Today’s State of Individualism & it’s Harms

Part III: Individualism vs. Community

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

🤓 Bite-Sized Knurd: Our response to the pandemic and climate crisis can be directly tied to individualism. Individualism causes deeper inequality, perpetuates racism, and leads to unpreparedness.

Read on for more…

Individualism was established as a force for good when it was coined. It helped surfs in the 16th century emerge from poverty to live a fuller, autonomous life.

Sadly, individualism has evolved to where it is today: a way to absolve our structures of the harms they are causing our society.

How many times have you heard that “there’s nothing to be done” or “the problem is too big to fix“ when it comes to the climate crisis, gun violence, and the pandemic response (the list goes on)?

We are asked to recycle and bring our reusable bags, but we ignore the fact that 71% of emissions come from only 100 corporations. That is individualism at work.

What Individualism Has Wrought

Loss of Social Services: The biggest harm is the hollowing out of our government to support its people. Since the 80’s, the common thread is that we can’t possibly afford paid family leave, childcare, healthcare (all of which can be found in the Build Back Better bill), but we can afford a one year $770 billion defense budget. Affordability is more of a question of priorities for our country.

Perpetuates Racism: The Reagan Era introduced ‘welfare queens’ to the lexicon. The underlying narrative is that it is your fault if you are poor, particularly if you are Black. This ignores the fact of ongoing de jure racism from the government from housing, to education, to generational wealth. Systemic issues have caused poverty and systemic solutions will reduce poverty.

Deeper Inequality: Systemic solutions require investment, which require a fair taxation system. The myth of individualism in business allows billionaires like Elon Musk to not pay their fair share in taxes. We perpetuate the system by not seeing the collective good and responsibility.

Unpreparedness: The pandemic response can be directly tied to the Reagan Revolution. First, we defund important programs, vilify those programs when they fail from lack of resources, and then blame individuals (in this case, the unvaccinated) when we can’t fix the problem.

Feelings of Hopelessness: The problems that we face today can only be solved with group action. You can wear your mask all day, but the pandemic is not going to go away without collective action. In our individual lives, individualism can lead to hopelessness. We are in a state of hopelessness now.

A Hopeful Note

The positive note that I will end with is that we can change.

Our systems and belief structures were built by humans (humans from centuries ago, but humans nonetheless) and they can be changed by humans.

I will repeat this often. Nothing is permanent (except maybe the plastic we are consuming on a daily basis that ends up in landfills around the world)

Next Week: We close out our series on Individualism with a hopeful look at how community is our secret weapon for the problems we face.

The Good Knurd:

Now's your chance to join in on the action! Thoughtful ways to influence change within yourself and your local community.

  • 🤔 Thought Starter: What else is individualism impacting in your local community, in your state, the nation, and around the world?
  • 🫂 Community: Is there a specific issue that you care about? Join a movement! The Environmental Defense Fund has an Action Ambassador program to connect with climate enthusiasts. They have message forums, online events, and ways to take action in your community.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment to share your perspective.

Next Up

Building Community
🤓 Bite-Sized Knurd: We close out our series to talk about how building community can be good for you and help solve many of today’s issues. Read on for more…
🗼🗞: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist who’s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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