A Philosophical Rumination Regarding the Social “We”

Humor me today as I attempt to show a side of human nature that appears to be getting lost within our marketable society


It is believed that we can “be all that we can be” with enough personal will to overcome all the obstacles that life and the world we live in throws at us.  But is this a valid assertion for most people?  The fact is that for most of us such aspirations fall short simply because there are only so many spots reserved for those who know what they want and go after it.  Not everyone has the sufficient opportunity and resources available to fulfill their ambitions.  We can’t quench our thirst if there is no water source to draw from or strengthen our bodies if the soils are devoid of nutrients to produce what the human anatomy needs to develop.

But is our life a failure if we don’t achieve some fantastical fulfillment?  I don’t believe feeling compelled to be the best, the fastest or the first at something is a sign of weakness or a reason to view yourself or others as a failure.  Again, there is only enough room at top for those who will shine in a given area.  But this in no way diminishes the life that falls short of reaching some desired apex.

We’re born, we live, we die.  What we do to fill the time and space from cradle to grave can be as personally meaningful for the farm girl raised in Texas as it is the privileged son raised in a wealthy urban setting.  Individual fulfillment often resides in how well we accomplish things working with and for others.  That our abilities are layered for each of us doesn’t have to mean they exist for personal fulfillment alone, but for what they contribute to the whole, the collective or the community environment we reside in.

We have come to put too much emphasis on the “I” and in so doing separate ourselves from the larger humanity we all have things in common with.  We have come to put too much emphasis on material possessions and in so doing devalue those who have less than we do.  We have put too much emphasis on a one world view and in so doing destroy those who don’t share it.

We can’t nor should any of us put ourselves outside of the ecosystem we have evolved from.  When the units reject the whole based on some superior notion of self they automatically invite tragedy.  When such self-serving notions foster over time, that tragedy spreads like a cancer.  Our mistrust of “outsiders” may be a survival instinct that was suited for homo erectus and even cro-magnon man but evolution has developed a human brain that now recognizes our connectedness and a need to trust and work together.

Why the differences of how we are made up seem to abhor people rather than fascinate them is a mystery to me.  We all start out in the same molecular fashion and of necessity become members of a family.  As infants we rely on others to nurture us until we can mange on our own at some level.  But that reliance on others never really ends.  It is the reliance on others and the ability to work in congruence that has enabled our ability to survive as a species.  It is this human bond that has enriched our lives from simply existing to truly enjoying being in this world.  Sadly though such enjoyment seems out of reach for many for reasons beyond their control.

If only each parent would focus their child’s mind on how they are a part the whole and what they share in common with every other human rather than what makes them “unique”, chances are we could likely improve the quality of life for us all.  Instead of working selfishly for personal gain, our actions should be centered on how we each impact all who we share space with in our local as well as our global communities.  Time has distanced us from early tribal communities and exposed us to the larger, more complex human family spread across the face of the earth.

Who first set that standard that allows some to take their gifts or good fortune and determine who has value and who hasn’t?  What inner voice convinced a few people that by hoarding all that they touched rather than sharing what was available to all was more right than wrong?  Who first rejected their connection with humanity to elevate themselves above their corporeal beings and look down on others and justify the dangerous notion that they and those who they select are the chosen ones?

No one ever makes it through this life alone, no matter how one contrives a concept of individualism.  We are special only to those who judge as such.  People’s praise of how valuable we are as individuals is in relationship to how we serve the collective good, not for any self-serving reasons.  We enter this world no more anointed than what our community is ready to acknowledge us with.  Thus without others our lives have no real meaning.   And so it goes with all groups.  There is no such thing as a chosen people.  Just some more fortunate than others.

Global Commucication

This common thread which binds us all to a blue dot in a vast universe is our inheritance as a species and as members of the world we share with other life forms.   Taking from others what rightfully belongs to us all weakens that bond and will ultimately cause it to unravel.  The evidence of this is becoming more apparent each day as self-centered individuals or ideological groupings try to justify some perceived uniqueness they endeavor to advance.

As the income gap widens and people lose sight of any hope to achieve more than struggling each day to get by we see them turn more and more to violence; self-inflicted our turned outward towards others.  As special wealthy interests continue to disregard how the status quo approach for generating energy adds to a warmer climate, less advantaged people die by the millions while the survivors move towards those countries who are still economically viable and create added stress on an ever dwindling supply of resources, especially those critical for life to sustain itself.

Unlike the personal physiological needs for water and food, being loved and appreciated is a drive the derives from being a member of a group.  It’s a collective instinct.  One that needs to be nurtured and properly placed in the hierarchy of human emotions.  Not one seen as a threat to our individualistic instincts.

6 responses to “A Philosophical Rumination Regarding the Social “We”

  1. We had this “Me” generation a few years back, yet I don’t think it has ever left us. And I think that the Tea Party embodies this selfish, uncharitable mode of thinking. It’s very disturbing that the 1% has reaped huge benefits and more than recovered after this last recession, while a lot of the 99% has fallen out of the middle class.

    • ” I think that the Tea Party embodies this selfish, uncharitable mode of thinking.”

      Though they are probably as charitable as anyone when it comes to private giving, they do leave the impression of limited sharing that involves the government. Their ideological slant that fears too much help will make people more dependent is fostered on a notion that disregards the expanse and complexity of society and how our current economic system fails to adequately address the needs of all of its citizens.

  2. Wonderfully put, as always. American “individualism” has spawned equal measures of greatness and despair. What hasn’t been equal is the spread of that greatness and despair within your borders. How the richest country the earth has ever known still can’t afford public healthcare (let alone free university) is beyond me.

    • “How the richest country the earth has ever known still can’t afford public healthcare (let alone free university) is beyond me.”

      You and pretty much the rest of the universe John.

  3. The great divide between the Haves and Have-nots is going to become more and more a problem unless we wake up to what is of true value. Well said my man.

  4. we are caught in a historical struggle between those who see the world as a competition motivated by self-interest and those that view the world as a community of people who work together for a common goal. That may be genetic. If it is, these wars between worldviews will never change. I am less and less hopeful that minds will or can be changed. Maybe that’s just today. lol..

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