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Be an individual!" they scream. "Be your own person! Have a mind of your own!" they shriek from their platform. "They" are the collective; they do not realize that they are the very hypocrites and mindless conformists they rail against. And as they scream at anyone except themselves about the importance of being an individual, they never seem to notice that they rely on others for support and validation, propping themselves up on the collective that they profess to hate a crutch for their own empty souls. I am speaking of a cultural trend that is surprisingly widespread. I call it "collective individuality."

Individuality is an indispensable part of human life. Simply put, those who sacrifice their individuality to conformity, trendiness or altruism will make nothing of their lives. But it is against the most fundamental tenets of individuality to expect anyone else to be an individual, much less to attempt to force him. It is not a great mystery, though, why the collective will fall all over itself to preach this new brand of individuality. Individuality has become the new altruism, the new vehicle by which manipulative people will conquer the individual spirit and add to the inexorably growing collective.

Let there be no mistake about what altruism really is. In theory, altruism professes to be action based on the (misguided) notion that there is something greater than a group of individuals in society and that it is moral to serve others for the greater good of this vague ideal. In truth, altruism is the means by which the power-hungry gain dominion over men without the use of force. Instead of forcing mankind onto the sacrificial altar, altruism simply teaches that morality consists of building the altar, climbing it, lighting the fire and rejoicing in the soul-suicide of self-sacrifice. It is ironic that the idea of individuality would be used in the same manner as altruism. The reason that this phenomenon is not a contradiction in terms stems from a mix of trend, a tradition of conformity and a subversion of one of the most basic morals of mankind.

Why then is individuality now used as a weapon to bring about collectivism instead of good old altruism? Times are changing. For better or for worse, people are less spirituall, rejecting churches and faith systems. People are also educated in a much broader base, given the incredible expansion of knowledge in modern times. In this new era of educated, secular humans, altruism simply does not cut it. People will not be subjugated by the mere idea of morality anymore. This is where the new idea of collective individualism comes in. The trend toward individuality violates neither people's newfound secularity, through an appeal to morality, nor their modern education, through an appeal to the convention of the ages. After all, the greatest discoveries of all time indeed, every discovery of import ever made was made by a free thinker; committees are vacuums. The trick is to twist the trend toward individuality in favor of the collective.

Ultimately, the trend toward individuality was used against itself. Trend is a powerful thing, and it is being used to lure more and more people into a collective, under the auspices of being a "collective of individuals." It is sad to hear someone tell you that you should not quote anyone else, no matter how pertinent or true the statement, for fear of being unoriginal. It is sad to hear someone use catchy slogans and make grand claims that there is nothing new under the sun and that the author is dead everything written is now a copy. To hear these claims, especially from those who praise individuality above all else, is nothing short of perplexing. There are ways, however, to establish once and for all whether a person is really an individual. A true individual has no desire to tell anyone else what to be. A true individual will never scream at someone to "be an individual" or "fight the system." If a true individual wishes to fight the system, he simply will and with no rhetoric involved. A true individual has no need to use anyone else for justification of his own life, because a true individual knows that his life is justified by what he, and he alone, does never by what others do in his name. A true individual feels no need to act for others, force others or pander to others. Rational self-interest rules the individual's mind. The individual will never appeal to anyone's heart or base emotions by screaming catch phrases at them as self-righteously as possible; the individual will calmly appeal to reason and nothing more.

Finally, the individual is not afraid to strive for perfection. He will never be swayed by slogans that will try to force him to kneel and repent for being himself, not just a follower of a fad. He will let the collective damn him, let them hate him and tune them out when they tell him how to live. And when they are finished with their blind tirades, the true individual will politely turn his back on the collective and do that which he knows to be right.

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