Can you ever truly be an individual apart from a collective?
Being alone builds in one a sense of self dependence and capableness that collectives inevitably try to break in each individual and inevitably succeed in most. This question stands more towards the idea that individuals only exist in reference to what they are not. Light is only in reference to shadow, a mountaintop in reference to a valley, short in reference to tall and vice versa. How often we define ourselves positively in reference to what we are not. We think of many varying and extraneous ways to describe ourselves to others; to compromise the sharpest parts of who we are for the sake of being ‘understood’ by the collective we find ourselves a part of. How far is too far to compromise when it comes to ‘who you are’? How much being alone is too much before it becomes unsustainable?
Compromising is a uniquely human art. It is also one of the modern virtues that is touted as that which is ‘better’, that which makes the bearer ‘above’ the others around them. But, truly deep down in our hearts, we can ask ourselves, “When is it actually compromise and when is it actually giving up?’ This line might never have been clear; but it has now been pushed so far deep down inside our consciousness that, as a society, we are no longer aware of its existence. We have learned to accept any pushback against ourselves as the necessary compromise that living in a free society requires. We are not allowed to take what ever we want from the store. Compromise. We cannot run stop lights or drive in the middle of the road. Compromise. In return we receive a bevy of wonderful opportunities and protections that we would not have living outside of a society. We have been taught, no, we have been eager to learn, that any restriction placed upon us is a compromise in sight or a greater freedom. For example, now that we don’t have to worry about crazy drivers, we can go on road trips across the town or the country. Now that we don’t have to worry about thieves, we can enter public safely and work hard at our jobs without any fear of repercussions.
However nice this ‘mindset of compromise’ may seem, it very easily morphs itself into something completely different. What was initially conceptualized as a freedom from coercion and violence soon becomes inherent restrictions on all that an individual holds near and dear to themselves. Once it is the case that any socially correct pushback is automatically taken as a sign to compromise, it is no longer compromise for the sake of something greater; it is the individual giving up what is uniquely their own desire or will.