Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Solipsism of Individualism

There is an interesting strain of hypocrisy that I have noted in the blogs of some writers whom I follow. There are many who attest to the truths of modern men and women, especially in regard to their mindsets concerning relationships. They rightfully decry the social decay and entropy that has gripped our culture. Yet, I have seen something that, though unsurprising, does strike me as blind and hypocritical. Many of them correctly recognize that typical American women are solipsististic--that is, they are extremely narcissistic, self-seeking and self-absorbed. Very few American women truly value the men in their lives. Very few of them are willing to be sacrificial or offer genuine love or support. Indeed, rampant individualism permeates the worldview of most modern Americans. We are self-seeking creatures, who are consumed with getting the best for ourselves, while remaining unconcerned with the feelings and well-being of others. This is a cultural disease that does not merely affect the women.

Fundamentally, there are two different approaches to relationship. The first is an individualistic perspective. Individualism is defined as: "the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism." Our culture indoctrinates people with this attitude from the time they are young. Through our experiences, through our families and through media and entertainment we are implicitly taught that since no one else has your best interests in mind, you must seek your own good and ensure your well-being at all costs. You must think of yourself before others. Your interests come before anyone else's. As such, in every area of life you must be on guard against those who would use you for their own gain, and ensure that your own well-being comes first. This consumeristic mindset is even taken into relationships. Whether in marriages, in dating relationships, or in one-night stands, this is the predominant attitude of the people in our culture. Each person is seeking their own interests, above that of their partner. The critical questions are, "What am I getting out of this relationship?" "Am I happy?" "Is this relationship working for me?" If the answers ever seem dissatisfactory, then the relationship quickly dissolves, and both partners continue seeking their own best interests in other relationships. Their first priority is personal gain, and the metric of that is primarily happiness. This is a solipsistic and selfish approach to relationships.

The second approach to relationship is a collectivistic approach. In this mindset, a person is not solely concerned with their own interests and well-being, but is simultaneously concerned with the well-being and interests of their partner. This mindset is radically different since it leads each person to care about other people. While it doesn't neglect self-interest, a collectivistic mindset is primarily others-centric. Through deference and mutual submission each person choses to seek the benefit of the other. This is a strongly counter-cultural attitude. It requires self-sacrifice, genuine commitment and trust from both partners in order to work at all. Such an attitude is the one preached by Christianity. In the words of Paul, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phillipians 2:4) Jesus, too, preaches about the centrality of self-sacrificial love towards both God and other people. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) That is a high calling! As witnessed in Jesus' own life, His love was what compelled Him to sacrifice His life that the world might be saved. Jesus commands His followers to live with a similar love for others. Paul extends this command to romantic relationships when he writes, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25) Here, Paul commands all men to have a self-sacrificial love for their wives. A collectivistic approach to relationships, in which both partners view themselves not solely as individuals, but as part of a unified whole, demands that both husbands and wives love each other, and that wives are to submit to their husbands. When this rare attitude does exist bilaterally in a relationship there is a remarkable and beautiful unity which is evident. As both partners primarily seek joint happiness and mutual benefit, they are able to support each other, encourage each other and grow together. The archaic adage of a chain being as strong as its weakest link accurately describes such a union. To the degree that there is mutual love, respect and sacrifice, the two are stronger together. To the degree that such an attitude is lacking from either partner, the union, and both people individually, are that much weaker. A team-minded approach towards relationships is the attitude that God desires all people to have. It is the cure to the social disease of individualism that plagues our generation.

The lack of a self-sacrificial and submissive love is what is decried by many of my fellow bloggers. My criticism is that there are many such men who behave exactly like the women whom they judge. It might be true that today's women are the more solipsistic sex. Yet, when men embrace the same mindset in their approach to relationships, they do not see the cognitive dissonance between their words and their actions. Many of the men who complain that women are too self-centered, self-seeking and self-absorbed proceed to develop the very same traits in themselves. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the philandering lifestyles of several major practitioners of Game. They sleep with one woman after another, and quickly leave them in pursuit of hotter women, more excitement or for the thrill of the chase. Rather than seeking to find a woman of character who is selfless and committed and rather than standing against the current social tide, such men have hopped into the river and become one with the polluted paradigmatic currents.

To those who recognize the social maladies of individualism and the consumeristic mindset towards relationships and actively oppose such thinking by speaking out against it and living a life that is an example of the self-sacrificial love which cures such an affliction, I strongly support and heartily endorse your efforts. To those who recognize the flawed thinking of our age but stand aside and do nothing, I urge you to question your motives and your resolve. If our world is to be changed, we must believe that change is possible, hold a clear vision for what can be, and boldly take action to remake the world according to such a vision. To those who decry the solipsism and individualism of the opposite gender, whilst living with a self-absorbed and solely self-interested mindset, I am disgusted by your hypocrisy. The solipsism of modern women neither justifies nor excuses such behavior in men. Similarly, the selfishness of modern men does not justify or excuse such behavior in women. Beware lest you become like those you judge!

As for me, I have a vision for the way the world should be. Jesus' words and teachings describe the sort of world I seek to create, and the sort of behavior I seek to model and encourage. Even if all around me are utterly consumed in self-absorption, yet will I uphold the model of collectivism, which cannot be accurately conflated with either altruism or individualism. Rather than being solely self-seeking, or living solely for the good of others, I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ who preached loving one's neighbor while loving oneself. Collectivism seeks mutual benefit in relationship. This requires humility, graciousness, patience and a self-sacrificial, committed love. It also requires self-respect, independence and assertiveness. I will not be a timid pessimist who believes that victory is unattainable and therefore unworth pursuing. Resignation is not befitting a man of courage. Nor will I be a blind optimist, who lives in denial of the pervasive cultural degradation. A clear vision of both and the problem and the solution are necessary for real reform to occur. I take my stand against selfishness, individualism, and the hedonic pursuits of those who set forth their own happiness as the highest aim in life. Edmund Burke wisely noted, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." Come alongside me and fight against the social entropy by embracing my vision and working towards it!


  1. You're right. This post is remarkably close to my own. Great minds think alike!

  2. I agree. I am often surprised at the nastiness of some bloggers. They really all seem to be trying to "screw" each other. Sorry to say that, as a foreigner, it seems like an American trait. There seems to be very little feeling for community.

    However, I do think it depends on the individual, and personally I have had to toughen up to learn to deal with a very challenging wife. I think there has been too much emphasis in recent years on the responsibilities of men and too little on those of women in marriage.


  3. Nice sentiments and morally accurate on the individual level, but you should keep in mind that you are not going to change the world. You can change your own life and your approach to life, of course, and that changes your own small world in a small way, but the larger social forces are what they are -- and they won't be stopped by a few folks approaching things as outlined here.

    I'm a person who basically agrees with the diagnosis, but I see no need to do much about it. I've been married before and have little interest in being married again. That may be solipsism to some degree, as I do prefer being alone -- the culture supports this. But at this point in my life I don't feel the need to pretzel my life to comply with some kind of cultural warfare. Not worth it to me at all.

    The world is different now. The key characteristic is that everyone can basically do what they want. Therefore if you want to live a life according to the principles you outline here, you can try to do so if you find someone else who is interested in doing so. You're swimming upstream, as you know, but it's not impossible. What you won't do, however, is change the culture overall by doing that -- the numbers of people doing so are not nearly big enough to change the culture, at least not the culture that is the "driving" culture -- the culture that is broadcast to us by our elites living in the big blue cities.

    So I write this not to discourage you -- it's good to see some youthful idealism. But I have to say that it isn't for everyone -- not in the least.

  4. @novaseeker: Great thoughts! I quite agree with you that I won't change the larger social forces or personally be responsible for the revival of our society. My goal is simply to be a light to the world in whatever groups I am part of: to my family, at my church, on the blogosphere, with my girlfriend, and within with my various social groups. If I only serve to inspire a few people to see things God's way and live lives of love, I shall be satisfied.

    Here's a hymn that we sang when I was child. It's exactly what I am trying to do:

    Jesus bids us shine
    With a pure, clear light,
    Like a little candle
    Burning in the night.
    In this world of darkness
    We must shine—
    You in your small corner,
    And I in mine.

    Jesus bids us shine,
    First of all for Him;
    Well He sees and knows it,
    If our light grows dim.
    He looks down from Heaven
    To see us shine—
    You in your small corner,
    And I in mine.

    Jesus bids us shine,
    Then, for all around;
    Many kinds of darkness
    In the world are found—
    Sin and want and sorrow;
    So we must shine—
    You in your small corner,
    And I in mine.

    That's my main goal and aim. Of course, that's not to say that I won't aspire to more...

  5. Humility is the opposite of solipsism. Courtesy is its breeding ground.

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