by Alex Symington….
Don’t we each, individually, consider ourselves to be our own person, free in mind and body; autonomous, sentient beings possessing free will and masters of our own destiny? Sure we do and it is mostly the case, but not entirely. In reality we are what Leon Russell dubbed, “a hippie commune bona fide” in the sense we are social animals and our great successes as a species have come about by communal cooperation. Early hunter/gatherer families did ok as far as it went, but when teamed up with a few other families they were physically safer and more efficient in their hunting and gathering tasks. You can see where I’m going with this; more families, more safety and more food as agricultural technology was introduced and so forth bringing us to the pinnacle of civilization, the drive through burger joint. I jest, but my point is that more can be accomplished with the cooperative effort of the many than with the lone individual, no matter how intelligent or creative they are.
Of course single individuals throughout history have excelled and contributed scientific, artistic or other unique gifts to humanity, yet even these brilliant people did not create these gifts in a vacuum. They had teachers and social structure and an environment that made their respective contributions to society possible.
Fast-forward to the present. Man, it’s gotten complicated! We now live in a war based economy where hyper-capitalism has co-opted our government and the checks and balances that used to hold the wolves at bay have been legislated away. The rich and mighty few have engineered this coup to get richer and mightier still as the majority of us squabble over table scraps. The destruction of human lives and the planet’s eco-system by these greedy sociopaths continues unabated on a global scale as their choke-hold on political systems strengthens, yet, we the people are told we just need to tighten our belts another notch and shut up and all will be well, implying the people are the problem.
In a way we are. In order for Global Corporate Finance to pull off this robbery of the millennium it takes some compliance on the people’s part. We have to be willing participants in our own domination. Movements to end Global Corporate Finance’s death grip, such as Occupy Wall Street, are quickly neutered and rendered harmless with the assistance of corporate sponsored media, the watering down of our first and fourth amendments and militarization of civilian police. Another more devious and sophisticated method of weakening efforts for positive social change is the marketing of individual “personal freedom(s)”, AKA infantile narcissism vs common welfare.
One of the most effective means to take power from the people is to convince them they don’t need to cooperate with each other. In fact, make cooperation a sign of weakness and promote the illusion of “rugged individualism”. Remember when the Romney people latched on to a snippet of an Obama campaign speech? “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The right took the last two lines and ran with it, ignoring context, of course. I’m not a huge fan of O, but his point is that no one is truly autonomous and anyone that got anywhere did so with assistance of some kind. Congressman Paul Ryan, one time Republican running mate of Mitt Romney and the darling of the right wing anti-tax bunch, requested and received government stimulus money after ridiculing the program calling it a “wasteful spending spree” and a “monstrosity”. Ryan’s own goddess of mean spirited got-mine-ism, Ayn Rand, collected Social Security and Medicare. Nobody does hypocrisy quite as well as the right, yet this does not stop the right’s delusional promotion of the impossible state of total individual autonomy.
For a society to efficiently function for the benefit of the majority it must have laws and limits that just might infringe on the individual. I’m sorry that you must stop your car at a stop sign even though it infringes on your right to drive however you please. Excuse me, that is a bit obvious, but no less relevant than a law that prevents a factory from poisoning a river or health and safety regulations in food production or laws preventing racial discrimination.
This concept of personal freedom replacing the common good is a recipe for disaster for most of us, but a boon to the big players at the top. While we’re all down here on the bottom strutting our terminal uniqueness and breaking bad accomplishing nothing, the fat cats on top are taking us to the cleaners. Think on that the next time you’re driving the car you built on the road you built to the store you built to buy the food you grew.