Americans emphasize the individual and take away emphasis from the collective. In this individualistic culture, the needs of the individual are placed above the needs of the whole. Everyone is unique, autonomous, and the social behavior that we know is dictated by individual attitudes and preferences. However, is this individualism really beneficial? Or does it unintentionally harm the population as a whole?
America has an Individualism Problem, and it may not be fixable.
Business In America
In America, business and money equal power. If you don’t have the means, you work for them. As an individual should. After all, it is up to you, as an individual, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and forge your own path; for better or for worse. This is the American Dream, to work and be successful, to strive for a better life in the and of opportunity. However, when that land doesn’t lookout for the needs of the populous as a whole, where does that leave us?
Statistics show that over 70% of all business partnerships fail and 20% of all small businesses fail within their first years. By the second year, 30% will fail. Making your mark and becoming successful is difficult, and while it shouldn’t be overly easy, it is easy to be bought out by large corporations who have a stranglehold on the business sector. Multibillion-dollar empires that insist on hard work and company loyalty while paying their workers not even a fraction of what the CEO makes, cutting hours to avoid having to provide health insurance, telling employees how to apply for food stamps because they know they don’t make enough in their positions.
While it’s easy to say that people should get multiple jobs, work harder, forge ahead, in practice does that really make for a rewarding life?
Numerous studies, such as those conducted by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, have shown that overworking can lead to innumerable health problems such as diabetes, depression, impaired sleep, heart disease, and increased alcohol use. Overall, America’s emphasis on self-reliant individualism only leads to mounting healthcare problems, made worse by the staggering costs of healthcare.
Individualism and Sustainability
Standing on your own two feet is important for many Americans, and this also extends to how they go about their lives. While many live in cities, those in rural portions of the nation place a larger importance on being self-sufficient through different means.
By 2020, the number of bowhunters — aged six and above — rose to around 4.66 million, proving that hunting is still an integral part of many American lives. The meat collected from these hunts may not be enough to sustain a family on its own, but it does make some feel like they are more reliant on their own skills than anyone else’s.
Similarly, while living off the grid is illegal in many states, the use of private wells by more than 13 million households, and the fact that one in three Americans are now growing some type of food for themselves further highlights the importance of self-reliance and feeling like you can survive on your own.
What Needs to Change
While self-reliance is important, so too is collectivism. This social theory removes the emphasis on individuals and instead promotes a greater connection between people and their communities. This means that the needs of the whole group are taken into greater account than those of a single person. No one is greater than or less than. When one wins, everyone does.
This mentality is what sustained humanity for thousands of years as groups worked together to better themselves and survive. However, this social dynamic has died out in America, and instead of placing community first, it’s every man for themselves.
Although this mentality is engrained in many Americans, it is not without its detractors. There are many who wish to see a shift toward more collective viewpoints, and only time will tell if this change will ever truly take hold in the Land of Opportunity.