I might have entitled this article, "collectivism," except that collectivism is sometimes used to describe a particular political view. What I want to emphasize is the way all individuals regard others which is either a collectivist view or an individualist view.
By a collectivist view I mean any identification or evaluation of individuals, oneself or others, by means of their membership in some collection such as a race, a religion, a nationality, or any other group large or small, including political parties, fraternal organizations, activist groups, communities, or even families.
The one exception to this principle is when one is associated with a group as a matter of fact, such as one's race or sex or language, when there is no implication of anything about the individual that can be determined beyond the stated fact. For example, Sally is negro does not tell you anything about Sally except her race which might be important to a doctor, but otherwise has almost no importance; Sam is a woman only removes the possible ambiguity of the individual's name; and John speaks only Greek might be important in preparing a business meeting John would be attending. In all these cases it is not the "group" one is being associated with, but a certain characteristic one shares with others, but would have even if they were the only person in the world with that characteristic. There is nothing collective about the identifications
By an individualist view I mean the view that every individual is different from every other individual and all that can be known of importance or significance about any individual, that is, who and what they are, can only be discovered by knowing that individual and that nothing of importance or significance can be known about any individual in terms of any group anyone else might assign the individual to.
There is an exception to this principle too. When individuals identify themselves collectively, that is, in terms of some group they belong to or associate themselves with, it is significant in one or more of the following ways: 1. it means the individual holds a collectivist view; 2. if it is a religion one associates oneself with it will indicate what that individual believes and values; 3. if it is a political party one associates themselves with it will indicate that individual's social/political views; 4. if it is a race one identifies themselves with they are a racist; 5. if it is a nationality they identify themselves with they are nationalistic. These observations are not themselves collectivist. The individualist view does not derive these conclusions from associating individuals with groups, the conclusions are based of the declarations of the individuals themselves. To draw any other conclusion would imply those individuals were liars.
I need to say something about 1, 4, and 5: 1. The fact that one identifies themselves by association with some group means that individual identifies others collectively, if only as being members of the group he identifies himself with or as non-members of that group. 4. If an individual identifies themselves racially it means they believe their race in some way contributes to their value or importance, in some way some other racial identification would not, else they would not make that identification. That implies, whether the individual is aware of it or not (and they usually are aware of it) that every other racial identification is in some way inferior. 5. In a similar way, the nationalistic view always implies some superiority of one's own nationality which always implies some inferiority in all others.
Almost everyone is a collectivist. The individualist view is extremely rare, though it is the only correct moral view. The collectivist view is alway wrong, and usually immoral as well. Here's why:
Everyone Is Different
Collectivists ignore the most significant fact about all physical entities, especially living organisms, and most especially about human beings. In the macro world, no two physical existents are exactly alike. I know of no physical principle that forbids things being identical, and perhaps there are some that are, but they would be very simple and very rare. The more complex things are the less likely they will be identical. I am certain no two organisms are identical. That certainty is based on the fact that all living organism have some attributes that are determined by mathematical functions based on "chaos theory," which produce similar characteristics in individual organisms which are never identical.
[NOTE: In the micro-world of atomic and subatomic particles all existents of the same kind are assumed to be identical. All chlorine atoms are identical, all neutrons are identical, all photons are identical. They may have different energy levels, and must be in different places, but otherwise one is impossible to identify from another.]
The most complex of all organisms are human beings, and no two human beings are exactly alike, and in most cases not even very much alike. They are different in almost every way they could be, physically, biologically, and psychologically, yet they are all similar in that they share those physiological, biological, and psychological class of characteristics which are uniquely human.
The characteristics all human beings share make it possible to identify them as human beings, but the most significant aspect of their nature is that even though they are all human beings, every individual is a unique human being, and almost nothing of significance can be said about them that is, "one size fits all."
Everyone Is What They Choose To Be
The collectivist view always assumes that it is some group or collective an individual is identified with that determines what an individual is. The determination may be attributed to genetics, culture, environmental influences, or anything else outside of individuals themselves and associated with the group or class they are assigned to.
Every individual is influenced to some degree by their genetics, culture, social environment, and even geography. None of these things determine what any individual human being is, however. The one and most important aspect of human nature all collectivist views neglect is the human mind. The mind consists of three attributes: volition—the ability and necessity to consciously choose all one thinks and does; intellect—the ability to learn and retain knowledge; and rationality—the ability to think and reason.
Only one thing determines what any human being is, what that human being chooses to learn, think, and do. Innate ability, environment, and physical reality define the limits of what one can learn and do, but within those limits the possibilities are unlimited. Certainly some environments and societies provide more advantages for the individual, but unless one's environment is totally oppressive (such as some Muslim societies), one is only limited by their own willingness to learn all they possibly can, to think as well as they possibly can, and to choose to accomplish and achieve all they possibly can. Learning always comes first. What one knows is all one has to think about or think with and determines the scope of their life. The thing that limits most people's lives is their unwillingness to learn.
The Bell Curve Prejudice
There was a book published in 1994 called, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. The main thesis of the book is that intelligence levels can be identified with specific groups as identified in the following figure. It is not an attempt to explain why different groups have different intelligence levels. Nevertheless, everything about the book is wrong, because it is entirely a collectivist view.
The groupings themselves are arbitrary. Three of the groups are races, but one is a nationality. Since "black" means something different in the US (mostly African origin) than in the UK (includes Middle-Eastern and Indian origins) for example, what people are being identified is ambiguous. Hispanics are usually classified as white.
It does not really matter how one tries to classify people collectively, it cannot be done. Just because everyone is different, no statistical analysis or conclusion can tell anything about any individual's characteristics, intelligence, talent, looks, ambition, strengths or weaknesses.
I have no idea what ultimate objective the authors, Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray had in writing the book, but whatever it was and whatever conclusion was intended, it was at best wrong-headed, and probably much worse, as any collectivist view of human beings always is.
The authors provide no definitive explanation for the differences in intelligence between their chosen groups, but strongly suggest genetics as the major contributor. Even if there were differences in, 'intelligence,' that ran along some group lines, the suggestion that anything, including innate intelligence, determines what an individual is or does is not only wrong, it is evil. It flies in the face of the most important fact of human nature, the human mind, especially human volition. Nothing outside an individual determines what an individual is.
No One Is A Statistic
The basic collectivist assumption is that something other than an individual's own choices determine what an individual is. To bolster this view collectivists continually resort to one of the most deceptive forms of so-called evidence, statistics.
Statistics are a very powerful and useful tool in fields as broad as science, finance, and marketing. But statistics are constantly abused when their conclusions are applied to individuals. This is especially true in such fields as medicine, a real science, and sociology, a pseudo-science. Especially when statistics are used to identify "causes."
Ohm's law is an example of a causal relationship. E=IR, voltage equals the current times the resistance. It is invariable. In the formulation, I=E/R, a change in either variable, E or R, always results in a change in the current. For any specific change in R, for example, there will always the same corresponding change in I, Always! That is what a cause is. There is no "sometimes" it changes the current, or it often changes the current, or there is a statistical correlation between the change in R and the Change in I. None of those would be examples of cause.
Here is an example. "Smoking causes lung cancer." If that were true everyone who smoked would have lung cancer. From the time he was a young teenager Helmut Schmidt smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. He died at 96. He never had lung cancer. There are literally millions of other examples, but one is enough to prove smoking does not "cause" lung cancer. The only basis for the claim that smoking causes lung cancer are some questionable statistical correlations. The point is not about whether smoking contributes to lung cancer or not, but to the constant misuse of statistical data as a basis for identifying causes, especially as cause applies to individuals. Even if there is a relationship between smoking and lung cancer, it cannot be called causal (without lying) and it will never say anything about any particular individual who smokes.
"The Bell Curve Prejudice," described above is an example of that misuse of statistics. The fact is that no statistical conclusion applies to individuals. Statistics only apply to collectives as collectives, never to the individuals that make up the collectives. Every statistic that describes the possible harm of eating certain foods, or not eating them, or not having certain tests performed, or having them performed, or living a certain lifestyle, based on statistics does not apply to individuals, because every individual is different and if any statistic exactly applied to any individual, it would not apply to any others. [I have to keep reminding my doctor of this.]
The worst misuse of statistics by sociologists and politicians are those used to convince people that individuals are caused to be what they are by anything other then their own choices. The candidates for possible causes claimed by these pseudo-scientist can be almost anything form ones race, religious affiliation, nationality, genetic background, economic status, education, or lack of education, or culture, all because one is part of some collective where these causes do their work. Almost everyone swallows one or more of these lies.