How Did We Get On This Topic?
culturemonk answered another one of my questions.
How do you define individualism? Why are we individualistic? (from here)
‘s answer is in The Cult of Individualism…REALLY???. begins his post by listing a number of social disconnection issues he attributes to a “cult of individualism.” These include: drug and alcohol abuse, crime, anger management problems, and divorce.
Eventually, explained what he means by a “cult of individualism.”
Sometimes I refer to the problem as ‘the cult of individualism’ and other times I say ‘cultural imbalance’…terms like those are good because they help us to label an entire host of problems and allows us to each come to our own conclusion as to what we each believe is out-of-whack…..but what I am often really referring to is a very simple vice that we are all familiar with; selfishness.
Later, made this observation.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Western Society is crumbling all around us; celebrities are worshipped, people pop pills, fractured relationships are commonplace, depression and loneliness run rampant……Yet instead of seeing these problems and coming together to work towards solutions….too often we have an attitude that it’s ‘every man and woman for themselves’.
What I think curious is that none of ‘s commenters, and there were a goodly number of them, took issue with ‘s observation that Western Society is crumbling. Is Western Society crumbling? Is Western Society crumbling because of selfishness? I fear the answers to both of those questions is “yes.”
What Holds America Together?
If American society is now crumbling, that suggests something was formerly holding it together. What? What is American society? Consider a fable attributed to Aesop.
An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son: “Break it.” The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. “Untie the faggots,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.” When they had done so, he called out to them: “Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.
Union gives strength.
That wise old man wanted his sons to work together. That’s a lesson Americans once understood. Since America’s founding, we have considered families united in love the primary building block of society and it’s greatest strength. We saw ourselves as a nation of strong, healthy, God-fearing families united for one great purpose, to protect each others God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Does that sound like an idealistic fairytale? Perhaps we are more comfortable approving of the American Dream, but what is that? Consider what historian and writer James Truslow Adams once called the “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America:
“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (from here)
How many times have you heard that the ”American Dream” is about fancy houses, sleek cars, stylish clothing or big screen high definition televisions? It was not always so. What the “American Dream” once demanded is that we treat each other with mutual respect and charity, but there is a problem. How do people learn to treat each other with mutual respect and charity? Was it ever a function of government? No. That is what Americans once expected children to learn from the members of their family and trusted neighbors.
The Crumbling Family
Is our society is crumbling due to our decreasing ability to connect with each other? Considering all our newfangled communications technology, it would be ironic if we were more disconnected than ever. However, think what it would show. Isn’t what we communicate is more important than how we communicate?
What are we communicating? If our society is crumbling, then we must be communicating our unwillingness to do anything about it, but why? Without making any effort to find a suitable replacement first, we are destroying the family, the institution that once taught Americans how to be good citizens.
- We have attacked the integrity of the family. Check out Family structure in the United States and review the Controversies. Note the increasing number of children being raised in single parent homes.
- We have refused to define marriage. If marriage is about children, then obviously the traditional definition, one man and one woman, still works. If marriage is about not offending pleasure-seeking adults, then no definition is needed.
- We have not upheld the importance of fathers in child-rearing. Do children need both a father and a mother? The Bible, our traditions, and even statistical studies clearly state that children need both a father and a mother. Nonetheless, we as a society act as though children need only their mothers.
- We have interfered with the Christian education of children. When the United States was established, with the help of their neighbors parents ensured the Christian education of their children. Since that time, we have replaced the local control of educational content with state and now Federal regulation. We have done so at the price of removing Christian content. Acting as though calling religious content secular makes it secular, we have replaced Christianity with something that approximates Secular Humanism. Hence, what the public schools teach Christian parents too often find in conflict with their own values.
What is lost without strong families? When we do not raise our children as God intended, when they become adults our children will not know how to give someone their love. Within strong families, children learn to love their parents, their siblings, their extended families and their neighbors. Within strong families, children use their parents as role models. Moreover, if they are raised as Christians, children learn the example of Christ Jesus, how our Father in heaven expects us to love strangers, even those who would be our enemies.
What Would Lead Us To Destroy The Family?
What would lead us to destroy the family? What causes us to be selfish? Consider the difference between the sin of pride and virtue of humility. When we are selfish, we think only of our own needs, wants, and desires. That is the sin of pride. If we are humble, we think first of the needs, wants, and desires of others.
Because we are naturally prideful, we have to be taught humility. For example, we teach children to share their toys. Later, if we are Christians, we teach our children to follow the commands and the example of Christ Jesus. That is, we teach our children that whatever they have is a gift of God; they are only the steward of what God has given them. As disciples of Christ Jesus, God expects us to use our property, talents, and lives in His service.
None of us, of course, ever fully follow the example of Christ, but some do better than others. So it is we can see there are still Christians who devote much of their lives to the service of others. Unfortunately, within our society, Christianity has become less identified with charity. Thus, made this observation.
A couple years ago I asked two different Christian clergy (who were both close friends of mine) “Why don’t churches sponsor doctors for the poor in the community who don’t have health care?” Both minsters said, “That’s a very good idea, and in the history of the church; that is what the church did in the Medieval Ages….but it’s just something that we’re not interested in doing anymore”
In addition to suppressing Christian education by taking that over, with the creation of a costly welfare state government has suppressed Christian charity. And why? I think the answer lies in overblown egos and a desire to make “others” do the right thing.
Some years back I wrote a post on an “ideology” I call BUSYBODYISM. As a practical matter, BUSYBODYISM is an expression of selfishness. When we cannot be contented to let others run their own lives and spend their own money, we find ways to help them — whether they like it or not.
Dr. David Jeremiah provides an excellent discussion on this subject.
- Capitalism, Individualism and Loneliness (www.chaosisgood.com)
- Loneliness and Community (kingdom1st.wordpress.com)
- If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together (www.forbes.com)
- AMERICA is More than the Sum of Her Parts (blogsensebybarb.wordpress.com)
- How can I know if something is a sin? (altruistico.wordpress.com)
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. — African Proverb
- Liberty and equality defines The American Dream (theamericandreamchallenge.wordpress.com)
- America the Possible (wwje.wordpress.com)
- 10 Striking Photos Will Make You Reconsider The Reality Of The American Dream (huffingtonpost.com)
- Could Loneliness Be Our Biggest Enemy? (tannerbrumbarger.com)
- Hello My Name Is Pride (comeawake.org)
- The American Dream…of sorts (thelawofnewstwo.wordpress.com)