Val is a life-long student of unexplored human potential and many challenges that self-honesty throws at us on that path.
Ten million ignorances do not constitute one knowledge.
-- Klemens von Metternich
Did That Plane Leave At All?!
Collectivism surely means something different to a philosopher, or a sociologist, or and anthropologist -- than it means to me. Born and raised under a communist dictatorship of ex-Yugoslavia I could only learn one meaning of it, and that is: living everyone else's life but our own.
Then, 23 years later, after having moved to the "democratic west", it was supposed to denote my leaving behind that collectivistic mentality -- along with that constant glorification of "patriotism...common good...", and all other sterile slogans which could not find their justification in the way of life there.
Instead, some time soon after arrival, I had an opportunity to watch a TV political documentary with John F. Kennedy giving that famous speech in which he said that even more famous thing: "Don't ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".
Crap-on-a-cracker!!! Did that plane leave at all, or I am still in my beloved communist motherland?!!! -- For that's typical of what I had been hearing there, and I am kidding you not -- that was more popular than blood sausages.
It didn't take long for me to realize how I was not likely to run into another individualist like myself. At my work place there were a few quiet and secretive types who might have been candidates -- but no, they just didn't like my presence there. Not only in their cafeteria, not in their city, but not in their country either.
As I was soon learning from comments not directed toward me, but anyway mentioned as if for "anyone around willing to hear" -- we, "displaced persons", (D.P.s for short) were coming there to steal their jobs.
With my phlegmatic -- also called "cool" -- temperament, I was too busy puffing on my cigarette and enjoying my coffee than see any weight in that crap. Just gave them a quick look to check if any of them looked like Native Canadians, called "Indians" where I came from.
None of them did, so I quickly diagnosed them for just being full of patriotic shit, because their ancestors came here and they stole more than the Native's "jobs"..
Collectivism holds that the individual has no rights, that his life and work belongs to the group (to "society", to the tribe, the state, the nation) and the group may sacrifice him at its own whim to its own interests.
-- Ayn Rand
Yes, it used to be a lots of fun sitting there during those coffee breaks and listening to those smart exchanges between those laborers in a huge bakery who were scared that somebody would have come all the way from Europe with ambition to steal their "highly respected positions".
Before I professionally moved on, I had a chance to hear some more pearls of stupidity from those super-achievers. It was the election time coming when I heard those hot debates, which I found repulsive enough not to hear the official TV versions of it.
As they were obviously split between conservatives and liberals, I decide to pull the devil by the tail and jump in with the question: "What's the difference between conservatives and liberals?"
They looked astounded, somewhat as if I asked "what's the next bus to the Moon?"
No one volunteered to answer, and by the looks on their faces I guessed that none of them knew the answer. Yes, they were just kicking the political bullshit back and forth simply hating the name like "conservative", or "liberal" -- depending to which camp they belonged.
My impressions were getting stronger in the times to come, that people were politically obsessed just because there was nothing going on at home except a nagging wife and a few misbehaving kids.
Like all neighbors do, especially those in a communist regime where everybody lives everyone else's life and only part-time their own -- I couldn't resist to look over the fence either, to see if the same was going on with my neighbors Americans.
You bet, and the American TV channels made it soon clear that political amateurism was the biggest national pastime, maybe even bigger than watching football.
Actually, as I was speculating, you could find many Americans that didn't know much about football -- whereas seemingly all of them knew more about what had to be fixed in the White House than in their own house.
Being of a gypsy mentality, I didn't have enough moving to Canada, but then I also decided to enlarge my immigrant portfolio by moving to the United States. Soon after I started working in a machine shop there, a dude came to work and said: "Hey, guys, have you heard, the President has been shot at?
It was Reagan. Stayed alive without the incident making a dent in his sense of humor.
As for me, I thought how Americans don't just passively badmouth their leaders, but can't wait for the next election to get rid of the one they don't like.
In both British and American history, fervent imperialism has always coexisted with bouts of fierce isolationism.
-- Linda Colley
Isolationism in Western Mentality
For my seven months long American adventure I couldn't use the famous saying by Julius Caesar: "Veni, vidi, vici". (I came, I saw, I conquered), but in my case it was more like: "Veni, vidi, redii" (I came, I saw, I returned).
In a little detail, it meant packing our thirteen pieces of luggage, and with two little kids coming back to Canada -- to instantly find a place to live, good jobs, and to reinstate our full medical coverage for the whole family.
Hmm...and Canada is not even advertising itself as a "land of opportunity".
America is way too absorbed with its own interests, and it's possible not to be noticed if you come there with your own needs.
That actually makes them isolated, as they are not seeking friends -- but followers, while striving for the global leadership, which is an unattainable dream, if not an illusion of already attained reality stemming from an exaggerated patriotism.
That isolationism is seen especially if you come from a place like ex-Yugoslavia, where togetherness is a big thing in the mentality of people. Where neighbors know neighbors, unlike here on the west where neighbors will only communicate in case of fire or other disaster.
I got those "cold vibes" from the western environment shortly after arriving on this continent. Like a sign on everyone's forehead reading: "Mind your own business and leave me alone". With many of those paranoid eyes even avoiding contact as if saying: "Don't even bother looking in my direction".
No extremes are good.
Back there in the old country, a neighbor would drop in unannounced at any time of the day and sit for a chat, whether you were in a mood for it or not. That made many people socially flexible, and you could hear some of those most private family "secrets" disclosed over a cup of coffee. I did, as a kid, not old enough to understand and blush.
With myself being an individualist, I found it a crazy feature of living everyone's life, just like I found it crazy that you could live for years in an apartment building here in the west without as much as saying "hi" to your next door neighbor.
What makes it particularly peculiar is the fact that otherwise there is such a strong sense of patriotism among the westerners.
That came as a little paradox to me -- this high value of privacy bordering with isolation on one hand -- and then an almost narcissistic love for everything pertaining to the national.
I'm not going to talk like I know about politics, because I'm a total amateur, but maybe I can be a spokesperson for people who aren't normally interested in politics.
More About Replacing Private Affairs with National Affairs
I noticed how it is in the cultural paradigm of westerners to "think big", and when nothing "big" is happening at home, and with that sense of exaggerated privacy -- people compensate that with the "grandeur" of national affairs.
That helps them to feel a part of something big.
The crazy part of it is that out of that patriotism they claim how they "love" their country, while insisting on almost paranoid privacy -- to the extent of buying guns to protect themselves from their "beloved" people.
You see what I mean?
They don't know those millions of their people, and many, many of them they would not even want to know. So they live in that artificial sense of national togetherness which is nothing but a propagated political illusion.
As the politicians are pushing for a global hegemony, it gives the people a false sense of power -- even if nothing in their professional, financial, familial, and social status indicates any signs of a "power".
In that strange and contradictory sense they are equally living their very privately oriented isolationism, and on the flip side seemingly breathing with the lungs of the nation, living their affairs, going emotional about things over which they have absolutely no control.
We just love creating these collectivistic illusions.
Like our idiots are smarter than any other idiots in the world; and our inmates in penitentiaries are more bad-asses than any other criminals anywhere; and our nukes can destroy more cities than their nukes can destroy ours...and so on, and on, and on.
That stair on our porch can wait some more to be fixed, but we know exactly that those damn democrats are not doing a good job there.
And while we are enjoying our privacy, it's no one's damn business that our roof is leaking, but we know for sure that something should be done about that "moron-in-chief" before the economy collapses.
That's what I am calling living everyone else's life but our own.
Is it something "bad"?
Of course not. If it was bad, people would have changed it long time ago, right? Just like a comfort zone in an individual life -- so is the comfort zone in social one. We love it, knowing it's not perfect, but damn it, we love it because we are so used to it that we even proudly call it "our ways".
For the next election we already know in advance that there will be initial insane cheering -- only to be replaced with four years of bitching. Why not?
And if anybody would dare to come up to tell us it's wrong -- we already know what to tell them -- okay, nothing of that variety that I could write here.
© 2022 Val Karas