Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The decline of Individualism

What’s in a name? Certainly in our culture-rich brand-driven society, the desire for self identification dictates that we wrap ourselves in labels…class, political ideology, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), philosophical bent and so on. While such is practical for revelatory purposes, it can be constraining.

I fear that base human nature tends toward the acceptance of conformity. It appears to be self evident that only the rare individual will ignore pier pressure to assimilate. Now, common culture is not without it’s benefits. From employment to personal relationships, first impressions are key. But beyond that, I see no reason to sacrifice my peculiar subjective proclivities to those of the larger group. This is most prevalent in religion and politics…the third rail of topics of discussion.

Lately, one’s geography would seem to explain one’s political leanings (crass oversimplification). I generalize here because, well, it’s generally true. People are so predictable that even politicians have figured out the game. Many people prefer to move in herds. How else to explain referring to voters with such distinctions as: seniors, hispanics, blacks, soccer moms, married women, independents, blah, blah, blah. Why does one not speak of those for whom the Constitution is preeminent? Or, those that prefer to live and let live? The truth is that there aren’t enough of “us” to register on the radar…sadly.

On to the other forbidden subject matter, religion. It’s no secret that I consider myself to be a “believer”, of the Christian variety. However, I’m reluctant to accept that label because of those who do. I may be one of the few “libertarian” folks that isn’t an atheist or agnostic. In fact, I have first hand experience with those who proudly proclaim themselves to be among the “religious right”. In fact, my older sister married an evangelical preacher. To say that I’m misunderstood by them is an understatement. The problem though, is that they seem to be trapped in their “philosophical box”; and of course, I’m not. But seriously, I’ve made numerous attempts to dialog with my family about things of substance, but I’m always left frustrated. I should mention that these are educated people. It’s just that they have apparently decided upon a social category, which precludes the need to reexamine their original premises. I worry that my relatives are not unique in this.

Actually, my suspicions are confirmed by the plethora of blogs. There are definitely variations on themes. The themes are recurrent all the same. One might be inclined to place this blog in the “libertarian” category…in fact, those that have been gracious enough to roll me have invariably done just that. I can’t really blame them, given the handle I’ve selected. For the record though, I tend to use libertarian as an adj., in that I am not a member of the LP. Speaking of which, those in the “major parties” endeavor to slam and mischaracterize them/us in a bipartisan fashion. I’ve come to believe that both politics and religion are sustained by masses of individuals that refuse to think and act individually.