“Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce (and) entrepreneurial
capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid.”
– Bono of U2
“Opportunity looks a lot like hard work…
I’ve never had a job in my life
that I was better than.”
– Chris “Ashton” Kutcher
Many young Americans are starting to come to the reality that, maybe, romanticizing our enemies leads to disappointment. Perhaps that is why teen idol Ashton Kutcher (whose real name is Chris) and arena fixture Bono (of U2 fame) set the blogsphere alight with their recent comments…extolling at the heart, individuality?
As we Americans, of certain academic breeding and exposure, consider ourselves an enlightened people, we just naturally assume that Russia and the rest of the world somehow feel the same.
How could they? We, in this country, enjoy a very enviable position; we live in a very rarefied space that Americans in the past have paid dearly for, in blood, treasure and mistakes – but those individual sacrifices got us to where we are. Where we are is, in the aggregate, a far better place than any other that exists or ever has existed on the face of the planet. Every generation or so, we forget that, or worse, are never taught it.
Then, to adapt an old saying, someone’s beloved Ox gets gored, and suddenly the urbane, archaic, rejected labels of the past, rear up. Today, many young Americans found out that other countries practice oppression. Yesterday, those of us who have been beaten down by 40 years of paying taxes, knew that the world was an unfair place, with religious groups being suppressed on every continent. Ask a 50 year old about freedom, and they might point out that the majority of humans live under some form of soft tyranny or state-sponsored oppression. But today! – they went a bridge too far.
I’m not talking about the million people hacked to death by drunk mobs with machetes during the Rwandan Genocide, or the 7 million Russians killed by their fearless leader Stalin, the 70 million killed by Mao Tse-tung – or even the 6 million Jews and 6 million “others” killed by Hitler.
No, today Russia, (the citadel of the collective and Stalin’s alma mater) went too far, they really gored an American Ox this time. They forbid Gay Athletes in the Olympics!
You know what, young America, welcome to the bitter truth. I welcome to the struggle those previously uninvolved, uninformed, and unaware of how brutal it is to live (not just visit) beyond our borders.
We forget that the simplest act, like going from New York to New Jersey, would not be allowed in many other countries without government intervention. We forget that speaking up in school is safe to do here, in the USA. In some other countries, your classmate at the desk next to you, can “earn” more food for his family if he turns on you. His family will benefit as much as yours would begin to suffer. Dictatorships are zero-sum gains.
We forget that in the majority of the world today, Individual Choice is only what’s left over after the ruling government takes away your other options.
So how did America get to where she is, while most of the other countries in the world remain in oppressive, tyrannical darkness? To me, it comes down to our cherishing the value of the individual over that of the group, community or, a more popular phrase, “The Collective.” The individual soared in this country and took America to the top, and along with us we raised the standard of living of the world, the extension of life, the protection of the oppressed, the propagation of science, medicine and technology, and gave hope to those who desired only to be free. This is no accident or organic development. The individual is what is declared and protected in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution. It is the supremacy of the individual, not the government that is the difference between the United States and most every other country in the world including our closest allies.
However, once the individual is mollified into a collective, not only is individual freedom limited or destroyed, but the will to produce, construct, participate and contribute is crushed as well. In fact, the collective was the first form of pre-American government back when the Mayflower arrived. The compact that everyone got an equal share regardless of contribution, nearly wiped out the entire colony. Nobody worked when they were guaranteed the same amount of food and shelter as the guy who didn’t so the entire population became victim to starvation and the elements.
“If you don’t pick up the trash on the street, no one else will.”
If you come from the mentality that says the government will pick up the trash so I don’t have to, then you either have to have everyone be a part of the government to make sure the trash is picked up, or you have to live in trash until the one guy from the government gets around to picking up the trash on your street (he’s not here right now, because the richer people the next block over have tipped him to clean their street more often). That is the collective, that is the kind of trash people who live in the collective have to deal with. If it’s everybody’s responsibility, then it’s no one’s responsibility.
Bono gets it. Do you?
It’s individualism that created and nourished this country, it’s individualism that’s at stake in the world today; whether you are a gay athlete or a Coptic Christian.