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individualism (4)

Global Footprint
Since the dawn of civilization, the planet replenished its resources faster than humans consumed them. Starting around 1970 that changed, we began to take more from the planet each year than it could restore. Since then, the gap between our rate of consumption and the planet's rate of regeneration has widened.

Its only mid-August but we have already used an entire year’s worth of the Earth’s natural resources according to the Global Footprint Network. For the rest of the year we will consume more than the Earth can replenish. This natural resource debt is not sustainable, how can we change?

Individual versus collective action
There is a continuing debate within the environmental movement about the relative merits of individual versus collective action. We are autonomous individuals as well as members of a local and global collective. I thought I would compare various possibilities of collective and individual action.

To act we need an “idea” of what to do and a “desire” to do it.

1. Collective idea and collective desire
Example: A democratic collective (State) agrees on an idea (environmental law) and the collective (citizens) desire to obey to avoid penalties (fines, jail).
Result: The planet is saved but individual freedom is lost due to threat of force.

2. Collective idea and individual desire
Example: A collective (NGO) agrees on an idea (recycling) and individuals who desire to act do so on a voluntary basis.
Result: Individual freedom is saved but the planet is lost due to lack of participation.

3. Individual idea and collective desire
Example: Individual eco-friendly inventions and marketing (solar powered toothbrush) and the collective desires it because of mass marketing.
Result: The planet is saved but individual freedom is lost due to mind control.

4. Individual idea and individual desire
Example: Individual accepts eco-friendly ideas that she desires to act upon. Taking the global and her individual situation into consideration the necessary changes are made.
Result: Individual freedom empowers diverse individual action and the planet is saved.

Mature free individuals
To meet the challenges of our time will take fully functioning mature individuals we are capable of unbiased scientific understanding of life situations (free thinking) and have a desire to live a life that expresses their highest ideals (free action). Nothing can stop you if you think universally and act individually.

Impossible dream?
Is their really any other solution than the need for human development? Is this an impossible dream? Not if we start with ourselves. The global footprint is the total of individual footprints.

Ethical individualism
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom presents a way of life called Ethical Individualism. It is about being inspired by your ideals, setting real goals, and realizing them without doing harm.

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Donald Trump's winning message of bigotry
Donald Trump has soared in the Republican Party polls since it was discovered he is a bigot. The more bigoted his comments about Mexican immigrants, the higher he rises. When it comes to the defamation of 54 million Latinos in the United States we are dealing with hate speech.

Trump: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”

The Republican Party stands for individualism
The Republican Party claims to be built around the principle of “individualism”. Its political positions are supposedly derived from their adherence to individualism. But there is a contradiction in being a party that tolerates bigots and a party of individualism. Bigotry denies individuality.

Bigotry Is Incompatible With Individuality
Bigotry is only possible from a collective viewpoint that sees people as thinking and acting all alike. It sees people as merely stereotypical members of a group based on race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, etc. Intolerance and prejudice of a group and each member of that group is narrow-minded and simplistic lacking any sense of unique individuality.

Individualists are interested in diversity, not conformity
Someone who values individualism knows that no one person completely fits any stereotypical label. True individualists are more interested in what distinguishes someone as a unique individual, not the characteristics held in common with others, and certainly not the criminal actions of a few.

The only way to understand a single individual is to ask them how they view the world and to observe how they act. The point where free individuality begins, group conformity ends. POF 14.8

Emancipation Of Knowing
To know someone as an individual we cannot define them according to our own preconceptions. Instead, we have to grasp the ideas by which the individuality determines itself. Those who always mix their own ideas into their judgment of another person can never understand an individuality. It requires that we emancipate our knowing from the simplistic generalizations we use to characterize groups. POF 14.9

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Principles Of Individual Life

This short video is based on the first paragraph in Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom. It describes the early drive toward freedom as it expresses itself in the forming of a unique individuality.

SCRIPT
In order to survive the animal is driven by natural instincts for food, water, and shelter. Social learning gives an evolutionary advantage to those who join and conform to the group.
Yet, if society is to continue evolving it needs something more than social conformity, it needs the innovation and creativity of free individuals.
The social order is only formed so it can react in favor of the individual, but society cannot produce even one free individual.
Only the individual himself can complete the final stage of evolution and realize freedom.
The pursuit of individuality is the modern struggle for survival.
To be true to yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something less, requires great effort.

There is a natural conflict between individualism and authority.
When challenged by authority, typically individualism cannot be sustained without paying a harsh price.

No matter what anyone else asserts, an individualist will think for himself.
Nothing is accepted as valid until he fits it into his own context of knowledge.
Knowing that human perfection cannot be found by following in the footsteps of another, the individualist finds his own way in the difficult ascent to freedom.
Why adoringly serve leaders who will turn out to be just as weak as yourself?

No ideals will be forced upon him.
He will select his own ideals and strive for their realization, which is his highest pleasure.

We no longer believe that there is a norm of human life to which we must all strive to conform.
We are convinced that in each of us, if only we probe deep enough into the very heart of our being, there dwells something noble, something worthy of development.
We regard the perfection of the whole as depending on the unique perfection of each single individual.
We do not want to do what anyone else can do equally well.
No, our contribution to the development of the world, however trifling, must be something which, by reason of the uniqueness of our nature, we alone can offer.

Never have artists been less concerned about rules and norms in art than today. Each of them asserts his right to express what is unique in him.
The structure of a language can affect how we conceptualize the world, our world-view, so there are writers who do not conform to the standard selection of words and arrangement that grammar demands.

We do not want to be dependent in any respect, and where dependence must be, we tolerate it only on condition that it coincides with a vital interest of our individuality.
Individuality is one of the fundamental characteristics of our age.
There is no better expression of this phenomena than striving towards freedom with the greatest intensity.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM

0. THE GOAL OF KNOWLEDGE (Preface)

0.0 Impulse Of Freedom
[1] I BELIEVE I am indicating correctly one of the fundamental characteristics of our age when I say that, at the present day, all human interests tend to center in the culture of human individuality. An energetic effort is being made to shake off every kind of authority. Nothing is accepted as valid, unless it springs from the roots of individuality. Everything which hinders the individual in the full development of his powers is thrust aside. The saying “Each one of us must choose his hero in whose footsteps he toils up to Olympus” no longer holds for us. We allow no ideals to be forced upon us. We are convinced that in each of us, if only we probe deep enough into the very heart of our being, there dwells something noble, something worthy of development. We no longer believe that there is a norm of human life to which we must all strive to conform. We regard the perfection of the whole as depending on the unique perfection of each single individual. We do not want to do what anyone else can do equally well. No, our contribution to the development of the world, however trifling, must be something that, by reason of the uniqueness of our nature, we alone can offer. Never have artists been less concerned about rules and norms in art than today. Each of them asserts their right to express, in the creations of their art, what is unique in them. There are dramatists who write in dialect rather than conform to the standard diction which grammar demands.

[2] No better expression for these phenomena can be found than this, that they result from the individual’s striving towards freedom, developed to its highest pitch. We do not want to be dependent in any respect, and where dependence must be, we tolerate it only on condition that it coincides with a vital interest of our individuality.

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Ethical individualism represents Rudolf Steiner's conception on human freedom. It follows that in Steiner action is free when the action coincides with the motive for that action. This means that action is free when its cause (the motivation which determines such action) is the same as its purpose (the representation of the idea that justifies the action). So, human behavior is free when, not being motivated by other causes, the person behaves by practically applying the idea which justifies that action in his/her own awareness. So, when the human follows his/her own ideas, and applies them, he/she is being free. He also affirms that:

“While I am performing the action I am influenced by a moral maxim in so far as it can live in me intuitively; it is bound up with my love for the objective that I want to realize through my action. I ask no man and no rule, ‘Shall I perform this action?’ — but carry it out as soon as I have grasped the idea of it. […] I have found in myself the ground for my action, namely, my love of the action. I do not work out mentally whether my action is good or bad; I carry it out because I love it. […] Again, I do not ask myself, ‘How would another man act in my position?’ — but I act as I, this particular individuality, find I have occasion to do. […] I feel no compulsion, neither the compulsion of nature which guides me by my instincts, nor the compulsion of the moral commandments, but I want simply to carry out what lies within me.”

Action is performed for the love of one’s own moral maxim, for the moral pleasure of applying such moral maxim, which the individual loves it because it is his/her own idea. Love for one’s own ideas is the affective motivation and intellectual reason; this means to recognize that it is legitimate to behave out of love for applying one’s own ideas, and this way of behaving is the free action. 

It follows that in Steiner, applying one’s own ideas for the sake of applying them, is what defines free action. Free action is performed gratuitously, i.e. it does not expect anything in exchange for performing it, besides satisfying love for applying one’s own ideas. Free action is not anarchical, it is not random, but it is the application of one’s own ideas. Love for behaving in conformity with these ideas is the cause that pushes to their application. The human that performs his/her own moral maxims, because he/she loves the action which is determined by these ideas, he/she is considered free by Rudolf Steiner.
Tudor Georgescu

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© Tom Last 2017