Individual, Community & National Dreams

Watching America is a site with translated news items from abroad concering America.
Particularly liked this:

In his closing speech at the second meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress, Xi Jinping described the dream of his people:
“To achieve a comprehensively well-off society, to build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious modern socialist country, and to attain the Chinese dream of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation is to achieve prosperity, revitalize the nation and bring about the happiness of the people.”

Seven Traits Distinguishing the Chinese Dream from the American Dream

The Chinese dream is of national prosperity, while the American dream is of personal prosperity.

The goal of the Chinese dream is the revitalization of the nation, while the goal of the American dream is personal success.

The Chinese people must realize the Chinese dream themselves, but the American dream can be obtained by exploiting the talents and resources of other nations.

The Chinese dream is group harmony and happiness, while the American dream is personal freedom and happiness.

The Chinese dream has a deep sense of history, while the American dream has only practical experience.

The Chinese dream relies on the efforts and abilities of all, while the American dream depends on encouraging individuality.

The Chinese dream is for the glory of the nation, while the American dream is for personal glory.

Individualism, like anything else, can be taken too far. It is my belief that we Americans have in fact gone to extremes in this regard. We celebrate the unique and individual and are mostly ignorant or unconcerned with the communal. Humans are social animals, but we have designed a culture where much of our socializing is skin-deep; shared sports enthusiasms, a zillion Facebook [pseudo] friends, etc. The problem IMO is that the things we share are the trivia of life rather than the basics. There’s a big difference in the sense of community resulting from constructing a house from scratch with a handful of people or from attending a football game with a handful of people; between helping an 80-year-old plant/weed/harvest her garden and texting snarky comments about old-lady-drivers. Down deep, we know this, and try – usually with poor results – to acquire a sense of community. We gather about a sports, entertainment or political figures but the personal connection is missing. Instead of learning about the past and developing a personal link to our ancestors, we get our DNA typed and are satisfied [but not really] with a scientific document that strips the meat from our collective bones. We’re lucky to consider our children, much less seven generations into the future.

There was a time in America when the community was more important than the individual. There was generally room for individualism within those communities, but there were admittedly limitations and it was altogether proper to work toward eliminating those restrictions, basically through education. Unfortunately, we seem to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. It’s no longer a case of being a fully-realized individual within a community – it’s a case of being a partially-realized individual without a community. The reason for that failure is simple – as a social animal, we cannot fully realize ourselves outside a community of our fellow humans.

Ben Franklin was reputed to have said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
He was referring to the Declaration of Indpendence and the revolution, but the sentiment applies equally well to the currrent challenges the American people are facing. We’re not going to fix our problems via individualism, unless your definition of ‘fix’ is to become a hermit, in which case you forfeit the communal part of yourself.

4 Replies to “Individual, Community & National Dreams”

  1. While there’s always been some tension between community and individualism in the U.S., authoritarianism always promotes individualism because it makes people easier to control. An awful lot of PR went into the promotion of individualism from the late 70s on. Every institution except the corporation was attacked, with the message that you are too special and smart to support any of the institutions.

    Unions? You don’t need a union. You’re hardworking and unions just protect the lazy.
    Political parties? You’re smart enough to see through the political process. You vote for the best man (it was the 70s), not the party.
    Churches? You’re spiritual, not religious. Organized religion gets between you and God.

    All this helped gut the organizations as means of people coming together for common goals, and enabled takeover by good servants of the elite. The unions shriveled, the political parties became mere brands, and the corporate media presented God as simply a sex policeman.

    “We Americans” didn’t go to extremes on individualism by ourselves. It took heavy propaganda even to give the illusion of such heavy emphasis on individualism. Still, most polls show that the U.S, public supports community goals in education, health care, decreased military spending, and so on.

    1. In the rural communities, you’ll still find a blend of community and individualism.
      That’s one thing I always noted about true Westerners (as opposed to Easterners who moved to Colorado Springs/Denver/Montana/etc. and put on cowboy boots): They are generally very tolerant of individuals up to the point that individual behavior negatively affects the community. Then they come down hard in defense of the community.

  2. Powerful stuff, and an agrument I have been shouting into a vacuum for several years. In attempting to protect/enrich the individual we are destroying a nation.

    This “keeping the nation safe from terrorists” is just such a point. The nation, as a nation, is in absolutely no danger from terrorists. The threat is to individuals, and a very small number of individuals at that. And yet we call it “national security,” invade other nations, kill other people all over the world, destroy our own economy, and surrender civil liberties to keep the nation, actually a few people, safe from terrorists. We are not doing good for the greatest number, we are causing the nation as a whole to suffer for the benefit of the few, not even knowing who those few are.

    Watch national news and you will see another symptom of the same issue. They state the news item, fires in Colorado causing suffering for thousands of people, and then we hear, “Paul and Mary Smith have lived her for twenty years and lost everything,” and are treated to ten minutes of Mary weeping over lost photo albums. No sweeping films of the fire, no economic impact to the city od Colorado Springs or the state of Colorado, no real context. They believe they can tell us all about a 25 square mile fire by interviewing one homeowner. Because that is what this nation is about: one person.

    It is, ultimately, self destructive. If we do not take care of that which forms our social fabric we will become a pack of individuals killing each other for what today we would regard as table scraps.

  3. it’s a case of being a partially-realized individual without a community.

    That’s alienation. Without a community the ‘partially realized’ can create their own fantasies that count as reality and do what they feel is necessary to feel protected. Occasionally, the seriously ill, the impulsively volatile, or many of our leaders develop the rationales of paranoid schizophrenia. It only takes a few to disrupt things for everyone and provide more impetus for alienation.

    Thoughtful, steeleweed!

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