War on individuality

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The war on individuality refers to efforts by those in positions of authority or power to minimize the ways in which people are free to act as individuals rather than on behalf of a group.

Common means by which this is accomplished:

  • restricting the ways in which individuals are allowed to express themselves
  • limiting the audience for any permitted expressions of individuality
  • promoting intolerance (social or legal) of deviation from a given set of "norms"


This is probably a battle as old as the history of civilization, and possibly older. Anyone seeking to build or maintain personal power will naturally tend to want to be able to predict the actions and reactions of those over whom they have (or intend to have) power: predictable actions allow for plans to take advantage of those actions, and predictable reactions can be manipulated.

Individually-determined actions and reactions, then, represent randomness which cannot be controlled or understood (except through empathy, which is a quality in which those of the power-monger mindset – more properly known as the authoritarian leader personality – are generally deficient); this may explain the vehemence with which many power-monger types will sometimes denounce acts of individuality: to them, it is the only true evil.

Authoritarian followers (AFs) tend to aiding and abet this trend while to some degree being victims of it themselves. AFs may also pay lip-service to the idea of individuality, or support individuality within sharply-defined boundaries which essentially violate the basic idea of individualism, i.e. that individuals should be allowed to express themselves verbally or artistically as long as they aren't clearly and unjustifiably harming someone else.

Modern Usage

This battle has taken on new proportions in an age when the accumulation and conveyance of information has become vastly less expensive than in earlier ages. Pigeonholing of individual characteristics into groups in order to better manipulate those groups into trading away, in bits and pieces, their autonomy and personal power (aka "marketing") is now a highly-refined science upon which billions of dollars are spent every year.

Among the specific campaigns in this war are:

  • in the United States:
    • media consolidation: media outlets (such as TV, radio, and newspapers) once locally owned and operated, and thereby providing a guaranteed outlet for at least some local tastes and points of view, are now almost entirely owned by conglomerates. Broadband internet became essentially a monopoly as soon as it was born; most metro areas offer, at best, one provider per connection method (cable, DSL, satellite); there is currently a battle in some states to prevent wireless, a relatively new format, from being monopolized in the same way as cable and DSL.
    • internet neutrality: the same industry campaigning which led to the monopolizing of the internet makes it possible for internet companies to argue that they should be allowed to charge more for certain types of content, despite the fact that they are making money hand-over-fist because they have no competition to keep prices low.
    • suburbanism: lifestyle as a pre-packaged commodity; "communities" of people who barely know each other, never mind being willing to die in defense of one another; enforced dependence on centrally-controlled resources (gasoline, health insurance, big-box retail, property insurance...)


In general, the internet has been a bit of an upset to powermongers and People in Charge (PiC), as it allows an unprecedented amount of transparency and accountability (both key mechanisms by which honor is rewarded and maintained) to be enforced by individuals without any extraordinary resources. There are signs the PiC are beginning to get a handle on how to fight it, however:

While P2P (peer-to-peer) networks are largely irrelevant – at least, as long as "mainstream" client-server internet services continue to operate without any notable freedom of speech restrictions – but it could become very significant if such restrictions were to occur, as P2P might then be the only way for individuals to communicate freely over the internet.

The PiC have a huge vested interest in turning the internet into another centralized medium (TV, radio, print publications) before the citizenry really start using it to get organized. The PiC are probably getting a bit antsy by now to get this project going, given that the citizen-organization is slowly but surely starting to happen.

Although nothing will probably happen as a direct result of this hearing, it seems likely that this could be a marketing trial – to see how strongly people react against it, who are the most vocal opponents, what kinds of arguments are raised for and against, etc. so that they can refine their approach for the next attempt.


Filed Links

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from the article:

... our ever-flagging economic situation is the result of a series of conservative policies that "have begun rolling back freedom for everyone but the independently wealthy -- even for the talented and fortunate few who have attained a top-notch education. The America conceived by Goldwater and Buckley and built by Reagan and Bush has constrained a generation of talented individuals, enforcing conformity, not unleashing creativity." We would be better off in a more egalitarian society, Brook goes on to say, where we could do the work that mattered to us without the specter of poverty, and speak our minds without the fear of losing our jobs.