As of today, all of the fruits of your labor will be donated to the state. Your occupation, based off of personality tests, will be lawn engineering. Your job is to make sure that the landscape in your town looks perfect. We know you have wanted to pursue a career in computer engineering (based off of the phone conversations we’ve been listening to your entire life), but the community needs landscapers. That sounds like an awful collectivist world where individual rights are not held to the highest esteem. Why does it seem so creepy when others make these types of decisions for us? We are all individual beings, and when we are forced to be a part of a collective**, our individual souls suffer; we are not allowed to find who we really are because our bodies do not belong to us.
One thing that we all have in common is inalienable human rights which were defined under the United States Constitution to organize a society which was just being born. This was the first time in history that the rights of the citizens were defined in a government document, and that is the reason why it has been used as an example for constitutions around the world. There have been countless debates over the years as to what type of society a human should live in. We are a social species who thrives off of fellow human contact, but we are also a species who needs to spend time by ourselves. Every single one of us is different, and all different types of people have been trying to figure out how we can all live in harmony on this earth together. When those rights have been regulated by an imposing collective, the individual becomes confused and agitated: Why do I have to be a landscaper instead of a computer engineer? Your parents will tell you, “That’s just the way it is, and you should be proud to be a part of bettering the community.” This conflicting environment creates in the individual what is called cognitive dissonance.
Chances are, after your parents and others in the community congratulate and praise you for being the town’s newest landscaper, you’re probably thinking, “Well, landscaping can’t be so bad. I’ve always loved mowing the lawn.” At this point, you are creating the illusion that you have always loved mowing the lawn, and you helped your dad put in some sprinklers and a pond one time and you loved it. Pretty soon, you forget all about being a computer engineer because landscaping is your life. This is what Leon Festinger (1957) calls cognitive dissonance: a situation where the individual believes one thing but acts a different way, which results in discomfort. This discomfort is relieved by changing one’s attitudes or beliefs around the conflicting behavior, and the result is an unhappy being. The collective forces this type of compliance onto the individual, and eventually it spreads to all individuals and makes a population unhappy.
When you have an unhappy but obedient collective, the individual is suffering, and when the individual suffers, he will try to overcome this suffering by means he has learned throughout his life. Some things individuals do to cope with suffering is relieving the stress that is caused by it. We know positive ways to relieve stress, but the negative ways seem to be increasing across the nation, and sometimes that stress can kill us. According to the CDC, suicide has made it to the top ten leading causes of death in the country at more than 38,000 deaths in 2010. According to suicide.org, untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, and depression amongst the population has leaped significantly since the Great Recession of 2008. Americans were hit with home foreclosures, loss of money in the stocks, loss of their jobs, and an out of control government bailing out the banks and corporations that caused the meltdown in the first place. It seemed that during that time, a lot of Americans lost hope, and according to Forbes.com, the U.S. leads the world in depression rates at a total of 9.6% of the population suffering. Compare that to a .8% depression rate in Nigeria, and you have yourself a huge problem. A lot of this depression stems from Americans feeling like they will never get to live the American dream because most of their money gets taken from the government in taxes and they cannot find a job.
When you have collective control over the economy, unemployment rises. Why? Because the key to a collectivist society is getting the individual to depend on the collective. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of January 1st, 2014, almost 5 million Americans are collecting unemployment, 13 million are on welfare, and a whopping 46 million use food stamps. Not including unemployment and food stamps, the federal government uses $131.9 billion of tax payers’ money to pay for these “benefits.” These costs do not even compare to how much tax payers are going to pay for those 60 million non-workers’ healthcare. How is the already stretched and depressed tax payer going to afford that? The answer is that a lot of us can’t afford to without thinking about turning to welfare to help us get by. If this doesn’t constitute as a collectivist-leaning society, I don’t know what would.
Although all of this sounds bleak in comparison to our ancestors’ America of roads paved in gold, we still have a chance to turn our country around to cater to the individual like we once did before. We must stay vigilant in holding our representatives responsible for what they legislate and always stand up for the underdog. We must question the official narrative of everything because it is our duty to keep our government in check, and as long as we keep on asking questions, we will find answers. The Millennial generation grew up with promises of going to college, getting a degree, getting a part time job, meeting our soul mate, getting married, having kids, and retiring at 65. As long as you follow the program, you will succeed, just like your parents did. Now we are finding that these promises were never true, that we have to find our own way that wasn’t promised to us, and that we may have to work until we die. As long as we stay active and voice our opinion, our generation will be the one that leads future generations into getting back to the America with “roads paved in gold,” where the individual soars, and the government stays out of the way.
** If an individual chooses to be a part of a collective, that is different. If we are born into a collective, we did not get to choose.