Individualism is grand, but society still needs interaction

    We Americans gluttonously binge upon many things: food, fast food, cheap beer, expensive (but not really) gasoline, bad movies, terrible music, worse television; but this is all old news. Our most rapturous and destructive craving, however, is our notion of individuality. It has become so simple and status quo to experience nearly everything cultural on a personal level, like listening to iPod music in those ubiquitous ear-buds that seal off one fifth — which, coincidentally, is how much vodka my roommate’s girlfriend drank on Sun God — of the senses, or like watching a DVD sitting on a semen-and-mustard-stained couch in the privacy of one’s home. We have lately come to embrace the individual perspective as the dominant point of view at all times, in any situation, regarding all things, assured that if we all care only about “me and mine,” the world will run smoothly. This perspective, though it speaks for the “every-person-is-unique” standpoint of the PC generation from which we rise, forgets one important thing: exclaimed by George Costanza, the paragon of reason, “We live in a society!”

    If there is one common template connecting all the classes, lectures, and shit-reading I’ve done in recent years, it is this: First, someone comes up with a brilliant, revolutionizing theory regarding something; then, the theory is subsequently disproved by someone else, who said the exact opposite thing; then, in recent years, experts in the field, bitterly divided over which theory is correct, find with their mighty science that the answer is a combination of the two. (My roommate tells me this is called the dialectic, coming from Hegel, and I believe him.) This “dialectic,” applied to our unshakable worship of the individual, tells us that the best path to take is not one that places the most value upon the individual, nor is it one that places the most value upon the greater aggregate of society. The answer, as always, is two-faced, where society enriches the individual, and the individual enriches society.

    We all must integrate ourselves into the group; it is only natural and surely inevitable. The problem, in our individualistically consumed society, is that our connection to the group (pop culture) is through the hegemony of television, mass (and local) media, blockbuster movies, Clear Channel radio and advertisements, all supplied by the groupthink of those pesky corporations, tailored for our witless whims. In an effort to give us what they think we want, they have created a culture that delivers only instant gratification, the logical demand of our collective egotism. The vast majority of individuals will choose instant gratification over something possibly more rewarding, like choosing a box of Ho-Ho’s over a home-cooked meal from an unfamiliar recipe. We use the group to guide each individual toward new ideas, experiences and culture, but when the group is the magistracy of the corporate salesman, all they will give us is what they believe we want, more of the same. The group that we connect ourselves to should not be the hand-me-downs from the committee, but the discourse between individuals in the group, where each member is willing and able to instruct the others, and each member has something to learn. Yes, we are a society — indeed made up of individuals — and so our collective culture should consist of more than our mutual agreement over the lifestyle handed down to us by advertisers and the media groups under their dominion.

    The individual, mind you, is extraordinarily important. Our culture affects us personally, and through the choices we make, the desires we feed and the things we like, we create our own personalities. Yet if we keep it all to ourselves, hoarding our own personalities, we will not be able to progress individually unless we fight off the false group identity of instant gratification and embrace all that we can learn from the individual personalities of others, teaching them the best parts of our own. This group of real people will fulfill our desires to teach, learn and progress, and can only come from our respect of the individual as well as our respect for the society made by, and for, individuals.

    Many reputable sources of conservative thought (like the Sunday funnies’ Mallard Fillmore) lash out against the news media’s liberal bias on a near daily basis, touting their own individualist agenda of “Just the facts, please. Let the people decide.” The liberal bias, however, is an example of the vestiges of the people in the media who understand their individual importance to society. There is no vast conspiracy of liberalism; it is simply the result of the knowledge amassed by individual journalists, who want to teach society the lessons that they have learned first-hand, instead of letting the ignorant form their own opinions based on half-heard facts. Knowledge, like culture, can only be cultivated individually, but like culture, is meaningless unless it is shared.

    The entertainment industry, deep in the pockets of advertisers, does not understand this idea of how knowledge should be shared; it will only give the people what they want. The individual should not give the group what it wants, but what the individuals themselves want. This, like the invisible hand and golden rule of culture, will lead us away from the prefabricated advertisements that are our modern American pop culture, and into something artistic, vivid and intelligent.

    There is no monopoly on intellect, or on culture. If those of us that have cultivated intellect and culture started spreading it, instead of hoarding all the good stuff for ourselves, we just might be able to tear those junkies off of their MTV and allow them to bask in the warm rays of enlightenment. We must hereafter connect our iPods to speakers, no longer to our headphones. We cannot survive unless we learn from each other.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal