By Abel Merawi
February 14, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- Take a moment to imagine your most precious achievement in life. Would you be willing to sacrifice it so that the crowd may use it as they please? Under the banner of altruism, each individual is asked to give up the fruit of one’s self to benefit the mass. You might think that this can only happen under socialism and communism. This would have been true if the only way to make you do it is through physical force, as happened during the Derg reign. You must know that there are ways to achieve the same goal without force as well, with your consent. For example, whenever politicians tell you that it is your ethnic or national duty to sacrifice yourself for your people, they are making a collective demand at the expense of your life and everything you hold dear. Whenever religious leaders make you feel guilty of your personal achievements and ask you to give it up, they are saying the life of others is more important than yours. Each individual must know that his or her life matters and it is never to be given up for the pleasure of others.
Let us begin our journey by showing the basic distinction between the individual and collectivism. I am not going to use the term individualism to talk of the individual. Individualism is not the proper name since it tries to assign a collective meaning for every individual. To be an individual is to be reliant on one’s rational faculty and give meaning to one’s life. Contrary to this, collectivism assumes that the meaning of life is found in the collective identity of the people. When a person stands alone and pursues happiness through creativity, he or she is called egotistic. This is the trick played on the individual to create the feeling of guilt because the term ‘ego’ was not coined by the famous neurologist Sigmund Freud with such implications. For him, ‘ego’ is similar to the ‘self’, the judge between the ‘Id’ that sticks to instinct and the ‘superego’ that tries to satisfy society. We are told by psychologists to find ourselves, which is similar to finding your ego. As Ayn Rand states in The Fountainhead, “To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego”. Our present understanding of ego is related to selfishness at the expense of others. The alternative collectivists advocate is living for others at your expense.
The preachers of collectivism have told us that there are only two alternatives in life: sacrificing others for your pleasure or sacrificing yourself for others. This is wrong because it implies that the option is either sadism or masochism. There is a third alternative – to live for your own happiness and join others through mutual agreement. Sadly, this proper option is neglected, and you are made guilty whenever you stand alone and pursue a personal goal. Even morality is defined in relation to other people. Nietzsche argues, “Morality trains the individual to be a function of the herd and to ascribe value to himself only as a function …. Morality is herd instinct in the individual.” We see how society scorns the successful unless s/he uses it to help others. The individual is seen as a sacrificial animal whose function is to serve others, disregarding the value in individual happiness.
There is a contradiction in the collectivists’ life formula. To begin with, if you are expected to give, why are others given the pleasure of receiving? Why do others benefit at your expense but never give anything in return? Furthermore, how can you give unless you first work to possess something of your own? Ayn Rand expresses this well in ‘The Fountainhead’ through her main character Howard Roark who says, "Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet, one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution -- or there will be nothing to distribute.” This makes us ask who invented such moral laws, which in turn helps us see the distinction between the individual and the collectivist.
The individual is the one who struggles with nature, while the collectivist struggles with other people. The individual is the inventor who builds new roads in life; the collectivist is the one who tries to take the invention. The collectivist can only exist as long as there is an individual who creates something valuable. The historical mistake of sacrificing the creator must stop and the trick of the false ‘humanitarian’ must be exposed. If you care about life, you will love the individual who is the paragon of human excellence and rid of the parasitic types that only know how to take what does not belong to them. Life should be a free exchange of values between individuals rather than a form of slavery in which the productive carries the burden of the unproductive. You should not assume that your life must be sacrificed for the underprivileged; this is only a scapegoat for unproductive politicians and other similar institutions whose existence depends on the individual.
It is common to hear politicians and religious leaders speak of the necessity of sacrifice each individual must pay, yet they rarely seem to sacrifice anything themselves. The ethnic opinion leaders tell each person to go out and fight for the people, but they never fight themselves. False religious leaders tell the worshiper to give away one’s possessions, but the wealthy religious institutions never seem to give back their money to help the destitute. Such institutions never create anything but depend on the fruits of the individual’s labor. Ayn Rand states, "Rulers of men are not egotists. They create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker, and the bandit.”
Therefore, throw away the chains of collectivism, and truly understand that your life matters so much to be given away to others. The healthy relationship between human beings demands mutual benefit, rather than servitude. You help others because you desire to and not because it is your obligation. The collective demand is presented as a moral cause to serve the common welfare while it serves the very people who make the demand. F.A. Hayek in his book ‘Law, Legislation and Liberty’ shows how the public good is never clearly defined and ‘capable of being given almost any content suggested by the interests of the ruling group.” So, let us defend our personal rights against collective demands because society exists to defend individual rights and not the other way around. I present the following point by Ayn Rand as a conclusion: “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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