Individualism v tribalism

Fjordman just published a major essay entitled. Islam, the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution,

I particularly note the last idea,

[..] Another issue is the lack of individual liberty. I still haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, a novel I know many Americans hold in high regard, and I have mixed feelings about Ayn Rand’s philosophies. However, one thing I do agree with her about is that

    “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”

A Danish man who lived in Iran before the Revolution in 1979 noticed that if he suggested to his Muslim friends that he would like to enjoy some privacy for while, they thought he was crazy. The very notion of “privacy” was alien to them because it implies that you are an autonomous individual with needs of your own. A Muslim is simply an organic part of the Umma, the Islamic community. This lack of individualism and individual liberty is one of the main reasons why Muslims lost out to other cultures.

On the other hand, I believe the West has in recent decades gone too far in making individualism the sole basis of our culture. When a nation is reduced to nothing more than an atomized collection of individuals, with no ties to the past and no obligations to future generations, mounting a defense of a lasting society becomes difficult, if not impossible.

September 20, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Fjordman’s treading on dangerous ground here, for his ideas in the excerpted portion are expanded upon in the writings of Sayyid Qutb upon which the modern day jihadist movement, including Osama bin Laden (who makes frequent allusions to Qutb) are strongly based. For ex, Qutb ends his book Social Justice in Islam by explaining how the world is basically split into materialist cultures and Islam, with the capitalist Western systems to eventually become communist systems due after enough time to allow for resulting economic disparities to cause such to occur. Anyway, here are excerpts from Qutb’s conclusion:

    “The real struggle is between Islam on the one hand and the combined camps of East and West on the other…Islam bases its social system on the foundation of a spiritual theory of life that rejects all materialistic interpretations…We can offer to mankind this theory whose aims are a complete mutual help among all men and a true mutual responsibility in society…So our true place is not at the tail of the caravan, but where we may grasp the leading rein. But it will not be easy for us to take our rightful place; we can reach it only by making great and ineluctable sacrifices, for our own sake and for the sake of all mankind…We may join the march at the tail of the Western caravan, which calls itself democracy; if we do so we shall eventually oin up with the Eastern caravan, which is known to the West as communism. Or we may return to Islam…”

    (if this sounds familiar, bin Laden alluded to a “caravan of martyrs” in his last speech)

  2. …democracy is nothing without the underlying values that support it… Democracy and freedom come as a result of values, they are fruits of principles; they are not the source of them.

    This is a good argument for the US to install its own American-led government in Iraq and having the Iraqis learn by example rather than allowing Iraqis to govern themselves without the values and morality that a free society requires. Instead, the Iraqis substitute the Islamic religion for law and order which is contrary to freedom, democracy, individualism and human rights.

  3. “…On the other hand, I believe the West has in recent decades gone too far in making individualism the sole basis of our culture. When a nation is reduced to nothing more than an atomized collection of individuals, with no ties to the past and no obligations to future generations, mounting a defense of a lasting society becomes difficult, if not impossible….”

    If collectivism tends to tyranny and individualism tends to selfishness and a dysfunctional society, how is this dilemma resolved?

    The key lies in shared values. In a collective society the end goal is supposedly for the common good of the society, the means used to create social unison to achieve this is totalitarianism.

    However, free societies by far and away have achieved more, given more, and benefited humanity greater because of shared values which create a unique collectivism of free will. Shared values bring us together as individuals participating in an organized effort by and for the people.

    This is what troubles me about the future, the destruction of our values, democracy is nothing without the underlying values that support it. This is why democracy fails in Islamic and totalitarian countries. Democracy and freedom come as a result of values, they are fruits of principles; they are not the source of them.

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