In my previous post I may have sounded like I was coming down on the side of individualism, which is not really consistent with my view of life. I’m actually somewhat suspicious of individualism. Or rather, I’m somewhat suspicious of individualist ideologies.
On the other hand I hate and fear the Borg-like hive-mind that increasingly dominates our society.
I don’t believe we can ever re-create vanished societies but I do think we can learn a lot from the way our society was in the past. More traditional societies do tend towards collectivism. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a statist authoritarian collectivism or the horror of the cultural Left hive-mind. There are some major differences.
In traditional societies there is to be sure pressure to conform but there’s also an emphasis on social responsibility, and that means not just the individual’s duty to society but also society’s duty to the individual. There’s a web of interlocking responsibilities, rather than a demand for mere obedience to the collective will. It’s society as a gigantic extended family rather than a hive. There’s a balance between individualism and the needs of society. The balance might be titled towards society but it’s not tilted too far.
The second difference is that traditional societies enforce conformity in certain areas because long experience has shown that some rules are necessary, and the rules are those which have been proven to work. Traditional sexual morality was enforced because on the whole it made life better for almost everybody. It allowed children to be reared in safety. It gave women security, dignity, purpose and status. It worked. Our modern ever-changing morality of infinite indulgence is not based on experience or on any kind of understanding of biology or human behaviour. And while traditional sexual morality was certainly enforced it was mostly not enforced by formal authority.
A third difference is that traditional societies have more or less fixed rules. Everyone knows the rules. Our modern society has constantly changing rules and that’s a strong clue to the fact that the main purpose of the rules is to enforce obedience for the sake of obedience and to create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
And a fourth difference, and perhaps the most important, is that traditional societies were concerned with policing behaviours rather than thoughts or private conversations. Within a basically collectivist society there was still room for a reasonably high degree of individuality. Even behaviour was only policed within limits.
Our modern society claims to worship diversity and autonomy but crushes the individual spirit. The modern soft totalitarianism is bad but extreme individualism is equally bad. It’s a choice between psychological imprisonment on the one hand and psychological emptiness and nihilism on the other. We need to look at the way traditional societies did things to find ways to have connectedness without joining the Borg.