Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The birth of modernism and postmodernism gave rise to the interrogation of the legitimacy of traditional authority of institutions over individuals. Gradually, waves upon waves of questions flooded the ideological state apparatuses regarding their power to create the identity of an individual only when that person becomes an integral member of the Church and the State, among others. Why not, when social change proved to have no place in these traditional institutions that, in fact, conserve status quo if only to continue their domination over the whole society of individuals? The liberalism associated with the modernist and postmodernist movements becomes tantalizing, then, for people who, despite being integrated to the mainstream society, still find themselves ironically alienated because of their absence of identity in the face of collectivism. Today, it is not an entirely abominating idea anymore to be different, to be an Other—actually, there is a redeeming value in celebrating an individualist identity because the previously ostracized Other can now justifiably speak for oneself even as one divorces oneself from the identified shadow of the collective. Liberalism has made it possible for an individual to see one’s worth in creating progressive change. After all, the small trickles of changes coming from individuals can accumulate into a large-scale change that shall give the society a refreshing facelift. Indeed, an individual can proclaim “I am change” because first, the collective has fallen short over the introduction of changes owing to its inherent nature of conservatism and equilibrium and second, change starts in and with individuals, above all.
Individualism and collectivism are antagonistic perspectives of the nature of humans, society and the link in between. On one hand, individualism considers the individual to be the foremost unit of reality and the final standard of value. While this perspective never denies the truth that societies exist and people gain from being associated, the society is to be held as something not over and above people but a collection of individuals. On the other hand, collectivism considers the nation, the race, the masses and many other such groups to be the foremost unit of reality and the final standard of value. While this perspective never denies the reality of the individual, one’s identity is formed through one’s relationship with others or one’s interaction with a group.
Also, individualism views people dealing foremost with reality and other people constitute one part of reality while collectivism views the group rather than the individual dealing foremost with reality through the one mediating among interactive people.
Furthermore, individualism considers that no person must be signified at the expense of another person because everyone is an end in oneself whereas collectivism considers the group’s needs and goals as being more important than those of the individual’s, necessitating personal sacrifice for the good of all.
Lastly, individualism considers the individual to be the origin of progressive change because one creates a new achievement by superseding what has been previously achieved by others while collectivism considers progressive change as a social product, with individuals participating in the collective process of change.
However conflicting, the views of individualism and collectivism can coexist. Individualism is misconstrued as isolation or being alone or beyond the outer bounds of society. The essence of individualism, in truth, cannot be seen in the absence of other humans. It does not push the individual into divorcing oneself from the rest of humanity but only promotes the idea that the individual rather than the group constitutes the society.
Hence, there is no truth in believing that individualism is isolationist and, therefore, opposing cooperation. It does not follow that if one is an individualist, one will never get along harmoniously with the group. An individual who refuses to listen to other people and does things in one’s way even if that way is inefficient, cannot be anyone but a close-minded person. In actuality, a real individualist considers truth as being more important than any authority, even himself, so he pursues the best for himself without any myopic regard for the origin of that best alternative. It is therefore an undeniable reality for individualists to see living in society and cooperating with others as beneficial, although not all coexistential and cooperative arrangements can be said so, as may be proven by the Spanish-Indios relationship during the colonial Philippines.
Also, there is no truth in believing that individualism can be contaminated in any way by collectivism, because the extremes of both philosophies cannot be fully correct. Their truth may be found in the middle of both philosophies. Since these are oppositional thoughts, no middle point exists between them. Individualism opposes the collectivist view that the group is over and above people. Collectivism views the group as the primary influence of everyone else while individualism views individuals influencing one another. Collectivism views individuals cooperating with the whole group while individualism, with other individuals. Collectivism views individuals as constructing progressive change through the society while collectivism, through every individual. Therefore, making the two philosophies go hand in hand is mere acceptance of collectivism because this thought’s point of view adjusts individuals such that the society’s sake will not be superseded by placing more importance on the individuals’ interest.