Which resonates with you?
- We are one human race. We should all get along and be done with all the divisions and artificial borders.
- We are each unique individuals. Our personal lived history, individual ethnic and religious backgrounds should be honored.
One or the other? Maybe both? A golden standard: an era of equality and similarities where we simultaneously honor the individual? Let’s unpack that for a second.
Individuality- The Golden Standard?
In America, individuality is the golden standard and always has been. People immigrate to America for the opportunities America provides (we can argue if this is as much the case as it was in the past, topic for another time). Our constitution lists the “pursuit of happiness” as a fundamental tenant.
Today, that individuality funnels down to everything. Children’s classrooms are filled with students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs): students can take longer on exams, take them orally, not take them at all or students can sit in the front, the back or work with groups or work on their own. Whatever you can imagine, it’s the law to support each child individually. It is great in many ways.
And post covid, now in the work place: Employees need flexibility on the number of days they come to work- three, two, one or full remote. Employees must educate their staff to speak with sensitivity on a range of topics from ethnic, religious to sexual affiliation. Definitely an enlightened way to work.
Online, we have a fortune of algorithms that show us what we need at our fingertips- whether it’s Amazon knowing exactly what we want to purchase, or a maps app suggesting our schedule before we even know it! And want something personalized? You can personalized everything – not just with your name stamped on it- but actually fully change a product to your specifications. Check out Nike!
Honestly, this all sounds absolutely amazing! With all of this, we should be basking in our individual glory, filled with confidence, and walking through life with pride. Yet, collectively, we are more depressed, more lonely and more prone to suicide– the ultimate individual act.
Or Community- The Golden Standard?
At the end of the day, people are pack animals. Our need for individuality only extends so far as the recognition we need as individuals that we are a necessary part of our community. Too much individuality and we are left alone, lonely and feeling victimized. We are left searching for labels to define ourselves (social anxiety disorder, sensory perception weakness, auditory, visual learner, etc.) fitting us into categories that we demand others to work around. Sound familiar?
A world that aims to erase cultural, religious, ethnic and even sexual differences leaves individuals without a sense of belonging.
Now you may be thinking, no one is erasing anything! But when we honor the individual above the community, the community ultimately collapses. I get it, the individual matters- students need individualized attention: but too much of that and the teacher can’t teach a class. Employees need work flexibility but too much of that, work culture and training suffer. People need to accept other’s differences but too much of that, we lose the pack we need to survive and that’s when we go into survival mode- grasping and kicking… doing anything not to drown.
We are seeing the effect of this with a rise in anti-semitism, racism and sexist attitudes. It’s not just because the online world allows everything. It’s also because when our pack is threatened, we fight to keep it. Now, a better way to keep the pack is by strengthening from within, finding the good and enhancing it, fixing its flaws but we also know through human history that another effective way to keep a pack going is by eliminating the opposition. And tearing down another is much easier than building ourselves.
Let’s Wrap Up and Think Again
Let’s together be proud of our cultural, religious and ethnic histories. Let’s learn about them and become steeped in them. We just need to stop at the point where our background says another group can’t exist or is inferior.
Let’s together be proud of our differences as individuals. Let’s work with it without demanding everyone else accommodate us. We are part of a larger community, whether at work, school or our personal lives. Our communities don’t always need to change entirely because of us, let’s consider that we need to figure out how to bring our unique gifts to our communities to enhance it.
Now let’s go to it- let’s dial it back a bit in our workplaces, our schools and in our personal lives and emphasize the group a bit more above the individual. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean we can’t be a compassionate and kind people. This doesn’t mean that we can’t change true injustice. It just means that we also need to understand that people need groups to thrive.
Make you think? Check out: Let’s Stop Oversensitivity and Help Kids Be Leaders Without Helping Them