The Assualt on Individualism: The Real Threat to America


The current political schism cleverly disguises the more insidious and dangerous split in our culture – the unacknowledged war between collectivism and individualism. The former ideology promulgates the belief that people struggle and fail to get their needs met, because of societal forces beyond their control. The latter believes that people do best when they are in charge of making the important choices in their lives. At this point, collectivism seems to have captured the public’s fancy.

Socialism, medicare for all, free education, and a guaranteed income, has generated much media attention, and a clear and enthusiastic following. The reason for this is not that complicated. Collectivism removes the angst and anxiety around the key challenge generated by life in the age of information – that of incessantly being confronted by the necessity of making choices. Information, much written about, but poorly understood, is the quintessential double-edged sword. It creates unparalleled opportunities and inestimable pressures to make choices. And making choices is very scary. Choices have consequences; many of them unpleasant, and often, painful. All of them create loss. There is no way to make choices without fundamentally changing one’s life.

The resultant change may be seen as good; or as bad. It doesn’t matter, because in any case, it is different, and that causes a loss.

At this point in my life, I’ve worked with over 1500 businesses and assorted organizations, all over the world. I’ve worked with politicians at the highest levels of government, and been involved with the education profession at all levels. Arleah and I have been privileged to travel most of the world, and I’ve had the experience of living outside the U.S.

What all this has taught us, is that most people would rather be lead, than be a leader. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad – simply means that they’re scared. It is a heavy burden to run your life. An experience we had in Russia, crystallized our understanding of this dilemma. We were in the former Soviet Union, when it fell. Our guide and translator was a very articulate and smart woman who had been an academic and then an employee of Intourist (the government run tourist organization).

At one point during this monumental change, we asked her if she was looking forward to living in a freer, more open, and hopefully, more democratic society. She said, with complete clarity and no hesitation – “Absolutely not.” We then asked her what she would like to see, and I will never forget her response – “A benevolent Czar.”

There are a number of myths and pockets of ignorance that underlie the current popularity of collectivism. One of the most widely subscribed to, is the assertion that elitism is at the core of our social problems, and the primary barrier keeping the working and middle class from having better lives.

In fact, the existence of an elite guarantees the populace a shot at a better life. Make it untenable to achieve extreme wealth and privilege and we would see unemployment and poverty on a scale unprecedented in our history.

Morrie Shechtman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *