“They [conformists] think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world…Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members….Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist…. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
The collective is often promulgated as the vanguard of society – the gears that keep society moving forward. Truth be told, nothing could be further from the truth. This is because any collective, or any group, is nothing without the individual – it doesn’t even exist. It can’t even exist.
At society’s core, the individual is the main gear that makes the world go round. Like imagination is the foundation of creativity, the individual is the foundation of society.
It’s crucial to comprehend this concept of Collectivism Vs. Individualism, because it’s not something pondered deeply in society nowadays. Individuals are often given a bad rap, as if wanting to be your own being is a bad thing. The term ‘lone wolf’ is often bandied about in negative light regarding individuals. But individuality is not about living life alone, but about maintaining your identity – your individuality, what makes you distinct from everyone else.
No matter what societal structure, job, or group the individual is in, the individual that maintains their identity will be one step ahead of the curve because they will hold the ability to think like an individual, rather than forgo their mental faculties for the group. This is vital, because many times the mental faculties of individuals wither within groups, which is rather deleterious.
For instance, we all have heard of group brainstorming, the epitome of collectivism. Group brainstorming is one form of collectivist structure that seeks creation ‘by the group’ at the expense of the individual. However, this tool is fraught with issues.
Focusing on why brainstorming often fails, author and psychology researcher Susan Cain explains in her milestone book, Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking:
“Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.”[Bold Emphasis added, Italics Emphasis In Original]
How many individuals suffer from such a system? It’s certainly not optimal, although the illusion of it is always pushed as such. Furthermore, due to all those reasons, the imagination and creativity individuals could employ otherwise remain stagnant, rarely if ever used except in rare circumstances.
Moreover, the larger the group becomes, the less efficient it is. This, of course, makes individuals mere cogs in a machine when they could be harnessing their own endless creative potential.
Regarding large group inefficiency, Cain further notes:
“…some forty years of research has researched the same startling conclusion. Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four. The “evidence from science suggests that business must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity and efficiency is the highest priority.”[Emphasis added]
Furnham’s words boil down this particular issue to the individual. It’s at that level that individuals shine the brightest.
Hearkening back to issues regarding individuals taking part in groups, Malcom Gladwell, author of the book The Tipping Point, states:
“…when people are asked to consider evidence or make decisions in a group, they come to very different conclusions than when they are asked the same questions by themselves. Once we’re part of a group, we’re susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any other number of other kinds of influence…”[Bold Emphasis Added]
As we can gather, the collective is not where an individual’s maximum potential lies.
When the individual becomes part of the collective, creativity suffers, and thus, his imagination.
That is why it’s up to the individual to make sure they retain their identity if they are ever forced to work in a group, such as in school or work.
Ultimately, what choices an individual makes are dictated by what they see available. When the availability of choices is forcefully narrowed down, the path the individual walks on is limited rather than boundless, and the individual’s choices are less than optimal to say the least.
There is a great saying: “Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is lack of power.” A corollary to this would be: Individual potential is based on choices; lack of choices create lack of power. The most significant ways an individual will lack power is when they merge with a group, thus limiting their choices, and as the example above details. As we have learned, brainstorming sessions in large groups are not terribly efficient.
Furthermore, as the individual identifies with the group, they tend to merge with the group mind and rarely ever voice their opinion, for various reasons. This is also highly inefficient because the whole point of group work is to cultivate idea and possibilities.
The ironic part is that group brainstorming, on paper, is about imagination, and yet group brainstorming is antithetical to it since it doesn’t maximize on the potential imagination of every individual and only employs a fraction of it. On the opposite side of that spectrum stands the individual and their maximum potential, every single time.
Individuals which use imagination are self-sufficient in many ways. The Individual that uses imagination not only seeks solutions, but creates them. They don’t take anything at face value. They check, recheck – they research. Why? Because individuals realize they control their own path and are responsible for it. They live a better life, a healthier life, because they imagine better possibilities and put them into action.
These individuals don’t allow themselves to be stopped because they’re incapable of being stopped. That’s not within their DNA. It’s not part of their reality structure.
Curiously, the proclivity to create is so ubiquitous in creative individuals that not creating seems rather foreign. They always seek create beyond the lines, outside ‘the box’ – always in action, always creating. This is why ultimately the individual is the foundation of society.
The canvas of endless possibilities is there for everyone. It requires the desire to create to the nth degree coupled with conscious action for the canvas to become something more than a mere possibility.
What would happen if we all realized our canvas is reality itself?
As the philosopher Sun Tzu once intimated:
“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?”
 Susan Cain, Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, pg. 89.
 Ibid., pg. 88-89.
 Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, pg. 171.
This article is free and open source. You are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
About The Author:
Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.
His own personal blog is BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com where his personal work is shared, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information usually ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.