Would you rather be a tame (and obedient, domesticated) animal (sheep), or would you rather be an apex predator (lion, eagle)?
Society is anti individual
Society doesn’t like disorder. A society strives towards stability, safety, and predictability.
Now depending on what country you were raised in, there are different societal values. For example:
- America: Utilitarianism: the collective raising of the well-being of everyone.
- Asian-Confucian: Obedient, industrious, educated. To create an elite “literati” “Mandarin” class, and have servants/slaves do the rest of the dirty work.
Assuming you live in a country with freedom of action or speech, you can choose how to live your life. Society pressures you to conform to their norms, but doesn’t force you to do so with a gun to your head (Communism).
Therefore on very pragmatic grounds it seems useful to:
- Understand the biases of your society, and what it wants from you and its members
- Challenge the value systems you were raised with
- Keep the values you like, ditch the ones you despise.
Society wants us to be shy and acquiesce to authority figures
Now this is where things get interesting to me:
If society wants us to be obedient sheep, who is to lead us?
In America, there isn’t really a strong leader figure. Even the president; the system of checks and balances restrain the power of the president. In America, authority and leadership is diffused evenly throughout Washington DC. The president is more of a symbol than a leader with authority and power.
Therefore as much as people think America is about individualism, it isn’t. America is a utilitarian “herd” society which happens to have freedom of action and speech. And as Nietzsche said about the English (they strive for comfort and fashion), so does America (we follow in the footsteps of our English fore-fathers).
Becoming a beast
This is the funny thing:
Society wants us to become obedient sheeple, yet we still praise individuals who are like “beasts”.
For example we valorize The Rock and his beast-like attitude. We like the mercurial and ruthless killing of John Wick/Keanu Reeves. We love UFC fighters and boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather. But then the attitude is this:
That’s fake. It’s just Hollywood. Action stars and famous people/artists are allowed to live and act in bizarre and different ways, but us “normal” people cannot (and should not).
Then comes the very practical question:
Should we strive to become industrious, obedient, and thrifty individuals? Or should we strive to become beast-like individuals, living a more self-centered and “selfish” life?
Why is “selfish” synonymous with “evil”?
Generally when you call someone “selfish”, you’re actually calling them evil and immoral. Where does this bias come from?
Once again the culprit is “society”. An individual who only lives for him/herself is seen as having “negative utility” for society at large. There’s even the ancient maxim by Publilius Syrus:
“He who only lives for himself is dead to others.”
What is good? Anything which benefits society and the collective. What is bad? Anything which doesn’t help or benefit society/the collective.
I say go individual
My suggestion: become more selfish, more self-centered and more focused on your personal pursuits which interest you. And as you’re learning, share those insights with others! This is a barbell between “extreme selfishness” and “extreme altruism”. This is my ideal society.