Culturalism · Self-Improvement

A New Year’s Mission

In real life, which is sometimes less believable than the internet, I tend to dispense with formalities and grandiose declarations. If I have a goal, it gets written on a scrap of paper, which will ultimately be shredded or burnt, because the vehicle itself is unimportant. What matters is my personal drive to complete the requisite objective, not how ceremoniously it was announced. This may be the fault of seeing far too many people over the years making bombastic commitments about changing their lives, only to abandon the cause after life gets in the way. Nevertheless, it works.

Except this year is different. No, I still refuse to outline some progressive scheme of self-betterment which can hopefully satisfy the local bar’s social circle long enough to sound relevant. The thought of such a process remains toxic to my senses. Instead, I am determined to continue forging a path based more on empathy for others. It is almost certain that the word elicits a clichéd eye roll from readers, yet I advise taking a pause. What I mean by empathy is challenging oneself to sincerely understand the position and life experiences of others, as opposed to either dismissing outright or mindlessly groveling before their interests.

The mere prospect of this path does not come easy to me. As a child, I concluded early on that the world had no respect for exhibitions of emotion or vulnerability, particularly from a man. Even the souls who claimed to have sympathy for such expressions would be quick to document and use them against others, typically in pursuit of personal aggrandizement. Tearing up as a boy was social suicide, just like recognizing the innate injustice of a system made you a pathetic victim. A superior approach meant being unmoved, resolute, and condescending, all traits of the “real” man.

Satisfying as these proclivities might be in the short-term, they are immensely destructive when applied across the span of life, and even more so in society. Resorting to hazing and mockery of others serves to mask genuine corruption infecting a system, whether between individuals or behind an organization’s doors. Complaining about a serious problem like manipulation or even abuse becomes the basis for a counterattack which labels the honest observer as a poisonous barnacle likely to destroy the ship. “Shut up and do what you’re told” begins to prevail, and anything else tastes of crime.

On a macro level, the mentality of refusing to comprehend other outlooks produces disastrous outcomes in national policy. Some years back, I would have giddily jumped on the bandwagon to condemn welfare users without even considering their individual status or backgrounds, which are less disdainful than many would believe. I did so because to defend them would indicate weakness or laziness, both threats to the meritocratic order we all subconsciously adhere to. Providing those people were a blurry monolith of greed offered up by shock jocks and politicians, they were incredibly easy to write-off as entirely worthless from a social standpoint.

We can see a similar dynamic inherent to issues like migration. Liberals clamor for acceptance of higher numbers in the name of human rights or decency, while seldom stopping to seriously consider how their own consumerist habits and social polices destroy traditional communities once operating on subsistence practices, if with less progressiveness than the leftist desires. Conservatives on the opposite agitate for walls and moratoriums, while also ignoring the unpleasant facts of U.S. involvement in destabilizing southern countries through the drug war and anti-leftist warfare. Unfortunately, the way we go about swiftly cordoning and demonizing rational analysis of any situation allows these illogical placeholders to not only remain, but grow stronger than before. Fighting back requires an open mind, something hardly valued in the days of now.  

Much as I may not have control over the world, nothing prevents me from demanding higher personal standards in this regard. Thus my continuing mission for 2021 will be to examine more of what I disagree with, and strive to at least know where and why others have formulated their own biases or grievances, even if my initial reaction would normally be to wave them off. It stands to be a fascinating adventure.

Will you join?

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

You’re Already An Individual

The internet seems profoundly obsessed with individualism. People harp on it to no endless degree, promising the wonderful gifts of “financial independence,” self-determination, and purposeful existence. Others present rather basic ideas as miraculous truths, developing followers who aggressively preach the merits of self, while suspiciously eyeing “collectivism” and its assorted malevolence. If cooperation is so much as suggested, these creatures leap to the defensive plane, accusing their opponents of endorsing socialism, or subverting the dignity of liberty. They rush to protect the individualism tribe, and gain immense satisfaction from such fulfilled duty.

A most apt question here would be: why? Once we peel back the outraged drama and look at actual human behavior, the stark individualism of people is manifested in an exaggerated manner which rises to frustrate the suggestion of our aforementioned friends. If anything, society is far more dedicated to the illustrious self than the promoter wishes to imagine.

Suppose for example one is going to purchase a car. Perhaps they will buy something to impress people in close communion with them, or even take friendly advice on the matter. More often than not however, the decision is driven by personal (read: individual) qualities. It could be a beater model, chosen because that chap can’t afford something on the pricier side, or possibly a vehicle which “matches my personality.” Never mind how those folks typically say they are focused and reliable whilst buying a Chrysler; the point remains as an individualistic contention.

Colleges and living spaces are similarly outlined. If it is financially viable, or happily debt-fueled, highschoolers will typically choose an institution with the appropriate program to match their personal interests, preferably in a state or country with enjoyable backdrops. Sure, the skeptic could argue that most college institutions have a Marxist hive mind, but at least in theory the students are exercising a degree of independence and personal choice. Once they graduate, certain cities might hold appeal for the diversity and nightlife, while others retreat to the country roads. Are these normal patterns of human behavior all reflections of some collectivist conspiracy?

Even the push for FIRE lifestyles on the internet dot com invariably leads to more self-centeredness and LESS focus on the community. The act of budgeting away little things like the morning coffee or diner breakfast to save money diminishes the chances of interacting with others and supporting a local (or chain) business. Another clear and present theme in the financial-digital realm is the emphasis on not having kids in order to retire early. As far as the checkbook side of things is concerned, this makes perfect sense; why would anyone reproduce if the cost of raising one child can be as much as $233,000, not counting college? Yet somehow we are not individualistic enough.

Perhaps the real issue is more complicated. We already are highly individualistic, and well-adapted for a consumer capitalist society, but this is not adequate. Instead of people finding meaning in family and community, which have been stained by the collectivist shackles, they turn to some higher level of individualism for salvation. Just a little more self-improvement, positive mindset-building, and financial freedom. Then I’ll be a REAL individual. So Able Earnest proclaims, as his life becomes emptier by the waking second.

This concept collides with Emile Durkheim’s idea of the anomie, or disconnection of individuals from social standards and economic systems commonplace in advanced societies. It develops as a “malady of the infinite,” where the person in question constantly desires more, but cannot be satisfied in the confines of his social system, leading to derangement or possibly suicide. Likewise, modern neoliberal cultures fixate on meritocracy and individualism, while suppressing the value inherent to Bilbo’s “home above gold” or group solidarity versus individualism.

But I’m just a jealous collectivist, so pay no mind.