Unity of Individual and Community

I posted the following comment at Naked Capitalism today as a comment to Yves Smith’s post on passion.

“In other words, your circumstances do not create your mental state. You do.” — Yves Smith
“…a separate ego is an illusion” — Ven
“Is it still possible for an individual to be a specifically identifiable personality with values, time for personal development and pleasure, and self administereds agenda within the flow of a society/world where profit is law?” — El Snarko
“We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest” — Einstein
“ …’western’ values of the sanctity of the individual” — crazyman
“Consider for a moment the phrase, the opposite of solipsism. In solipsism, you are ultimately isolated and alone, isolated by the premise “I make it all up.” But at the other extreme, the opposite of solipsism, you would cease to exist, becoming nothing but a metaphoric feather blown by the winds of external “reality.” —number 9
We must stop trying to put primary emphasis on only one of the two: individual or community. It is not one or the other. It is both. It’s not or. It’s and. But this is not enough. We need to go further. It’s not two things: individual and community. It’s one thing. To even think of it as two things is wrong because two implies separateness. And individual and community are not separate or separable. We are social creatures. A human being totally isolated from any contact or communication with any other human would cease to be human. Almost everything we know and are comes from the community we are raised in. And if we are lucky we may build upon the knowledge and work accumulated by all those who came before us and we might make some individual contribution to our community. Not only are individual and community inseparable in practice — in our actual lives — but they simply cannot be separated conceptually. It is absurd to try to separate them. When you try to separate them, when you try to understand one without the other, you cannot understand either one. [End of Comment to Naked Capitalism]

I should add: And today our community is the whole world, all of humankind, and even the biosphere.

This is relevant to the revolution we must have in that people need to come to understand that the individual pursuit of the individual’s well-being — with no or little thought to what happens to others well-being — is not the ultimate, the privileged, the one and only goal it has become in much of the world. Individuals do not, can not exist outside a human community. Individual well-being is limited, diminished by a poor, ineffective, messed up community.

Besides there is not even such a thing as “the individual pursuit of the individual’s well-being”. Almost nothing is done individually. Almost everything an individual does is done with others. All our progress, all the things we make, almost all the knowledge we use to make things, to do things (provide services) comes from others both the living and the dead. Yes, on rare occasions some individual puts together knowledge, information, ideas of other people in a new or clever or creative way to create some new knowledge that is or will be of great value to huge numbers of people. This is wonderful. Sometimes it seems like magic. But in a smaller version this is what humans do every day in their lives, their jobs — working with others. There is some problem to be solved, a mistake in a design that must be corrected, a telephone pole blown over by the wind that must be fixed — How to do it? People use the knowledge and information they mostly have gotten from others and they work together in a small team maybe, to discuss and consider solutions till they find one they are willing to implement. Human creativity occurs in the daily life of all of us, not just in the rare grand discoveries of people like Newton and Einstein. But no matter. Even the daily creativity we all do is built upon knowledge and information we have gotten from others, those who came before us. It is only because we are ordinarily not aware of the vast store of knowledge and information we depend on, that our cultures, our communities build up and make available to us that we perhaps rate our own contributions so highly.

It is really, really, really arrogant and ignorant to ever, ever say: I did it all by myself.

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