The existence of various forms of fascism in our world – and throughout our history – reflects a deep conviction that has been held by many people in many different times: The idea that only a group, as opposed to any individual, can wield real power. Whether it is a small and secretive cult or a vast empire, an organization can draw people into its structure because it seems like the only vehicle through which effective action can be taken in the world.
It’s hard for many of us to grasp the true power of ideas. Ideas have always been the real motive force behind all of the changes that our world has seen. It seems, though, as if history has actually been written by wars, revolutions and crusades. It can be harder to see the underlying beliefs that provoke such dramatic upheavals. All of these beliefs were once ideas in the minds of individuals. Individuals can exist (and think) without organizations, but organizations cannot exist without individuals.
Society thrives when the individuals within it are able to find personal fulfillment. When its people lack a basic sense of satisfaction with life – when circumstances are somehow blocking or foiling this fulfillment – then every segment of society feels it. Wars, economic depression, political stagnation and various protests can all be seen as symptoms of this underlying dissatisfaction. Historically speaking, many governments that ignore this reality do not last long. Consider, for example, the French Revolution.
Any society will grow and prosper only to the extent to which each member is recognized for the gifts that s/he possesses and the unique contributions that s/he is able to make. Efforts to stamp out individuality within a culture will always be self-defeating in the end. A good social structure is as much a work of human creativity as any painting, novel or poem. How can it carry life-giving energies if the very creativity of the people behind it is repressed?
Following our creative impulses will lead each one of us to personal fulfillment. A society that allows us our creative expression – that encourages it, even – will likewise be fulfilled. If it fails to do so, if it blocks the avenues of creativity and communication, then it will succeed only in cutting itself off from its own wellspring. When that happens, all of the various systems that it has created will begin to break down.
All the hard-headed labor in the world won’t suffice to fuse the broken pieces back together again, either. The system will have to be reinvented – and for this, it will need to rely upon the creativity and the freedom of the people who are a part of it. Individuals who are able to attain their own kind of personal fulfillment can build a prosperous society. The individual is not the enemy of the State, but rather its most crucial building block. Any society that chooses to turn a blind eye to this truth is bound to find itself living on borrowed time.
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