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Guest opinion: Individualism is damaging to society’s bonds

Guest opinion: Individualism is damaging to society’s bonds

By Kyle Scott

For the Deseret News

Adobe Stock

Rampant individualism leaves individuals no grounds on which to appeal to a higher standard of justice. Individual opinion is left as the final arbiter of right and wrong.

The phrase "You do you" and the #MeToo movement are in conflict, yet nobody recognizes or seems to care. The individualism of You Do You negates the possibility of a universal, objective standard of right and wrong, which #MeToo demands. To hold wrongdoers accountable, and to ensure good behavior, a universal, objective standard that distinguishes right from wrong is required. If individuals are allowed to decide for themselves what is appropriate and inappropriate, then no meaningful change can occur with how individuals treat one another. Individualism left unchecked leads directly to relativism, in which case nothing is wrong.

Justice is communal in nature. Standards of behavior would be completely different in a world in which there was no interaction among individuals, unlike in ours, where, realistically, human interaction is inevitable. Therefore, any rules for interaction must be grounded in some general understanding of justice that takes into account the inevitability of human interaction. To that end, justice itself must recognize there is something other than the individual that must be respected and preserved. There is a reciprocal relationship between the individual and the community, as neither can survive without the other.

Rules governing human interaction must respect the dignity of the individual in such a way that the community itself is preserved and maintained so that it facilitates human flourishing. To make a rule that sacrifices one to the other would destroy both and would therefore be unjust.

This forces the individual to come to grips with the fact that the individual left alone in isolation would not be able to realize her or his full potential without the support of the community. If we spend all our time gathering food, water, building shelter and fire, there’s not much time left for sport, reading, travel or love.

The #MeToo movement recognizes that one individual sacrificing another to their own desires is unjust. Justice demands that interactions facilitate the flourishing of both individuals for the interaction to be just. Sacrifice is sometimes necessary, but for the betterment of all, not for one.

Predatory behavior, among other things, permits one person to exercise their will against another’s. A predator is individualism run amok. A predator has no concern for others, for decency, for justice, for morality, save for that which is initiated exclusively from within the predator. The predator is only governed by its own individual desire. No standards matter except for those which the predator chooses for itself. A predator is the epitome of You Do You.

You Do You is nothing more than the most recent proclamation of individualism above all else. You Do You simply means that what I feel, who I am and what I do is predicated upon nothing more than me. There is no reference to a greater good, no sense of obligation, no appeal to a higher standard. The individual is left the measure of all things as the individual is left to decide what he or she wants to do.

No one individual can tell others they are wrong, they should do something differently, or that they should restrain their desire toward individual impulse. Within the realm of individualism, there can be no standard of justice beyond the individual, which means there can be no standard of justice other than that set forth by the individual. Each is left to judge him or herself alone. Individualism is relativism, which means no actions can be deemed unjust.


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I may be too harsh on You Do You, but only to make the point that individualism is damaging to society’s bonds as it destroys any attempt to understand justice as communal. Rampant individualism leaves individuals no grounds on which to appeal to a higher standard of justice. Individual opinion is left as the final arbiter of right and wrong.

If we want a society in which justice prevails, we need a society made up of individuals who recognize there is something beyond themselves, who have a sense of responsibility and restraint that guides their self-judgment and interaction with others.

DMU Timestamp: November 09, 2018 23:10

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