Friday, December 22, 2006

Is Individualism leading to Narcissism?

An increasing emphasis on individualism illustrates the elevated position the self holds in Western culture. This prominence is often referred to as narcissism—the obsessive love of self.

Individualism refers to a moral, political, or social outlook that stresses human independence and the importance of individual self-reliance and liberty.

In modern culture, narcissism is fuelled by the obsessive focus on the realization of the self. Internet and blogs which is the citizen media has created a very personalized culture inflating individual egos.

America, as the land of diversity and promise, glorifies the 'individual', and praises those select few who can follow their own path, but in reality very few people ever choose to step away from society.

In 'Self-Reliance,' the famous American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson describes his vision of the individual as a man dependent on himself and refusing to conform to social standards and expectations.

Authoritarianism construed as the opposite of individualism is a far more dangerous form of social control characterized by strict obedience to the authority of a state or organization.

Clearly people like Emerson in a different time in history saw the importance of realising the individual value. It would be wrong to assume that in such thinking nothing outside yourself matters and everyone was unto themselves to do as they pleased.

There are universal values of what is considered as right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and these traits will have to be borne out to rein in the excesses of the individual which can harm the society.

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