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The A to Z of isms... individualism.
If someone called you an individualist, would you be flattered or insulted?
An individualist might be a rugged John Wayne, a pioneer like Amy Johnson, a creative innovator like Kate Bush, or an entrepreneur like Richard Branson.
People we admire for refusing to follow the crowd, for being true to themselves.
But individualism is also often said to be the source of Western civilization's degeneracy, accused of leading to selfishness, shallow consumerism, the breakdown of society.
Individualism is a double-edged sword.
Many believe its Western roots go right back to early Christianity.
Jesus taught that salvation did not depend on what tribe you belong to, but on how you chose to live your life.
God had a one-to-one relationship with people, not to groups.
The 16th Century Protestant Reformation took this further, taking away the need for priests to act as intermediaries between God and ordinary people.
This sowed the seeds for the flowering of the modern individual in the 18th Century Enlightenment.
The Prussian philosopher Kant summed up its key message in the Latin phrase "sapere aude"— dare to know, to think for yourself.
Personal autonomy became the central value of Western society.
We see this in the principles of one person, one vote; civil liberties; and equal rights for all.
But this in many ways welcome development has gone hand in hand with the decline of community.
The growth of independence and autonomy leads to a decline in interdependence and solidarity.
In other cultures these communal values have traditionally taken precedence.
Across East Asia, who you are cannot be separated from the groups you belong to.
That does not mean you lose your identity in the crowd, you find your identity in it: as a parent, a child, a ruler, a teacher, an apprentice.
When we can all be different and yet all come together, we have harmony, the highest value in Confucian philosophy.
Across the world individualism is lamented when it turns us into atomized units, cut off from each other, showing little or no interest in our fellow citizens.
But if you can be yourself, while also being part of society, contributing to it, your individualism will be praised and celebrated.
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Individualism: Is it a good thing? | BBC Ideas

2599 Folder Collection
Seraya published on April 23, 2020    Seraya translated    adam reviewed
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