Searching for individualism in society can seem like the natural path for some, whilst others may think of it as unthinkable. If you were to think about it, your existence, you being who you are is a formula made up of countless elements, each of which had countless variations of which anyone could have taken the place of that element. Yet, there is a constant battle between our uniqueness, or individualism, and its place within society.
In search of individualism in society
Humans are indeed social beings, but over time I think the term ‘social beings’ has been misinterpreted and misused. Today it is mainly seen as a term meaning to belong to a group and being unable to survive without that group. I think people are social beings from the understanding of themselves and finding others alike. Not having to make yourself fit into the existing boxes which are set by society and having others give value to your existence in terms of likes and a fan base. There are no boxes or labels.
Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life.
Every being is an entire universe all on its own, looking to find others that may share the same interests. And not for validity, but to be able to share thoughts, learn from one another and develop individually. Not to group up and separate themselves from the others by saying “this is us and that is them”. Every person has so many interests that one can’t just belong to one label, and yet society forces us to simplify our existence to just one label, as though it makes things easier for all. But it doesn’t make things easier, because by concentrating on one piece of an entire whole, you are deluding yourself and missing out on the entire picture.
Deep down a lot of people are fueled by self-discovery and the search for some understanding of what life is all about. They may not even be aware of it, however, some are consciously on a path of self-discovery, which is the closest that they will ever be to the real picture. Truly understanding oneself helps get a better picture of what life is truly about, as we are all little reflections of the bigger picture.
Many even explore all corners of the world and decide to experience life for themselves. One thing I have noticed is that when a person travels into unfamiliar places, out of their comfort zone, without their social circles, they begin to see life and see themselves. They discover other people, cultures, and history. And over time, they begin to notice that things are different but, in the end, everything stems from the same.
We are all human beings, living in a controlled structure, but when you get to the bottom of it, we are all alike. We are born and one day will die and only that which we choose to do in between those two moments is what makes our life. Yes, some circumstances are out of our hands, but the way we react to them, understand them and accept them is entirely up to us. The way we choose to live and whether or not we decide to keep living in a controlled environment is also up to us.
Relationship between society and the individual
There is nothing wrong with thinking of oneself in terms of self-development. It is important to understand that self-development and becoming egoistical are two very different things, although many pretend like that line that divides them is pretty thin. When you concentrate on your own self-development and discovery, it is an act for not only yourself but a positive input into the society surrounding you. Self-discovery and self-development are about being at peace with yourself, focusing your time on something which makes you grow as a human being, and being happy with yourself. There is no place for greed or anger as you face yourself and acknowledge who you are, what your capabilities are, and find peace within.
In our daily life, we encounter people who are angry, deceitful, intent only on satisfying their own needs. There is so much anger, distrust, greed, and pettiness that we are losing our capacity to work well together.
This acknowledgement of self separates you from the constraints of society, however, the society as a whole also benefits from individuals who know themselves, as they no longer have the invisible barriers of having to be accepted by strangers and the need to fit into a made-up box with a label. These individuals see things differently and most importantly, they are motivated to share with others. The act of sharing is not seen as a means to compete and bring out jealousy in others, but rather they understand that sharing something with others can lead to helping others, which in the end will result in more people unleashing themselves from social structures and truly discovering themselves, not through the eyes of others, but from self acknowledgement.
Egoism, on the other hand, is the absolute opposite. It is about making yourself a magnet within society and making your self interest the centre of all, not to benefit others, but just to benefit yourself, regardless of the cost. It is about seeing your worth in strangers’ eyes, being driven to be at the top of the illusional social structure pyramid. Egoism exists when the culture of competition is present, and competition can only exist in the case of dire survival or in the presence of structures that society chooses to be the scale by which one’s value is measured. Egoism is destructive and in the long term does not create progress. It is fueled by one taking more than one needs for themselves, with no room for compassion and no interest for the future of all.
The biggest problem with egoism is that whilst the individual is draining the shared resources for one’s gain, that which they take is not being replaced. If you were to imagine a bucket full of rocks being the society and resources, and one person comes along and quickly takes as many rocks as possible out of the bucket, holding them in their hands and filling their pockets, whilst trying to get away and hide those rocks in their little hiding place. Eventually, the bucket will end up empty, and if no one fills it, there will no longer be anything left for anyone to have. Nowadays, no one wants to fill that bucket because they know that there are those who sit and simply wait to take whatever is placed into that bucket. Egoism can only benefit one individual in the short term and leaves no path for productivity and development, not for that individual and certainly not for the society.
Today’s society is a materialistic one, fueled by individual ego. It could possibly be the result of the power structure we have today which resembles a pyramid, with a leader on the top and the mass of the population at the bottom. Each individual thinks of oneself and places their interests above everything and everyone else. Today people go so far as to even step over someone else if that is what it takes for them to benefit themselves. There is enough blame to go around. Society accepts this trend we live in, as society willingly follows those who set the rules which happen to be the leader that the society chose to sit on top of the pyramid. Those in power made such a way of living acceptable as that is the first thing leaders do the moment they get the keys handed over to them and society follows by the leader’s example, with each individual acting in their own best interest rather than in the interest of everyone.
People say that this is how it’s always been, which is incorrect. Other structures also existed before, such as that of a tribal structure. Tribal structures with counsels had a very different focus and goal for the individual and society. Individuals did not focus on their own benefit but thought about the benefit of all. Their own benefit was linked to the benefit of the rest, as they knew that when each individual inputs something for all, the entire society benefits, and this will benefit them directly in the short and long term.
Individualism vs socium
Fear and loss of self within society
Most people hold onto society’s made-up structures because we are taught that without them, we would lose ourselves. In reality, seeing these structures for what they truly bring us that much closer to recognizing our true selves.
The more time you waste trying to be what others want you to be, the more you lose yourself.
So many people feel lost because in one way or another they don’t fit perfectly into these made-up boxes created by society and year in and year out, blame themselves and think that it is their fault. Seeing themselves as broken. But maybe it’s not about them being broken. It is the structures themselves that are outdated and aren’t suitable for today’s individuals, who need more from life than illusional walls, being told what to think, what to believe, strictly to colour within the lines, and to never question or allow their minds to wonder about the bigger picture.
Individual opinions and society’s reaction
Those in power want society to be in conflict and society makes it so easy for them. All they need to do is bring attention to a certain matter, be it political, gender, religion, and so on, and then they just sit back and watch how the mass begins to divide and fight one another. Keep in mind that every time someone voices their opinion about something, whether for or against it, they are automatically adding importance to the issue. Even even if the subject they are talking about is not important, it automatically becomes the highlight of the day. This system works so well to create conflict within society, as all it takes is for someone to create a situation where everyone happily bombards their opinions, and something which was not an issue suddenly spreads like wildfire and becomes THE issue.
A wise man makes his own decisions an ignorant man follows the public opinion.
On a smaller scale, the meaning of beauty and ‘perfection’ takes great advantage of this when promoting products to crowds. For instance, if a public figure points attention to their toned body followed by healthy tips, they are automatically sending the message that “unless you are healthy, you won’t look like this”, followed by the message of “this is the accepted form of beauty”. Both messages automatically place that public figure as an icon of ‘perfection’ and anyone who doesn’t look like them does not meet the criteria of ‘perfection’.
People concentrate on issues that have zero effect on the larger picture. They put so much energy by ganging up against one another on topics of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and so on when at the end of the day these topics have no effect on the real issues that concern everyone. The real concerning issues have no preference on your skin colour, heritage, gender, or your faith. Yet people spend so much of their time taking sides and creating conflict from thin air. And then when the group of people gets the rights they fight for, they push the idea everywhere, adding more fuel to the fire of those who were against it, continuing the circle of hate. Creating division and amplifying hate whether you are against something or have won the battle for your side, is a never-ending circle because as soon as one thing gets sorted, society quickly switches to the next issue at hand and the circle keeps going.
I am against the circle because this circle shouldn’t exist in the first place. We should not be concerned about picking at the choices of individuals or convincing others that they are wrong just because they may have a different view to that of our own. Variety and differences are what adds more angles and create a wider view of things, which we are in desperate need of. People shouldn’t have to justify and fight for being who they are. While society gangs up on individuals because they don’t fit the illusional perfect picture of that society, there are matters at play that affect all of us and are happening before our very eyes. It really won’t matter what skin colour you have, what gender you associate with and what your views and opinions are if the land you stand on and the air you breathe is slowly killing you, because while you were busy pointing fingers at one another, those you call leaders, were busy destroying everything around you just to feed their ego and grow their bank accounts.
Social media has made it so easy for division and conflict to spread as today most people are just waiting to voice their opinion, disregarding the consequences of their words. Most times you question whether they care about this issue or if they simply want to voice themselves and possibly get others to agree with them to get that extra tap on the shoulder of their ego. It seems like most people are willing to jump at the opportunity to voice themselves, and yet when it comes to setting things in motion and doing something, they are usually nowhere to be found.
Compassion is another item that lacks in society today. If one had compassion, they wouldn’t jump to judge and spread hate. They would place themselves in another’s place or imagine a loved one in that position or would think of the repercussions on the future generations. Yet, compassion is thrown out the window when there is a chance to express your opinion as the ego is in the driver’s seat. It is hard to blame the masses for choosing to say their opinions rather than hearing others and coming up with a solution, as they are allowing themselves to act the same way as those in power do, by giving their ego-free reigns with no care for consequences.
Division within community
Society listens openly to all the things their governments say and never stop and question all the things governments don’t say. Within every society, governments make sure to keep their people divided; be it by using topics like politics, religion, gender, race, social class, education, and so on. The leaders bait people with a topic and the people fall for the bait every time. The government knows that people can’t help themselves by taking sides and try proving to the others that they are right. Their ego can’t survive defeat.
Just look at how we speak to one another. People listen but don’t hear one another, as though they only listen to wait for the perfect moment to speak back. It is no surprise that they say wise people listen more and speak less. And whilst the people are dividing themselves into ‘them and us’ and are busy proving themselves right, they never stop and question anything beyond the current topic of conflict.
We need to reach that happy stage of our development when differences and diversity are not seen as sources of division and distrust, but of strength and inspiration.
Society does a great job to play into the conflict game created by its leaders. The ones in power no longer need to introduce new social structures and social circles for society to divide themselves into “this is us and that is them”. Society does it all on their own, be it religion that divides them, or their economic status, or even gender. Instead of individuals focusing on themselves, we are brought up thinking we must fit into some social box with a label on it.
The government wants people to be in conflict with one another. Between nations, labeling another nation as your enemy makes it that much easier to send off your people to get killed in the name of their country, but in reality, it is simply to feed their own ego. Within the nation, governments want there to be division because with people dividing and hating one another, people take sides and certain laws are easier to enforce and have people agree with them when there is a ready-made division and one side will, without a question, side with your new regulation.
Division within society is useful for governments because when people are focused on petty discussions like race, gender, religion, social class, political party, and so on, people won’t have the time to question their government or even life in general and see the control structure mechanism for what it really is. Everyone is occupied to prove to their neighbor that they are the ones that are right when everyone is a mile in the opposite direction of being anywhere close to being right or even close to the truth. For those in power, they need people to focus on those petty conflicts because that’s what keeps people occupied.
There is a certain pattern that the government uses time and time again to direct the people towards something that they want to achieve but cannot bring about directly, as the people may not accept it. So, they devise a plan of events that will result in a need for a solution and their initial plan will be presented as a solution which people will opt-in for. For example, let’s look at the collection of personal information on every citizen. Governmental institutions work at such a horrible speed that people won’t think twice about having their documents done remotely to avoid wasting hours in queues. Then they are presented with a solution of having an online system that brings together all the departments under one roof, all you need to do is log in and in one platform you have access to all your personal details and sensitive information which will allow you to make transfers or fill out applications remotely. The crowd cheers.
I see the comfort of such a system. But what concerns me is that anyone with the right amount of programming skills can get into that system and have access to anyone’s information. Another thing that is even more concerning is that governments have all the details on everyone a click away. It really is like living in Big Brother. The government no longer even pretends to care to ask what you want as they have all the details and can pretty much track the patterns of the entire society, every individual becomes a little fish in an aquarium.
Now let’s take a look at social media. Social media platforms allow their users to sign up and fill out the information, with users thinking that their information is safe, and signing up to the platforms is a harmless way to connect people. That was the perception until one of the largest social media platforms not leaked, but sold user data to third parties. The option to download your entire profile and all the information connected to your profile has been there for as long as I remember. I used it as an annual backup since I sometimes lost original images which I had uploaded onto Facebook. But only recently have people found out that their personal information was being tracked and saved? To an extent, I blame the users for putting so much trust into a huge business. People should know by now that anything put on the internet never gets deleted and gets stored somewhere and may easily be accessed and even sold to someone. So if you don’t want certain information to be out there, don’t put it out there yourself. 9% of users in America and one in twenty users in the UK closed their Facebook accounts after the entire Cambridge Analytic data scandal. I am surprised how quickly people went back to their normal lives, considering what actually happened and how personal data was simply sold off for someone to make more money.
The information that is freely shared by users has also created a digital advertising market, which has now forced the traditional advertising market to make dramatic changes in the way they advertise to the audience. Nowadays they can simply target specific people without targeting everyone which will decrease their costs at aiming content at everyone, by focusing on specific interests which are supplied by users free of charge. And we, the society do their work for them but freely and with ease giving out our information.
Now I get from a business point of view how this can be considered harmless. So, the adverts get aimed at the right population, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, but ads aren’t the only things that get promoted and targeted to certain sections of the population. You can literally push forward anything, which makes this pretty dangerous especially when what is pushed across is incorrect or filtered content that does not tell the whole story but gives just enough detail to blindly make crowds follow an idea that is far from true or real.
It is safe to say that one thing that people, especially those in power, have learned, is to be masters of making a good thing to be used in wrong ways and for their own agenda. It should literally be the number one requirement for anyone to take on a power position.