The Needs of the Many over/under the Needs of the few. Or the one. (Tiferes Part VII)

There was a time in American history that yielded a tremendous amount of financial success. The powerful individualistic streak that motivated some of the early billionaires has been praised by Americans who bleed red white and blue. I believe this is what hit a wall in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and helped the development of the progressive movement. One of the great balancing acts of history is the pendulum that swings in between the extremes of individualism and communal-ism. Balancing these two extremes is as important not only for individuals, but for whole societies.

I believe this pendulum can be sourced in Bereishis, Genesis, Chapter 2. The story there has God creating a single human being, and then almost immediately afterwards exclaiming that it isn’t good for man to be alone. Well, if it wasn’t good, why didn’t you create two or more people in that scene to begin with?!

The point being made here is that there are two opposing tendencies in human beings. One is to have the sense of wanting to be an individual, in decisions and actions. Every person is obligated to say, “The world was created for me.”

The other opposing tendency, just as real, is that a human being can’t function alone. Being alone will result in death, obliteration, will cancel the hope of immortality. This is true in the biological sense. And man being a social animal, it is true in every other sense as well.

Any attempt at equilibrium, harmony, has to include an equilibrium between those two sides. Americans have liked to think of the individual side. Yet it just won’t work like that all the time.

 

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