Olavo on Individualism and Collectivism from http://debateolavodugin.blogspot.com.br/2011/04/r2-olavo-de-carvalho.html
In my most modest and individual opinion, “individualism” and “collectivism” are not the names of substantive historical entities, distinct and independent, separated as material beings in space, but rather labels that some political movements use to brand themselves and their opponents.
Now, political science, as I already affirmed, was born at the moment when Plato and Aristotle began to understand the difference between the discourse of the various political agents in conflict and the discourse of the scientific observer who tries to understand the conflict (the fact that political agents would later learn to imitate the language of science does nothing to invalidate this initial distinction).
Thus, our main duty in an intellectually serious debate is to analyze the terms of political discourse, to verify what real actions insinuate themselves underneath them, instead of naively taking them as direct and frank translations of effective realities.
Quite clearly, the terms “individualism” and “collectivism” do not express linear and univocal principles of action, but two clusters of dialectic tensions, which manifest themselves in real contradictions every time one attempts to put in practice, as if it were possible, a linearly “individualistic” or “collectivistic” policy.
First of all, and to remain only in the most simple and banal aspects of the matter, each of these terms immediately evokes a morally positive meaning along with a negative one, and it is not possible, not even in the realm of pure semantics, to separate one meaning from the other in order to assign to each one of the terms an invariably good or bad connotation.
“Individualism” suggests, on one hand, selfishness, indifference to your neighbor, the concentration of each one on the pursuit of his own exclusive interests; on the other, it suggests the duty to respect the integrity and the freedom of each individual, which automatically forbids that we use him as a mere instrument, and therefore places limits to the attainment of our selfish purposes.
“Collectivism” evokes, on one hand, solidarity, the self-sacrifice that each one makes for the good of all; on the other, it evokes also the crushing of real and concrete individuals in the name of abstract and hypothetical collective benefits.
When we go beyond mere semantics and observe the self-named “individualistic” and “collectivistic” policies in action in the world, we note that the duality of meaning built-in in the terms themselves transmutes itself into paradoxical political effects, which are the opposite of the goods or evils presumed in the use of these terms as adornments or stigmas.
Old Hegel already taught that a concept only transmutes itself into concrete reality through the inversion of its abstract meaning.
This transmutation is one of the most notable constants of human history.
Collectivism, as a policy of general solidarity, only realizes itself through the dissolution of individual wills in a hierarchy of command that culminates in the person of the enlightened guide – the Leader, Emperor, Führer, Father of the Peoples.
Nominally incorporating into his person the transcendent forces that unify the mass of nobodies and legitimize as many sacrifices as are imposed on it, this creature, in reality, not only retains in himself all the weaknesses, limitations, and defects of his initial individuality, but almost invariably lets himself be corrupted and degraded to a point which is below the
level of moral integrity of the common individual, transforming himself into a despicable mental patient. Hitler rolling on the floor in trances of persecutory mania; Stalin delighting himself in the sadistic pleasure of condemning to death his most intimate friends on the allegation of crimes they had not committed; Mao Dzedong sexually abusing hundreds of peasant girls who he had promised to defend against the lubricity of landowners, show that the political power accumulated in the hands of these individuals did not increase in a single milligram their power of self-control, it only put at their disposal the means to impose their individual whims upon the mass of de-individualized subjects. Collective solidarity culminates in the empire of the “Absolute Individual”. And this individual, whom propaganda covers with all the pomp of a heaven-sent man, is never an example of sanctity, virtue, and heroism, but rather of wickedness, abjection, and cowardice. Absolute collectivism is the triumph of Absolute Egoism.
Individualism taken in its negative sense, on its turn, not only can never reach its ultimate political consequences, but it cannot even be put in practice in the realm of the most modest individual actions.
The total disaffection to peers, the exclusive devotion to the pursuit of individual advantages, excludes by hypothesis the desire to share them with other people. By denying to the neighbor the benefits obtained in the egoistic activity, this hypothetic extreme individualist would exclude himself from all human interaction and would fall into the darkest solitude, becoming ipso facto impotent for any social activity, and therefore also for the attainment of his egoistic objectives. The type of the misanthropic usurer who locks himself up in his money bin to lonely enjoy the possession of riches that he cannot use is perhaps a good character for fairy tales and comic strips, but he cannot exist in real life. On the most daring hypothesis, the egoistic pleasure that he could attain would be to masturbate in the bathroom, refusing to take as the object of his erotic fantasy anyone else but his own person.
It is the nature of things that collectivism can be carried to that extreme point where it becomes its opposite – the kingdom of the Absolute Individual –, while egoistic individualism can only be practiced within the strict limits that do not allow it to go much beyond affectation and pretense. Egoistic individualism is not a line of practical action; it is the phony justification with which an individual who is neither more nor less egoistic than the average of mankind pretends to be a tough guy. And it is obvious that even the most obdurate tough guy prefers to enjoy pleasures in the company of friends, relatives, a lover, instead of locking himself in the bathroom with his own person so he does not have to admit that he did something good to his neighbor.
As for individualism, taken in the sense of respect and devotion to the integrity of individuals, its practice is not only viable, but constitutes the sole basis upon which one can create that environment of humanitarian solidarity that is the proclaimed goal – though never attained – of collectivism.
The sentiment of community solidarity in the USA
It is no coincidence that the country where the freedom of individuals was most cultivated is also the country where participation in charitable and humanitarian community activities is the largest in the world. This feature of American life is largely ignored outside the USA (and totally concealed by Hollywood’s militant anti-Americanism), but I do not see any motive to believe rather in the deformed opinions and hateful fantasies of the international media industry than in what I see with my own eyes every day, and that can be confirmed anytime with substantial quantitative data. Here are some of them:
1. Americans are the people who contribute the most to charitable causes in the world.
2. The USA is the only country where individual contributions to charitable causes surpass total government aid.
3. Among the 12 peoples who give the most in voluntary contributions – USA, UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, and France –, American contributions are more than twice those of the runner-up (UK). If any smart guy wishes to diminish the importance of these figures, alleging that “they give more because they are richer,” he better forget it: the contributions are not ranked in absolute numbers, but as a percentage of GDP. Americans simply pull out more of their own pocket to help the poor and the sick, even in enemy countries. The most solidary Russia and China do not even make it to the list.
4. Americans adopt more orphan children – including from enemy countries – than all other peoples of the world combined.
5. Americans are the only people who, in every war they fight, rebuild the economy of the defeated country, even at the cost of making it a trade competitor and a powerful enemy in the diplomatic field. Compare what the USA did in France, Italy, Germany, and Japan with what China did in Tibet, or Russia in Afghanistan (details in subsequent messages).
6. Americans do not offer only their money to the poor and the needy. They give them their time in the form of voluntary work. Voluntary work is one of the oldest and most solid American institutions. Half of the American population dedicates its time to work for free for hospitals, childcare centers, orphanages, prisons, etc. What other people in the world has made active compassion an essential element of its style of existence?
7. In addition, the value attributed by American society to works of generosity and compassion is such that no big shot in finance or industry may dodge the duty of making immense annual contributions to universities, hospitals, etc., because if he refuses to do it, he will be immediately downgraded from the status of honored citizen to that of public enemy.
Professor Dugin opposes American individualism to Russian-Chinese “holism”. He says that in the first one people only act according to their individual preferences, while in the second they integrate themselves into the greater objectives proposed by the government. Yet, quite clearly, the governments of Russia and China have proposed to their peoples rather to kill their peers than to help them: no charitable work, in Russia or China, ever had the dimensions, the cost, the power and the social importance of the Gulag, of the Laogai, and the secret police, tentacular organizations in charge of controlling all sectors of social life through oppression and terror.
Secondly, it is true that Americans do not do good because they are forced to by the government, but because they are stimulated to do it by the Christian values they believe in. Freedom of consciousness, instead of degenerating into sheer anarchy and the war of all against all, is moderated and channeled by the unity of Christian culture which, notwithstanding all the efforts of the globalist elite to destroy it, is still hegemonic in the USA.
John Adams, the second president of the USA, already said that a Constitution such as the American, granting civil, economic, and political freedom to all, was made only for a moral and religious people and no other. The proof that he was right is that, as soon as the principles of Christian morality began to be corroded from above, by the action of the government allied to the globalist forces and to the international left which Professor Dugin so much praises as the moral reserve of humanity, the environment of honesty and puritan rigidity that prevailed in the American business world gave way to an epidemic of frauds as never before seen in the history of the country. The phenomenon is abundantly documented in Tamar Frankel’s book Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad (Oxford University Press, 2006).
What I say is not based on statistics alone. I have lived for six years in this country and here I am treated with an affection and understanding that no Brazilian, Russian, French, German, or Argentinean ever enjoyed in his own country. As soon as I settled in these boondocks in Virginia, neighbors appeared from everywhere bringing cakes and gifts, offering to take our kids to school, to introduce us to the church of our preference, to show us the interesting places in the region, to help us solve bureaucratic problems, and so on. Good neighborhood is not an advertising slogan. It is a living reality. It is an American institution, which does not exist anywhere else in the world and was not created by the government. It comes from the time of the Jamestown Colony (1602). Though my family and I are Catholics, the first place we visited here was a Methodist Church, the one closest to my home. Just guess what the faithful were doing when we arrived there.
They were collecting money for the “street children”… in Brazil! And the collection of donations was accompanied by speeches and exhortations able to break anyone’s heart. I felt ashamed to tell those people that, according to official studies, the majority of Brazilian “street children” has a home, and a father and a mother, and the only reason they live on the streets is because they like it. American compassion ignores the lies and shamelessness of many of its foreign beneficiaries: it arises from the naïve belief that all the children of God are, at least deep inside, faithful to the Father.
Americans are shy and always have the impression that they are bothering you. Soon after the initial reception, they prefer to keep a distance, not to meddle in your life. They only come close if you invite them to do so. “I don’t want to impose” is an almost obligatory sentence when they visit someone. But if you have any problem, any difficulty, they will make haste to help you with the solicitude of old friends. And this is not only with the newly arrived. Sometimes it is the Americans themselves who, used to hearing bad things about their people, get surprised when they find an inexhaustible reserve of goodness in the hearts of their fellow countrymen. Read this testimony by Bruce Whitsitt, a champion in martial arts who every now and then writes for the American Thinker:
“Both before and after Dad died, good Samaritans came out of nowhere to offer aid and comfort. I discovered that my parents were surrounded by neighbors who had known them and cared about them for many years… After it was all over, I was struck by the unbelievable kindness of everyone who helped.
At the end of the day, this tragedy reopened my eyes to the deep-running goodness of Americans. So many people in this country are decent and good simply because they have grown up in the United States of America, a society that encourages charity and neighborliness. Decency is not an accident; in countries such as the old Soviet Union, indifference was rampant and kindness rare because virtue was crushed at every turn. America, on the other hand, has cultivated freedom and virtuous behavior, which allows goodness to flourish. Even in Los Angeles — that city of fallen angels, the last place on earth where I would have expected it — I experienced compassionate goodness firsthand.
Goodness is not something that a beneficent government can bestow; it flows from the hearts of free citizens reared in a tradition of morality, independence, and resourcefulness.”
The American nation was founded upon the idea that the unifying principle of society is not the government, the armed state bureaucracy, but society itself, in its culture, its religion, its traditions, and in its moral values. Professor Dugin, who does not seem to conceive of other model of social control aside from Russian imperial theocracy, where the police and the Church (and later the Party) act hand in hand to fetter the people, can only imagine the USA as a selva selvaggia of conflicting egoisms, proving that he knows nothing about American life.
Perhaps there is no other country in the world where the sense of solidary community is as strong as in the USA. Whoever has lived here for some time knows this and will be at least surprised by the presumption that China or Russia are, in this aspect, models that Americans should copy.
It is also true that this sense of community can only flourish in an environment of freedom, where the government does not impose upon society any “holistic” model of official goodness. The biggest proof of this is the open conflict that today exists between what Marvin Olasky, in a classic book, called “old compassion” and the state charity that for four decades has been trying to replace it. Wherever the latter has prevailed, crime rates go up, families are dissolved, and selfish individualism stifles the spirit of goodness inherent to traditional libertarian individualism. It was not only in books like Olasky’s that I learned this. I see it everyday with my own eyes. In Virginia, where the black population is proportionally as large as Brazil’s, the difference in conduct between older black people and the younger ones strikes every visitor. The former are the gentlest people in the world, they have a kind of natural elegance that is the exact balance between humility and uprightness. The youth are irritable, arrogant, and ready to exhibit a superiority that does not exist, to feel offended by any foolishness and to call whites to a fight without the least motive. Where does the difference come from? The old ones were raised in the environment of old compassion, while the young ones grew up in the environment of state welfarism that poisons them with “politically correct” resentment.
Life in the countryside in the USA is the best proof that community solidarity has nothing to do with state collectivism and is even contrary to it.
The more “holistic” intervention there is, the more natural bonds are undone, the more people get away from each other, the more the “society of confidence” of which Alain Peyrefitte spoke allows itself to be replaced by the society of suspicion, of mutual hostility, of hatred and of group exclusivism.
It is that path that leads, ultimately, to the Police State. Professor Dugin knows this perfectly well, so much so that his defense of “holism” against “individualism” culminated in an open and frank apology of the dictatorial regime as a model for the whole world.
Olavo de Carvalho