Individualism isn't antithetical to cooperation

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 11:29 PM | comments: 2

One of the most troubling cultural phenomena that I've seen in recent years is a bizarre sense of selfishness and individualism among segments of the population. Basically, anyone that tells you what to do is bad or suspect, has ill intent or otherwise is trying to control you. It's all about me, and fuck you. Mind you, I don't think this constitutes a majority of society, but it's a really vocal group, and people seem willing to get sucked into that line of thinking.

Even if you don't subscribe to the value system of one of the common religions, which all promote helping each other out, I think it's a fundamental human instinct that we all have. We don't like to see people hurting, and it feels good to help. It's one of the most basic social contracts we have. You hold the door for the person behind you, because what kind of dick doesn't do that?

Individualism has its place, certainly. We should celebrate our authentic selves, and not bow to the conforming opinions of others, again, provided that it doesn't come at the expense of others. But the flaw in the behavior that I see, and one of the things that self-identifying libertarians in particular seem to ignore, is that it's impossible for any person to exist in a vacuum and not affect others. This is one of the risks of scientific research, that we always risk influencing the things we observe. For humans going about their lives, it's even harder, because we're not just observing, we're interacting with the world. We all have to share its resources and engage in cooperation in order to survive. That's not my opinion, it's an objective fact.

Yeah, I'm obviously framing this in the context of the pandemic. Wearing masks and social distancing and participating in the mitigation of the whole thing absolutely sucked, and it came at great cost in lives and economic damage. People protested about getting their haircuts and the chance to drink in a bar and such, because of their "rights" and their "freedom." Of course, we know that there's a cost to that, because we have a shared world, and we need each other. Healthcare workers, retail and distribution workers and other front-line and necessary people, all of whom work in the service of others, took the worst of the results of the actions of those who wouldn't play along. Now, the same thing is going on among the unvaccinated, which unfortunately includes kids under 12 who can't yet be vaccinated.

The thing is, human cooperation is not antithetical to individualism. If the vaccination ramp has demonstrated anything, it's that cooperation enables individual freedom. I can walk into a grocery store without a mask now, or have a drink in a theme park, because of that cooperation. Getting vaccinated wasn't just for me, it was for every other human I encounter, including my child.

Helping each other out is not "socialism" or "communism" (and these ignorant people don't understand the difference anyway). It's what decent people do. Sometimes we don't even have a choice in helping, but I don't complain about paying taxes, because they enable me and people in my community to enjoy access to education, safety services, paved roads, etc. All of these make it possible for me to enjoy my individualism. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. I'm happy to get a vaccine, donate to charities, and hold the door, because it's my part in cooperation that enables people. Also, it's not "virtue signaling" or whatever stupid shit you dream up to justify your own selfishness, it's just not being a dick.

All of my individual successes, whether they're personal, professional or financial, have come about because of cooperation with others. I'm tired of hearing about your freedom to choose when it comes at the expense of others. If you really want to be patriotic, do the thing that helps everyone out. You're not giving up anything by getting vaccinated or holding the door.


Anonymous, July 23, 2021, 12:17 AM #

Horrible mindset. Explain how it’s okay to choose to kill a baby inside you, and that’s a choice, but if you choose NOT to get an experimental vaccine you are “selfish” (those are your words). You are living in a fantasy world where you think you are smarter than literally everyone (and you aren’t), and you’re an arrogant douche on top of it. Shameful.

Jeff, July 23, 2021, 3:58 PM #

Who said anything about abortion? "Shameful," says the anonymous coward who won't sign their real name to their position. Any reasonable person who engages in critical thinking can conclude that 400 million worldwide administered dosages of a vaccine are not "experimental." Nice try. But call me more names, that will reinforce your argument.

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