Each day I am greeted with headlines about the rise of COVID cases in the United States. I am bombarded with posts on social media about how people are stupid for not wearing masks, or about the newest protest from people claiming it is their right to not wear one… yet I sit here and think how are any of us surprised we are at this point… how can any of us be surprised… who is shocked we have become the laughing stock of other developed nations… who is bewildered that our cases are rising while others are trending down… who is shocked at our selfishness?
While we can be disappointed, ashamed, saddened, upset… not one of us should be surprised. We are a society that has prided itself on individualism and celebrated individual gain at any cost. While other cultures and societies have continued to hold onto the notion of communal interdependency, we have laughed in their faces and touted our individualism as supreme and the only way to succeed. We have pretended to care about education, health care, and the well being of our neighbor, but yet we silently judge anyone not seen as working hard enough.
We are a society that looks up to the rich and celebrates their millions yet does not critique the many lives sacrificed for the person’s success. We don’t care those trampled as long as the person at the top wins. We have celebrated those who need no one and laugh at those who seem to struggle or need others.
It is no secret I love, and I mean LOVE, Alfred Adler… I especially have been drawn to his concept of social interest for two decades. Social interest is the idea that we are only well if we are striving for a better life not only for ourselves but for all… and this is where I see we have failed as a society… we lack social interest. For too long we have been taught, we have believed, the only way of success is to strive for a better world just for ourselves… and we are finally seeing the fault in this thinking.
I was raised in a traditional Christian faith, and I have to admit, individualism has no place in the teachings I read in the bible… it is the idea of interdependence and caring for others that is a theme that is found throughout the texts… Jesus cared for those society deemed as unworthy. The prophets proclaim social justice in a loud voice…. so for those who say we are a Christian nation… what does that mean if it is a nation tied to individualism?
So here we sit and struggle. It is a point of crisis for us as a nation. Our idol of individualism has shown to be a point of failure instead of pride. We have seen how only caring about a few neighbors, yet ignoring the well-being of all leads to the death and devastation of many. We are at a point where we all get to choose the way in which we move forward. Do we continue to idealize those who are on top, forgetting those sacrificed to get them there, or do we look at those beside us and celebrate the reality of communal goodness? I can only hope we learn and do better… for hope is all we have.