The LImits of Rugged individualism
By J. Davila Ashcraft
One of the oft praised characteristics of traditional American culture is that of “rugged individualism.” The idea of a strong self-willed, I can do it on my own man or woman is seen as the ideal citizen of a free nation. While there is some truth to this characterization, and we certainly should promote personal responsibility, individualism has limitations, and those limitations are imposed on it by God Himself.
Individualism is a double edged sword. One the one hand, when expressed as personal responsibility, it compels someone to work hard to achieve goals without relying on government programs and handouts. It was this sort of individualism we see most clearly in the first American settlers. They had no big government money feeding them, clothing them or providing for medical care when they fell ill. They understood they were on their own when it came to putting food on the table, clothing themselves, and shaping their destiny in this new land. This is positive individualism.
As the young nation grew this character was passed on, but gradually became weaker and weaker as technology made life easier and government grew in size, becoming a surrogate provider. Generally speaking, what remains of this individualism today is the negative application of it.
In the current climate of Relativism and Cultural Marxism individualism possesses none of the self sacrifice or recognition that the individual is responsible to God for his attitudes and actions. The negative individualism of today rejects all moral responsibility. It rejects:
- Moral duties to owed fellow citizens
- Moral duties owed to parents, elders and ancestors
- Moral duties owed to children and posterity
- The moral duty of justice
- The moral duty of good faith and honesty
- The moral duty of biblical compassion
- The moral duty of thankfulness to God
Because this negative individualism rejects the duties and responsibilities naturally attendant to the concept, it lends itself to the gradual erosion of individualism itself. Negative individualism, rather than encouraging and engaging in the positives of the concept, places the responsibilities squarely on the shoulders of government. Government is the psychological salve, the replacement of the conscience for those who live a negative individualism. When a people do this they inevitably give away their freedom, since freedom is not the ability to do whatever one would like to do (which is what negative individualism promotes), but the freedom to do what one should. Having unburdened themselves of the things they should do, they sell themselves into slavery. Most assuredly government will supplant the moral duties of man, but not without the consequences of any government given such power- totalitarianism. Where once government served the needs of man, it now asserts its primacy over man and his needs. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Screwtape Proposes a Toast:
“That invaluable man Rousseau [‘the father of the totalitarians’] first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our [demonic] side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state.”
Granted, our natural inclinations are to resist moral responsibilities, since we are born under the bondage of sin and inherited depravity. Moral duties are, however, present in our conscience as a reminder that we do not live for ourselves alone, nor are we answerable only to ourselves for our actions and attitudes. Without these moral duties at work in our lives we become self-centered individuals who must be controlled by the State to prevent us making decisions that would harm our society. Such governmental control always renders the individual of lesser importance, or, in fact, of no consequence, to the life of the State.
“What is life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation.”- Adolf Hitler
What we must be aware of is that the Cultural Marxists do not advocate for a positive individualism, but for a negative individualism in pursuit of a totalitarian state. This is what is behind their advocacy of LGBTQ rights, gay marriage, transracialism, transgenderism, abortion and other so-called “individual rights” and the many demands on government for reparations, funding of health care, and social welfare. The end game is slavery and an end of all moral expectations on the populace, so the State can determine what is moral on our behalf. It is nothing less than the eradication of the very individual they claim to represent. How many will cooperate with their own enslavement remains to be seen.
J. Davila Ashcraft is a Theologian and Apologist, and a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. His website: www.paleoorthodoxy.org
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