Individualism vs Collectivism: The “I over We” problem

There’s that theory that the further you advance on Spaceship Earth’s evolutionary timeline, the more higher order thinking you get. Worms don’t have systems, but ants do. Lions don’t have politics, economics and religion, but humans do.

Some would say they’re much better off, but that’s a topic for another day.

Prior to the first single-cell organisms arriving on Spaceship Earth and promptly saying “STOP TOUCHING ME,” to itself, our planet was guided strictly by physics.

Big Bang >>> Formation of Milky Way Galaxy >>> Formation of Stars & Star Systems >>> Earth being the Red Hot new planet in town >>> The Great Cooling >>> Atmosphere created and Liquid Water trapped >>> Life introduced?


As seen in the historical documentary, Prometheus.

From here, single cells are free to do what they are wont to do, which is pursue a never-ending story of consumption and reproduction. You heard it here first, dumdums: Life is a continuous cycle of eating and fucking. Everything else is philosophy.

And it took us a great while to get to that cycle, about a billion years if you believe The Scientists. At around its one billionth birthday, Spaceship Earth sprouted life!

Wait wait wait. Not that kind of life. Not the get-up-and-go kind of life. Not the kind of life that wakes up everyday at 6 a.m. and has a brief moment of existential crisis about Life, The Universe and Everything before going into the shower and re-engaging its calling to be a Cog in the Machine.

This is the kind of life, however, that can take in solar energy and apply it to its own ends. Microbial life. Where our little story really begins.

But wait, Publius, you cower, isn’t this about Individualism? About Collectivism?

Yes, my sweet summer child, you’re correct for perhaps the second time in your life. For the record, the first time was when you decided to come to this site. #ProudWeAreOfAllOfYou

Here’s something that may bring you up to speed, in the most well-intentioned long form aside from my own you’ll pretend to have read today. It tells us much about the ongoing battle our primordial instincts are waging as they are forced into newly-created systems of ever-expanding higher order purpose.


I will be here, waiting patiently for your return. Bloody Marys and retro-gaming are today’s watchwords.

Now that you’re back, I will now begin to show you, the Royal You, the Editorial You, that all other things being equal, Collectivist Societies are more advanced than Individualistic Societies.


They are more advanced because they’re seeking something beyond Today’s Sandwich or Today’s Fornication. They have developed a longer-term view of the world that makes the individual a component of something greater, which ends up providing for Collectivist Societies to be more often than not longer lived than their Individualistic counterparts.

In returning to that link to Wait But Why? above, you will note that while those authors aren’t making this connection, we at Publius Minimus absolutely are: Collectivist Societies are longer-lived because they’ve added another step onto their life/death matrix. Like an operational component in a strategy, the individual then becomes modular to the larger society’s collective needs.

It’s important to note here that it doesn’t take away the self-determination of the individual. That plus freedom of movement still allow personal liberty to exist. But, the difference is that the end-goal isn’t for the individual to do whatever they want without larger pressure from society. There is a measure that you are part of something larger and part of your energies will be spent working toward that end.

That last sentence absolutely included an ultimatum, one called Shame.

See, in Collectivist Societies, who you are may not be remembered, but what you do can help the next communities of your people grow larger and survive. The reverse is also true. You may be remembered as an individual for very bad things, and if you don’t do something about it then that shame will live with your family.

There’s a very real element of Shame as a measure of standing in Collectivist Society. Not for nothing, but the fuckin U.S. could use a liberal application of that right now. Or maybe anytime in the last 400 years. And I’m not talking shame like the guilt that certain religions make you feel (I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU, CATHOLICS!). I’m talking about real world, diehard shame, Shame, SHAME that will make you commit seppuku to save your family from being That Family With No Honor.

wE could just make this about United States and China, since that’s what all of your miserable jabroneys are already thinking we’d do. Since the U.S. and it’s Rugged Individualism (TM) are only 247 years old versus China’s 5,000 Collectivist outlook, that’s an obvious starting point. Don’t @ us with that nonsense that China became more individualistic in the 80s. Cocaine was everywhere, even the People’s Republic. Increased individualism fueled by cocaine usage was a feature, not a bug.

What we’re not going to do is all your work for you. We’ve collected this information and presented it here for your individual takes. If you choose to learn more, then good for you. You will have chosen correctly. The next step involves you thinking outside the box you and your culture have constructed for yourself, to take a look at how the other side lives.

Start with some examples of successful Individualist and Collectivist nations, and two examples of troubled Individualistic and Collectivist nations.

The Successes: Denmark (Individualist) versus South Korea (Collectivist).

The Troubled: Israel (Individualist) versus Somalia (Collectivist).

Of course these things are never going to be apples to apples. National and regional histories will determine the path a culture takes forward where certain “winners” and “losers” emerge. While Bucky Fuller, Mr. Rogers and Publius Minimus all agree that everyone can be winners and that there are enough resources for all of us (Protip: there absolutely fuckin’ is), the world has been repressed into thinking that it’s not possible. Wonder why…


Now, spread that shit like the British spread their empire. Oh it’ll get by, with a little help from its friends (ExxonMobil, Rupert Murdoch, Emerdata (formerly Cambridge Analytica) and Twitter).

The largest problem facing Individualistic Societies is that they exist as structures wherein the individuals have to compete for everything within them. See also, The Cash Grab Principle.

Although we have the ability to become a post-scarcity world thanks to renewable energy solutions and sustainable agriculture practices like warehouse gardens and vertical growing, Individualistic Societies end up forcing the concept of “resource scarcity” into the public consciousness to prompt individual competition.


Feature, not a bug.

We’ve seen that competition, which is for the most part manufactured, burn up the world we’re living on. So we know that Individualistic Societies that thrive on competition for resources are going to do more harm than good, as others have noted. This becomes especially true when the right of the individual is placed so thoroughly high above the needs of a society (re: the U.S. as the worst offender).

What do, Publius, you ask.

The answer, gentle-minded reader, is always the same. We’ve got to stop going to extremes in search of perfect systems and instead meet somewhere in the middle for incremental steps forward. You can have a society that works toward the collective good while still preserving individual rights. You just have to try. Certain limitations can and must be accepted on behalf of the greater good even in the Land of the Free (TM).

We’ve seen what type of corruption happens when Individualism is pushed toward it’s extremes. Likewise for what happens when Collectivism is the only end-goal and individuals aren’t allowed much discretion in the everyday application of their lives.

So the answer, of course, is to hand the keys over to Mean Old Publius, and we’ll set Spaceship Earth right on behalf of us all. We’re only half-joking, citizens of the world. Meaning we’re also only half-serious. You can decide which half that is, but only after you’ve taken a moment to think about these two questions:

“Just what would life be like in my country if it’s current outlook, whether Individualist or Collectivist, were switched? Would that… Could that, be better?”

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