enrich and empower a select few elites while destroying the future potential of all other individuals.
Given the disturbing nature of collectivism, one would think that attempts at collectivist societies would be a rarity, shunned by most people as akin to inviting cancer into the body. Unfortunately, cultures based on individualism are the minority in history.
The average collectivist is not usually much of a beneficiary of collectivism. We call these people “useful idiots” or “sheeple” who unknowingly serve the darker machinations of elitists while under the delusion that they are changing society for the better. The reason useful idiots participate in collectivism are many, but I have found that across the spectrum these people tend to be weak willed, weak minded, and by extension, possess a rabid desire for control over others.
It is perhaps no coincidence that “intellectuals” (self proclaimed) tend to end up at the forefront of modern efforts for collectivism. While the poor and destitute are often exploited by collectivism as a mob to be wielded like a battering ram, it is the soft noodle-bodied and fearful academia that acts as middle management in the collectivist franchise. It is they that desire the power to impose their “superior” ideologies on others, and since they are too weak to accomplish anything on their own, they require the cover and momentum of collectivist movements to give them the totalitarian fix they so crave. In other words, they believe in humanitarianism by totalitarianism.
Individualism is under constant and imminent threat as the collectivist obsession with control grows. The ultimate end game of collectivists is to derive submission from individuals, to corner people into handing over their individualism willingly. It is not enough for them to merely apply force, the greatest power is in the power of consent. Here are the most common tools used by collectivists to obtain power and manufacture consent from the masses.
The Illusion Of Consensus
Collectivists rely greatly on the force of a well-aimed mob to convince the general public they have the consensus position; that they are in the majority. Appearing to be in the majority is the single most important goal of a collectivist movement, even if they are in reality a small minority. The anonymity of web activism gives the force of the mob a new potency. No more than a dozen collectivists working in tandem can wreak havoc in multiple web forums or harass numerous individualist publications while giving casual readers the impression that their ideology is “everywhere.”
The key here is that collectivists understand that the average person does not want to be seen as too contrary to the majority. They understand that the majority view matters to the public, even if the majority view is utterly wrong. If collectivists can convince enough people that their ideology is the majority view, they know that many people will blindly adopt that ideology as their own in order to fit in. The lie of consensus then becomes a self perpetuating prophecy. This problem will remain forever a danger as long as people continue to care at all about the majority view.
The Destruction Of Core Institutions
Those institutions people consider “core institutions” are sometimes vital, and sometimes not. That said, it is the openly admitted objective of collectivists through socialist-style movements to destroy core institutions so that there is no competition to their new system. A collectivist society cannot allow citizens to have any loyalties beyond their loyalty to the group or the state.
So, individual liberties must be degraded or removed, as per the constant reinterpretation of the Constitution as a “living document.” Religious institutions must be painted as shameful affairs for stupid barbaric cave-people. And, the family unit must be broken apart. This is done through economic depravity so pronounced that families never see each other, through state influence over children through public schooling, and through identity politics and propaganda which create sexual and racial conflicts out of thin air.
This coincides with the idea of artificial consensus, but it goes beyond the use of the mob. In our daily lives we are now bombarded with collectivist messages — in mainstream news, in television shows, in movies, through web media and print media. The money behind these outlets belongs to a very small and select group of people, but through them the collectivist worldview is injected into every corner of our society. I would call this propaganda by attrition; an indirect but steady insertion of collectivism creating an atmosphere in which the ideology becomes commonplace even though it is being promoted by a limited number of people.
Exploiting The Youth
When we are young, most of us spend a great deal of time and energy working to be taken seriously. The question is, should we be taken seriously?
In my view and the view of the liberty minded, it really depends on the person’s actions, experience, efforts and accomplishments. Most younger people have little to no experience in life and haven’t had the time to accomplish much. They are still learning how to function in the world, and what kind of goals they want to pursue (if they ever pursue any goals). Because of this, it is hard for those of us who have gone through considerable struggles in life and reached a certain level of achievement to take them seriously when they decide to stroll into a room and pontificate on their moral and philosophical superiority. It makes me want to ask; what the hell have you ever accomplished?
This is not to say that there are not ingenious young people out there, or ignorant and lazy older folks. There are. But collectivist movements seek to exploit younger generations exactly because of their general lack of experience and naivety, as well as their feelings of entitlement when it comes to respect.
Collectivism almost always utilizes a theory called “futurism” in order to appeal to the young. The theory, which was a leading philosophy behind the rise of fascism, proclaims that all new ideas are superior in their social usefulness and all old ideas and beliefs should be abandoned like so much dead skin. According to futurism, those who cling to old ideas and principles are an obstacle to the progress of society as a whole.
The funny thing is, the ideas usually expounded by collectivists are as old as time — elitism, feudalism, totalitarianism, etc. None of these methodologies are “new” by any stretch of the imagination, but collectivists repackage them as if they are some grand new secret to Shangri-La. Younger adherents of collectivism latch onto futurism almost immediately. For, if all new ideas are superior, and all old ideas are barbaric, and younger people are the purveyors and consumers of everything new, then this means that it is the youngest generations that are the wisest, and the village elders that are naïve. By default, the young become the village elders without them ever having to struggle, make sacrifices, learn hard lessons, suffer loss, rise to challenges, or accomplish anything.
The enticing nature of this sudden groundswell of cultural respect is simply far too much for the average person college age or younger to ignore. Collectivism gives the young what they think they want, then uses them as tools for greater conquests.
Forcing Society To Accept The Lowest Common Denominator
Collectivism requires the homogenization of society, to the point that individualism is frowned upon and success is treated as negligible. Whether it is public schools lowering standards to the point that students with little or no reading comprehension graduate, or businesses being forced to lower standards in the name of “diversity” while rejecting employees with superior skill sets because they do not belong to a designated victim group, or government institutions like the military lowering physical standards to accommodate far weaker candidates in the name of “gender parity” while putting every soldier’s life at risk in the process, we are constantly being asked to accommodate the lowest common denominator instead of reaching for the highest level of excellence.
This makes the concept of success a bit of a joke. For “success” within such a system is easy as long as one follows the rules; excelling as an individual is not a factor. And by success I mean being allowed to survive, because that is the best you are going to get in a collectivist structure. The only way to fail is to not follow the rules, rules which may be arbitrary or idiotic at their core. Individualists are immediately punished for thinking or acting outside the box, when this is exactly the kind of behavior that should be encouraged. A society built on the lowest common denominator is a society destined for collapse. Individuals are systematically weeded out in the name of homogenization and all of their potential achievements and innovations disappear with them.
The nightmare of collectivism is the defining battle of our age. It is in this era that we will decide whether or not individual liberty and freedom of thought are more important than the illusory security and “harmony” of the collective.
I, for one, long to see a future in which individual enterprise is allowed to thrive and voluntary participation is the root principle on which our culture functions; a future in which state power is reduced to zero, or near zero, and government force is no longer an acceptable means by which one group can seek to control another group. I may not see this world in my lifetime, but the liberty-minded can make it possible for newer generations by avidly defending ourselves against collectivism today. As pointed out in the beginning, collectivism and individualism cannot coexist; confrontation is inevitable. Recognizing this, and preparing for it, is our duty as free human beings.