The Individual And Society

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”—Rudyard Kipling

Several years ago I wrote an essay exploring the idea that the very foundational virtue of traditional conservatism—its stalwart belief in the primacy of the individual—was also its greatest weakness and Achilles heel. I discussed how traditional conservatism and classical liberalism’s fundamental focus on the inalienable rights and power of the individual, while noble in original intent and execution, was far too easily corruptible by the subversive ideological forces of the left, thereby leaving the right severely weakened and largely ineffective in waging the ensuing political and cultural wars. Since writing that essay several years ago, my rightist views have continued to evolve and mature. And while I still stand by what I originally wrote, I decided to partially revisit and expand upon this topic and how it relates to our modern political, social, and cultural situation in light of my evolved views.

First and foremost, I still firmly believe in the rights, liberty, and power of the individual. This pillar of individualism has not really changed for me—however, I now hold these views within an evolved context and with certain conditions. I believe that in a free and civil society every man should be equally afforded the liberty and self-determination to pursue his own course and legitimate self-interests to the best of his abilities and ambitions, without unnecessary, unreasonable, or overbearing intrusion from the state. Additionally, every man should be afforded the right to property and the fruits of his own labor, free from unnecessary or punitive taxation and regulation by the state. Yet with such individual privilege also comes great responsibility, and if a man is to be free and self-determined then he must also be largely self-reliant, personally responsible, and accountable to himself and his society. Therefore, a healthy, able-bodied responsible man must not be dependent or look to others or the state as his primary means of sustenance and survival. A moral and compassionate free society will help the truly unfortunate or disabled when necessary, but must never tolerate malingerers and parasites. By adhering to the virtues of accountable and responsible individualism, a civil society comprised of strong free men becomes itself a strong and stable society—when certain conditions apply.

Yet in my earlier essay, I described the free individual as the cornerstone of society and as the smallest basic unit of a free society—and it is this point which I would like to slightly amend and expand on. And while I still agree with this idea to a point, I no longer view the primacy of the individual as the highest social virtue. For individualism, when taken too far and held in too high esteem without mitigating unifying factors, can lead to the atomization of society—where individuals become nothing more than isolated units ripe for statist exploitation and oppression. I will elaborate more on this point below. So, while a society comprised of strong free men is desirable and admirable, a stable and cohesive society must be held together and unified by more than just independent individuals.

Yes, a society is of course made up of individuals. But to hold the virtue of the primacy of the individual above all else, as many traditional conservatives and even libertarians do, is a recipe for social devastation. Thus, in order for a society to be strong, stable, and cohesive, it must inspire more than just the virtue of individualism. It must focus on building strong and cohesive interconnected, unified networks and communities, which in turn will serve to strengthen the social fabric. The first and primary network that a healthy society must promote and encourage is the institution of the traditional nuclear family, led by strong patriarchs. The importance of the nuclear family in passing on traditional values and promoting a solid and stable society cannot be overstated. Strong families create strong societies. One could then easily make the argument that the traditional nuclear family, and not the individual alone, is actually the cornerstone of a free society.

Beyond the family, individual free men must also create cohesive and cooperative networks among themselves, establishing deep friendships and bonds grounded and bound by brotherhood, loyalty, and honor. How such networks ultimately form, whether among extended family, neighbors, coworkers, congregations, or by any other means or combinations, does not really matter so long as they exist. Furthermore, any given man in society is likely to be part of several different overlapping networks, which only serves to further strengthen the social fabric like the interconnected rings of chainmail armor. And it is these kinds of networks which in turn build strong, stable, and cohesive communities, communities which then concentrically expand outward in layers to create a strong and vibrant society and nation.

The critical element which greatly contributes and ensures that men in society form such bonds, and ultimately robust and stable cohesive communities, is when free men share a sense of common identity. Such an identity is primarily based on unifying fundamentals like a common history, tradition, language, religion, and culture, which in turn further promotes a shared sense of morality, values, and common social goals and an overall belief system. Simply put, a common identity allows for individual men in society to better understand, relate, and mutually respect one another due to a common background and culture—they know where the other is coming from, even if they don’t always agree.

What this all essentially means is that in order to create a strong and stable society, the free individual must view himself as more than just an individual looking out solely for his own interests. Rather, he must proudly view and value himself as a part of something greater and longer lasting than himself. And this is far easier for a man to do when he can relate to his countrymen and his society is reflective of his identity and values. Thus, it is this kind of common identity and deep bonds and networks which transform the free individual into more than just an isolated atomized unit, but rather an integral part of a unified whole. Yes, in a free and civil society the individual has a right to self-interest and self-determination, but he also sacrifices some of his individuality and liberty in order to reap the benefits of cohesive cooperation and survival. This is the fundamental essence of the social contract and ordered liberty: A man gains the collective benefits of society but in exchange his actions and behavior are constrained in some ways and he is expected to act in socially responsible and productive ways.

No, this is not leftist egalitarian collectivism. Far from it. It is a society of free men, bound by brotherhood, honor, loyalty, and identity, cooperating for the strength and success of their society and progeny. It is strength through unity. It is a society of hierarchy and merit, where all men are expected to pull their own weight and adhere to the rules and values which promote and ensure strength and survival. It is a society of devoted men who possess a vested interest in their future and are willing to work and sacrifice for it. Lastly, it is a cohesive society reflective and strengthened by the solidarity of the individual patriots who comprise it.

Where traditional conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals get the fundamental virtue of individualism wrong, and as a result where the modern left is able to subvert and exploit this fatal weakness, is that they minimize or outright neglect the critical importance of unity. A free society of individuals alone, without the welded bonds of identity and unity, will not hold—it will not last. Fissures and fractures will eventually form to be further exploited by the subversive forces of the left. Eventually, the individual is left standing alone without any deep-rooted and substantive connections and networks, easy prey for leftist exploitation and corruption. He then becomes isolated and atomized, with no genuine loyalty to other men or to society as a whole. Finally, he becomes nothing more than a dependent and interchangeable dehumanized drone of the totalitarian state, an economic unit devoid of real meaning and purpose and true self-determination. In today’s modern world, the individual may not even be aware that such atomization and subjugation has occurred, for he is kept placated and docile by the system and culture. For as Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World: “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.

Traditional conservatives celebrate the primacy of the individual while often minimizing or neglecting the crucial importance of unity—and this is the mortal weakness of modern conservatism. Yet modern leftists also celebrate the virtue of individualism devoid of unity—as an insidious means of further deconstructing the bonds of society and weakening the individual. Today, modern leftists promote and encourage a toxic brand of hyper-individualism—where the selfish, short-sighted, and irrational needs, desires, and whims of the individual are paramount and take precedence over the virtues and values required for the maintenance of a strong, stable, and cohesive society. As a result, being a unique and “special” individual in a “look at me” culture is regarded as the highest social virtue, and individual identity and feelings have replaced individual accomplishment and merit. Tolerance, relativism, and non-judgment are the degenerate values of a hyper-individualized, unnatural, and shameless society that has erased all objective standards and left the shallow individual isolated and atomized. These kinds of “individuals” do not pursue individualism as a means of rugged self-determination and self-reliance, they pursue it as a means of narcissistic and solipsistic immature attention seeking. They neither realize nor care that they are becoming dependent slaves of the state, so long as daddy government takes care of them. Although certain bonds may still exist between these types of individuals in such a society, they are often as vapid and superficial as the worthless individual himself. They largely consist of manufactured and neologistic “identity” or victim groups, united only by their perceived victimhood status and imaginary oppression. They rarely forge the bonds of honor, sacrifice, and loyalty, bonds which cut to the bone.

Modern mainstream or establishment “conservatives” do not place nearly enough emphasis on unity and strength when it comes to their espousing of individualism—and that is their pathetic weakness. Of course those who do are attacked viciously by the left, branded as xenophobes, racists, or fascists. And this is all by design, to further erode social unity and make people feel guilty for having belied in it. Meanwhile, the left relentlessly promotes and encourages hyper-individualism, devoid of all unity and substance and based solely on childish attention seeking and self-promotion. Again, this too is by design. The isolated man alone is far easier to subvert and enslave than the unified whole. A single stick will easily break, a tightly wound bundle will not. Ultimately, society is left with the choice: Unity or death.

© 2017 By AB Frank, All Rights Reserved

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