Individualism Is The Only Path to Freedom and Civilization
My recent article, "The Individualist's Challenge: The Only Path to Freedom," questions the efficacy of the methods of all organizations that claim to promote individual freedom, especially those that recognize the "state" or "government" as the chief enemy of individual freedom. There is one such site I did not include in that challenge.
[Note: The "challenge" is restated and simplified in my last article, "The Individualist's Challenge Continued."]
The site I did not include is The Last Ditch, because it takes a much more realistic view of where society and culture are headed. They are thoroughly opposed to the state, and totally individualistic: "We're all individualists. We all love liberty. We all mourn the civilization of the West," but they do not entertain any unrealistic hope about restoring Western civilization or individual liberty by some cultural revolution:
"First: we might as well forget about fomenting a cultural and intellectual revolution in our time. It's too late. Our adversaries are completing their revolution; we are out of time."
But there is a mistake here, the fundamental mistake of almost everyone who understands that individual freedom is a fundamental necessity of civilized human life.
"Loyal as we all are to the culture of the West, some of us are skeptical whether a European-American ethnic consciousness can coexist with individualism."
The mistake is about the nature of Western Civilization itself.
Individualism Is Western Civilization
The description of those who make up "The Last Ditch" says:
"Some of us come out of the Objectivist tradition of Ayn Rand and stand in a regardful if critical relation to it now."
It has always seemed odd to me that the admirers of Ayn Rand, even those who claim to embrace her philosophy as their own, universally fail to bring away from Rand the one thing that was her major emphasis, which also happens to be the one thing that explains what Western Civilization is. That one thing is individualism and it is the one thing Rand emphasized above all others.
"That one word—individualism—is to be the theme song, the goal, the only aim of all my writing. If I have any real mission in life—this is it." [The Letters of Ayn Rand,
"Arrival In America To We The Living (1926-1936)," To Marjorie Williams, July 28, 1934.]
It is individualism that is civilization, civilization exists wherever there are the independent individualists. I'll let Rand explain:
"No exact knowledge is available on prehistorical man. But every theory ever presented on the subject—on the basis of archaeological evidence—shows that man began with a collectivist society. Every recorded description of savages describes collectivism. Every contemporary savage society leads a tribal, communal, collectivist existence. The whole progress of mankind has been away from the collective toward individualism. Toward the independent man." [The Letters of Ayn Rand
, "To DeWitt Emery," October 16, 1943.]
The movement away from collectivism toward individualism was not the product of "social" reform, not the result of a change in culture, or even philosophy. Civilization is the product of only one thing, the independent action of individuals.
"From the beginning of history, two antagonists have stood face to face, two opposite types of men: the Active and the Passive. The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist
. His basic need is independence
—in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men —nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion. Every type of good work— from laying bricks to writing a symphony— is done by the Active Man. Degrees of human ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same; the degree of a man's independence and initiative determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man.
"While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action." [Emphasis mine.]
The restoration of civilization is not going to be brought about about any kind of organized movement, especially a political one; it will not be the result of any kind of change in society, or culture. If there is to be freedom in the world, it will only happen if individuals choose to be free and live their lives in defiance of and opposition to the collective forces of societies.
"From the beginning of history, the two antagonists have stood face to face: the creator and the second-hander. ... The creator—denied, opposed, persecuted, exploited—went on, moved forward and carried all humanity along on his energy. The second-hander contributed nothing to the process except the impediments. The contest has another name: the individual against the collective. [For the New Intellectual
, "The Fountainhead
, The Soul Of An Individualist."]
If there is to be a restoration of "Western civilization," or civilization at all, it will be only as independent individuals choose to live their lives freely and in defiance of every collectivist and "social" movement.
It is, as Rand said, individualists pursuing their own individual purposes and desires that are the source of every aspect of civilization. Everything else is politics and social engineering which is always destructive of every civilized principle and value.
This is the reason the Independent Individualist does not support or promote any kind of social or political movement or program. I can applaud any movement or program or organization that defends the concepts of individual freedom and opposes the state, but I know no such movement or program will ever produce individual freedom, or restore "Western Civilization." Only "Individual man in independent action," can accomplish that.
—Reginald Firehammer (12/03/10)