Selfish or Social Individualism?

June 27, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 4 Comments

“In the waning days of the Western Roman Empire, Augustine described society as preoccupied with pleasure-seeking, selfish, and living for the moment.Rod Dreher

Hmm. Sound like any culture you know today?

Before reading the quote above I wrote in my journal this morning…

My thoughts remain encumbered by the massive nationwide and worldwide challenges to my daily life: pandemic, racism, economic breakdown, and the moral state of the union decidedly enmeshed is selfish individualism.

Yet I continue to be a resolved proponent of individualism!

But… instead of a “selfish individualism,” I like a type of “social individualism” in which we all have an obligation to assume a personal responsibility for contributing to the value of society. In comparing Rome to America, Dreher also writes, “A civilization in which no one felt an obligation… to anything higher than self-gratification is one that is dangerously fragile.”

To call the US “dangerously fragile” today is, in my mind, an understatement. Without adroit leadership (on either “side”) we grow increasingly disconnected and divisive. However, I think many individuals in the US have actively demonstrated keen interest in meeting the needs of others, especially the poor and the socially disenfranchised.

As the hope of a grand sort of providential leadership in the near future diminishes, I guess much may be required of the individual, each one of us.

And so what are we to do as Social Individualists?

Four ideas come to mind immediately.

  1. Intentional efforts to learn: This suggestion assumes recognition that my thinking about life and the lives of others requires more information.
  2. Openness to opposing ideas: This begins with a readiness to be challenged in my belief systems about people in cultures other than my own. And I am utterly convinced others certainly have much to teach me.
  3. Consider the will of God: Well, what to say in a sentence? The Creator gave the man and the woman the command to be Caretakers of His precious Creation. And to do so in love and harmony with the nature of God who has demonstrated patience, mercy, hope, kindness and love. All in the service of “your neighbor.”
  4. Act with love and respect: Is this not the bottom-line?

We find ourselves entangled in a time of Uncertainty about just almost everything… except love and kindness, respect and dignity, and a willingness to be an individual committed to the Social Good.

Yes, Long Live the Individual

Committed to the Social Good

Photo courtesy of Motortion at istockphoto

4 thoughts on “Selfish or Social Individualism?”

  1. Charlie – You articulated so eloquently and beautifully what I have been trying to get my head around. Personally, I am dedicated to wearing a mask when with others for my health and the health of others. For me, it’s cooperation, which doesn’t take away my individuality, since I get to choose the color and type of mask I wear. It’s no different than stopping for a stop sign when no one else is around. I could make a case that it won’t harm anyone else, so just go through it, especially if the police aren’t in sight. But, following rules of engagement whether on the road, in conversations, or for our health provides safety for ourselves and for others. In any case, thanks for sharing your thought leadership, your wisdom, and your Spirit!

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