The Fallacy of Rugged Individualism
I am lonely. You are lonely. Each individual is lonely. To a certain point, this occurrence is inevitable. Since we all have different biological genes, we are individualistic. Differing interpretations of the same event makeup our varying identities, how each example is dissimilar. Although we experience the same emotion, we react to it differently as individuals. No matter how close one may think they are in comparison to another, none of us are exactly the same. We are all born into different environments under different conditions and experience these life events contrarily to someone else. Not one person has experienced the same exact situation as another, that’s what makes us individuals.
The main theory that highlights these concepts is the fallacy of rugged individualism. This belief states that each individual should be self-sufficient by helping himself or herself out. This sufficiency is based off our knowledge, either learned by experience or taught to us growing up. Rugged individualism has many aspects and various interpretations of the definition that you can pull from. One viewpoint is that regardless of our attempts to be individuals, every person needs the interaction of another human being. This relationship seems to give us more life and make us more wholesome than solely living our life. In a way, it relates to agape, the love of everyone; wanting to live through them instead of living our own lives individually, we become a part of someone else’s life as we seemingly live through their lives. Individualism has a connection to our hearts that relates us to community and others. This connection links us to another person or multiple people blurring the fine line of “individualism”.
Carl Jung coined the principle of individuation, consisting of the manner where things are identified distinguishable from others. Individuation expresses the idea that something is identified as an individual thing that “is not something else”, including how a person is held to be distinct from other worldly elements and distinct from other people. Additionally, the process of human development is becoming fully individual (ourselves). Jung highlights the aspect of rugged individualism through individuation in that each person is distinct and different from another. Similarly related to the ethos of extraordinary, using both arête, in that you distinguish yourself above or from others and kleos, making your distinguishability it known within the broad community.
Potential problems that arise from rugged individualism are the constant need to be associated with another person, not fully embracing our own lives. This leads to heavily relying on others to sustain our life, essentially belittling humankind saying we constantly need other people to survive because we can’t do it on our own. Another negative would be how we were raised and believing “that’s how things are”, creating a shield and narrowed vision of the world we live in. Rugged individuality pushes us to fake it, hiding the background and our struggles; coercing us to make it seem that our lives are perfectly fine even when that’s not the case. These actions present the question of a “soft” individualism; sharing the struggles we have in common with others furthering a better understanding of each other collectively. This approach isn’t as harsh as rugged but allows individualism to be more permeable and community-based.
The Different Drum by M. Scott Peck, M.D.