Let’s get a little personal for minute. Don’t worry, I’m not going to take my pants off here or cry at you about hugs that I didn’t receive. It’s cold, so pants are a necessity and hugs are a plenty where I am. Personal in terms of who I am and where some of perspectives come from. I am an Immigrant that moved to the States when I was about 8 years. Most of you that follow my comedy know that already, but what people might not know is that when I came here I did not fit into American standards at all.
I know that’s not a shocking revelation or anything. Immigrants not fitting in is basically what this country founded. But it was even the little things that made me stick out like out like the Goth kid in High School. I know you don’t think people see you Reggie, but we can all see you. You’re wearing black clothing in a very bright hallway. Contrast is a beautiful thing. We’d hug you, but the spikes are kinda a hug hazard!
Anyway, I remember certain phrases that would get me in trouble. Like rubber. In India that’s an eraser. In the states I got lectured about how that means condom. I was 8. And I didn’t really know what condoms were either and then I learned about it from the internet and with the help some of my so called friends.
Bathrooms are called Restrooms. Why? As far as I can tell, no one is resting when we are all packed into a room with dim lighting, holding our junks 4 inches from another person of the same sex. There’s no couches or anyone that brings you juice. No rest. The only time I’ve felt restful in a Restroom is when they’re the family style, gender binary bathrooms.
I had to either conform to these norms and not ask my questions or be isolated. Cursed and shunned to sit alone at lunch. Not even Reggie the goth kid would come sit by me, but that might be to prove he was mysterious in his brooding! We can still see you Reggie! Your AFI make-up and poetry are not cloaks of invisibility. Again the spikes are really difficult human contact to get through.
As far as America and Western society is concerned, it’s an individualistic society. You think about yourself and your immediate family and that’s that. Once you’re an adult you make your own money, live in your own place and if anything gets in between you and your goals you punch it out of the way. This is why Reggie sits alone, because no one gets him and his poetry.
Capitalistic competition breeds individualism. It’s an economic system based in winners and losers. There’s a prize and someone is going to get it. Don’t you want it to be you? Wait what’s the prize? That kind of question is not what Individualistic Capitalism is about, and now nobody gets that prize.
Fame is an individualistic idea. You are the one to lead the peons with your art or whatever your choice profit & manipulation is. A lot of us are trying to go viral still! And that’s another phrase that doesn’t make sense to my little immigrant mind. Why would you want to compare yourself to something that spreads around and kills people? I’d like to go Antidote please. Counter the viral videos.
Fame and climbing the corporate ladder can only be achieved if you do and follow what the individuals controlling that fame and the ladder want you to say or do. So the individualism preached in America and other Westernized countries is manufactured. Like a car or a pair of headphones. It’s a product to be bought and sold. It’s part of the collective that tells you you’re an individual by buying and doing what everyone else does.
If you’re a skeptical person that looks to figuring out how the world works, why it works that way and whether we can change systems that aren’t working, you’re probably more of an individualistic thinker. But because you’re asking questions, you don’t win and sit at the lunch table alone with a big Scarlet L on your forehead.
Now that’s not say that collectivism is all bad or all good either. It is how we arrived where we are. Collective tribes worked together for survival. Hell we even partnered with canines and made them part of our collective to help our survival. Cross species Collectivism! The major fear here is that if you’re part of a collective you will lose your unique identity, you know the one you’re told you have. We would be lost into the void of the hive mind.
Now the examples I just gave above are how these ideas are twisted and used as a form of manipulation to deem what is and isn’t normal. And the abnormal is cast out so the normal individuals can hold on their freedoms they are told they can have.
A great example of this how Whistleblowers are seen worldwide. People like Snowden, who leaked the news of the massive surveillance state we live under to journalists or Julian Asange of Wikileaks or Chelsea Manning, who revealed autocracies committed by the US military are not viewed as heroes or even brave for what they did. Their individualism is seen as traitorous by some.
And yes, if you’re a individualistic, free-thinking person, you’d say those people have every right to disagree with the actions of Whistleblowers. But if we looked at what a surveillance state does to people, we’d think otherwise. If we are being watched at all times or even the notion of that, we are going to act and behave completely differently in fear of judgement, shame and punishment.
Collectivism is used as way to wrap people into conformity for the sake of a larger goal like the nation, a religion or a stamp. Japan, a society that’s known for its collectivism, has a few sayings. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” and “The shot hits the bird that pokes its head out”. Clearly Japan’s ideas on Collectivism was written by a serial killer like Dexter. Wraps up body parts in saran wrap and kills birds at night, but they’re a super chill philosopher during the day building homes for the homeless. Phrases like that are why people fear a fully collectivist society. Being something different, expressing ideas or questions means you get hammered down and shot. Bit of an overkill in my opinion, but I’d rather not get shot by a hammer.
So what’s that mean? It basically means that when you’re part of a collective you have less pressures and external stresses. Less pressure from competition, economic stresses that come from adulting, less dating pressure, so Tinder is just your parents. I mean Arranged Marriages is really Tinder with a literal parental control. It’s all for the collective. Like a family. Eastern cultures don’t kick their kids out and put their old people in homes. They’re all under one roof. The primary objective is taking care of the family. A major value of collectivism is to take care of each other.
But as I mentioned earlier these ideologies can work, but right now they are twisted up and polarized. By means of control they are used against the people they are supposed to help. In my opinion they’re the failures to these ideologies.
The failures of collectivism is Nationalism and the corporate state. It’s used as a means to pit us against each other because we don’t have the same skin color, wear the same hat or have the same bearded God!
The failures of individualism is greed and the corporate state. It’s used as a means to pit us against each other because only your goals are important so you must achieve them by any means necessary!
The corporate state perpetuates both these ideologies by telling you that without the right job, right salary, right car you can’t be the cool individual or part of the cool kids crew. Back to the loner lunch table with you, you rebellious fiend! Advertisements from the corporate state is where the words nerds, intellectual, bookworm were all tainted to mean awful, insidious things out to steal your freedom like a sacred jewel in a fantasy novel!
A great example of this is the current president of the US, Donald Trump. The greed of his individualism is in the Tax Bill that GOP passed, which guts the middle class to inflate the corporate sector. It’s in cutting healthcare for the people and leaving up to the rich to dole out if they please. It’s in the amount of hair gel he uses every morning. It’s enough oil to drown an entire fleet of seals.
Right now Trump and North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un are at odds with each with over a dick measuring contest, ironically over a button. Kim Jong Un has claimed that his nuclear button is right on his desk, and Trump said so is his, but his is bigger! That’s the failure of individualism at it’s finest.
Why would the leader of the world’s largest and most overfunded military talk like this? Well that’s because the only time the collective of mainstream media praised him is when participated in an act of war. When he bombed the Syrian air base back in April of last year and dropped the Mother of All Bombs, Brian Williams had his first orgasm since the Bush Era on National Television. He was finally called Presidential.
The collective praised his individualism for pushing war and now he thinks that’s what a President does. And for anyone that supports Trump but hates Whistleblowers like Snowden, just know that this makes America way less secure than revealing the surveillance state. Trump’s boasts are saying, “There is a large button on the desk at the White House! And it’s got all the Nuclear codes. Sitting on a desk. And it’s huge!”
If nuclear codes are less secure than my iPhone then your military shouldn’t be taken seriously. I think the War Department of the United States, the one that masquerades as the Defense Department, owes the American people a ton of money back and an apology to Edward Snowden.
These failures are a myopic view on a much larger picture. What we are missing the idea of the Gestalt. The Gestalt Principle says the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I learned about Gestalt in my freshman art class when I was in High School. Which just goes to show that even the basics of Art can reveal the intricacies of the growing universe. Which is why those that want to control and manipulate everything, end up cutting art education first. Art helps you think and develop as an individual that might help out the collective.
We as human beings have the ability to take in complex pieces of information and figure out what to do with it. Find meaning and the bigger picture while we are surrounded in chaos. Individualism and Collectivism are 2 parts of this. The Collective can make sure that the Individual is taken care of and through the pursuit of their Happiness they’re giving back to the Collective. Sums of a Whole.
We need to make these two ideologies work together for we the people. We can be individuals with questions, creativity and the choice be what and who we want to be in the world. Both sides of the political aisle talk about this. Freedom of choice does come with consequences, but thats where collectivism comes in.
Instead of the collective shunning, shaming and punishing those that are different from them, they can take part in the individualism and ask questions and learn. Maybe ask the goth kid to take of the spikey jacket and come in for a hug. Then ask what their poetry means.
Collectivism can’t work when it’s ruled by fear, and Individualism can’t work with bred competition. These are polarized ideas and don’t work alone, even though that’s what Individualism wants you believe. We’re filled with polarizing ideas. Left versus Right, Democrats versus Republican, Cat people versus Dog lovers and so on.
But true change and true solutions lie somewhere in between. They lie in the best versions of these ideas. They come to fruition when we start seeing the whole picture insteads of the world through a small lens. The real fallacy of polarizing ideas – we don’t learn and evolve. We remain stagnant in a world that thinks punishment is the consequence of being different, rather than education.
Yes, collectivism helped the early human survive, but individualism help them come up with tools, and use fire. Learn about the world around and when the collective embraced those ideas we progressed. When the kids finally sat with me at lunch I was able to learn to what a condom was. Albeit horrifically! No boy should’ve witness the autocracies committed to produce that day, but I learned dammit! And they learned about where I was from. And that there wasn’t a whole lot to fear.
Until we are ready to accept the vastness of world we live in we’re going to be drenched in polarized debates, control and manipulation. Once we accept the vastness, we can explore learn, teach and create. Till then we will be battling not just with weapons, but ideologies, trying to win a prize that probably doesn’t exist.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!