i’m not sure if the fetish of the individual is the reason we cut ourselves off from others and the world , or if it is one of the results of our cutting ourselves off. In either case;.
“The Fetish of the Individual” is overly focusing on yourself as the center of the universe.
We all think we are the center of the universe, in some manner or other. i mean, all i can see is what i can see, all i can think of are things i can think of, all i can do are things can do. And i assume that holds for everybody, that everybody is the center of their own universe. The problem with the fetish of the individual is thinking that my view is the correct/best view, what i see is what everybody sees, that my thoughts are the truest/most valuable thoughts, that my actions are the correct actions. It is thinking “I am the one thing that really matters.”
Those we call heroes are often people who have gone past (transcended) overly focusing on their own individualism, people who in the words of Humphrey Bogart realize “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans.” Or the soldier throwing themselves on a grenade to save the others in their unit, the fireman who rushes into a burning building, or the teacher who spends her free time making comments on her fifth grader’s English papers in the hope that they might learn to write better and that might help them in the rest of their lives.
The paradox is that we make a big deal about the individuals who didn’t make a big deal about themselves. We fetishize those who, at least for a moment, transcend the fetish.
But it would be a mistake to focus on the heroic aspect of this, since – i’m not sure why. The fetish of the individual is a pervasive problem in the world today, and heroes are just an example of what might happen when we are not in the grasp of that problem.
If you think about sin or crimes or misdeeds, these can be understood as people who are focusing on themselves too strongly. And ‘themselves’ might refer not be just their personal self, but their family, religious group…. We’ll get into this more later, as circles of concern.
The fetish of the individual can be thought of as a disease, and as a disease it has a cure. Now, FOTI is not the same as being aware of yourself, or making sure you have a job or look nice, or taking a break when you are tired. It is overly focusing on your individuality to a degree where you forget your connection the the rest of humanity and the rest of the world, it is being trapped by the idea that you are an island, that you exist in isolation from others. It is an over-emphasis on “I, me, mine.” It is ignoring the fact that all of us are intricately and intimately interconnected with our family, our friends, our enemies, and our friends and our enemies. It is ignoring the reality that in order for me to be typing this (and you to be reading it) somebody had to invent the computer, the netbook, the printing press. Somebody had to build the device I’m writing on and whatever you are reading this with. Somebody had to feed me, teach me to read and to write. And the same thing goes for you.
In interesting example of this view, though not using the language of “fetish of the individual” comes from The Story of Stuff Project.
The world’s religions try to get us to go beyond this fetish
- Jesus said: Whatever you do to to the least of these, you do to me.
- Chogyam Trungpa (my Buddhist teacher) said: The connection between compassion and egolessness goes both ways. When we let go of the self, we are more inspired to work with others; and when we are generous to others, we realize that the self is lost. We begin to lose our ego fixation. So when we are generous to that, we begin to losethis; and when we have lost this, we become more capable of dealing with that. At that point, the shedding of ego is a mutual situation.
- Islam; whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.
- Judaism: … whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world.
Those last two are kind of interesting, don’t you think?
Given the apparent conflict between Islam and Judaism.