CALIFORNIA, August 5, 2013 — One of the most recognizable features of the current political zeitgeist is the patent decline of individualism and the increasing prominence of hyper-partisanship. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to any political party. People on both the left and the right have defenestrated the concept of individualistic thinking in favor of repeating dull political talking points.
Serious morality and hyper-partisanship cannot coexist, inasmuch as truly moral people must have strong independent spirits. Yes, people with morals can be deeply ideological, but they certainly cannot be blindly partisan.
Moral people cannot blithely go along with the crowd, mainly because they must check their positions with their moral compasses to make sure that they are in alignment. Moral people do not suppress their consciences; however, hyper-partisans must do so because their status with a particular movement is of more importance to them than morality and truth-telling.
In politics today, very few people form their opinions after carefully assessing all of the facts and the perspectives from across the political spectrum. Rather, liberals would prefer to hear the conservative perspective from liberal pundits, and conservatives would prefer to hear the liberal perspective from conservative pundits.
Not only does this lead to a distinct lack of critical thinking and understanding of various political views, but it also leads to people possessing weak worldviews that have not been subjected to rigorous challenges and counterarguments from people with opposing worldviews.
Alas, the current political landscape is designed in such a way that it is possible to be indoctrinated by partisan news sources that only present information favorable to one side, and conveniently present all the information unfavorable to the other side.
Conservatives, especially, assert that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. The way they choose avoid this bias is by hiding themselves in conservative media enclaves—with little attention paid to the fact that the conservative media is hardly an unbiased bastion of truth.
The truth of the matter is that both sides of the political aisle have shameless liars. As famed economist Joseph Schumpeter opined, “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.” That some conservatives have deluded themselves into believing that Schumpeter’s insight only applies to the left is unfortunate.
The only way to avoid media bias and propaganda is by consuming all media—that is, everything from the far left to the far right. Only then can one get to the truth, which has no permanent political home. Those who refuse to read everything will inevitably be deceived.
There are several problems with the rise of blind hyper-partisanship and the decline of individualism. One significant problem is that it leads to the upsurge of demagogues. People who do not think critically are essentially clay in the hands of partisan prevaricators. Such people are incapable of evaluating the rhetoric that demagogues spew, and they are easily enthralled by demagogic language, charm, and wit. This has disastrous consequences as the historical record clearly indicates.
Another problem caused by the decline of individualism is that there are less people to meaningfully engage in problem-solving. Solving intractable political problems often requires unique thinkers who are willing to collaborate with other unique thinkers in order to arrive at workable and innovative solutions. A political environment that encourages partisanship above independent thinking is one in which apportioning blame for political problems is considered a more profitable and time-worthy task than solving those problems.
Additionally, the lack of individualism and increased hyper-partisanship blinds people to the foibles and missteps of political movements. In order for political movements to thrive, they must be profoundly introspective. Manic cheerleading does not help political movements, inasmuch as it does nothing to make people understand where they have gone wrong on issues of policy and morality. Careful reflection and constructive criticism are important to the intellectual health of an ideological movement.
The decay of individualism is an unmistakable threat to a free society. A society in which individualism is disregarded will inevitably be a society in which progress is stymied. Societies progress when vibrant free-thinking contributors are plentiful; societies fail when the masses are trained to engage in simplistic groupthink.
Partisan politics has not completely killed individualistic thinking—as of yet. However, if things continue down this road, individualists will soon be extinct. Sadly, the death of individualism is a precursor to the death of Western society.
Chidike Okeem is a writer. Born in Nigeria, raised in London, England, and now living in California, he writes about race, culture, religion, and politics. You can find contact information and read more of his writings at www.voiceofchid.com.
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