10 steps to creating a new society. Step #2: Embrace connectedness over individualism. A briefing from Futurist Chet W. Sisk
As of this writing, the United States is suffering from a complete breakdown in managing an epic, preventable virus epidemic. It's not because the US doesn't have the tools, resources or personnel to manage it, It's because our political structure has peddled a thinly veiled "me" over "we" concept disguising itself as personal choice. Other countries have made the pandemic manageable . Managing crises for the greater good of a community is the hallmark of civilized societies. Western individualism or what what used to be colloquially called "rugged individualism" , is the belief that everyone makes it on their own without the help of others. Of course, if you ask most millionaires (if you want to use money as a determinant of "making it). they will tell you that their contacts, networks, generational wealth, government support programs and racial advantage testify that they didn't make on their own. They had an amazing amount of help and support. Yet, individualism, as it is popularly painted in US society, is a persistent ghost that now shows up as dysfunction, selfishness and the breakdown of civility. Here are some of it's most demonstrable examples.
The suicide epidemic in the "cowboy west".
An old mythos in the United States is one of the singular cowboy that basically solves his problems by himself. as an individual. This myth has been fueled over the years in mostly fabricated Western movies. This lone wolf "cowboy ups" and settles the affairs of others and his own without the use of support groups or health resources. It is that mythos that may be contributing to the dramatic rise of suicides in the high mountain West. https://cowboystatedaily.com/2019/04/24/rugged-individualism-may-contribute-to-high-mountain-west-suicide-rates-says-expert/
The exit from basic civility.
In his book "Bowling Alone", author Robert Putnam discussed trends where Americans are divorcing themselves from civic organizations that build community ties, civility and connectedness. He suggests that this is primarily due to technology that allows us to create personal silos online. That's not necessarily true. Technology is a toaster. You can use Zoom to strengthen the ties you have with friends and family around the world. But if you have a predisposition to individualism, you'll use it to build silos and create barriers to others. You're even more prone to be an extremist because you don't get the benefit of a fully vetted and nuanced conversation. https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/our-laser-focus-individualism-destroying-our-communities/
Individualism destroys communities.
From health care to systemic racism to education to climate crisis....we face gigantic challenges of a generation that require collective action. Individualism is simply too inefficient and too ineffective to handle the scale of current changes and disruption. In other words, individualism is the wrong philosophy at the wrong time. https://healthyplacesbydesign.org/americas-obsession-with-individualism-is-making-us-sick/
The Ubuntu Alternative
There is a concept out of Africa called "Ubuntu". At it's heart is the basic philosophy that we are all connected and our strength is in leveraging that connectedness. This is the exact opposite of the rugged individual mythos and a more accurate reflection of how success is actually achieved . It is not an idea to get rid of individualism.....rather, it is based on the understanding that individual parts work better together through interdependence. At a time of monumental crises, it has the potential to be more agile and more flexible than what we've tried to date.
In an "every man for himself" world, we need a belief system that is more robust and innovative than what we've used so far. Let's open the door to something new.
Chet W. Sisk is an author and one of the world's leading Social Futurists. He is also expert on the current world paradigm shift. Find out more about him and the LEAD Global Team at www.leadtheshift.com or you can write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org