Again I have come across an advertisement that I believe relays a message that it’s creators did not intend. A few weeks back my fiance and I went to see the movie 30 Minutes or Less, one of the pre-movie ads was a Coca-Cola commercial depicting two soldiers, of different nations, defending their respective sides of a border crossing.
Video: Coca-Cola Border
The point that the company is trying to make is that even though these two men are of different nations, and obviously dislike each other, they can still put aside their differences, and enjoy a Coke product together. I drew a totally different conclusion from this, that is collectivism, particularly that at the level of the nation-state, drives men to hate each other and fear each other for no other reason than geographic birthplace. It drives men to create an “us vs them” mentality due to the “existence” of invisible lines on a map.
But what do you mean? Collectivism?
Collectivism is a political, economic, or philosophical ideology that emphasizes the importance of the collective, the group, or mass of people over the individual. Collectivism exists almost everywhere, at least to some degree. Football is a easy example. Are you an Eagles fan who dislikes a Giants fan? You may have had a collectivist thought, however timid it may be. Like many ideas, collectivism can be pushed to an extreme (or a scary norm) and become a very dangerous way of thinking, like racism or bigotry.
Collectivism is mostly manifested through the political entities of States, or nations. “Proud to be an American”, “Deutschland Uber Alles”, “Erin go Bragh” etc. These are all lines that conjure up an emotional response from those, and to those, of the same group. Being attached, or having a sense of belonging to something is not bad in and of itself, but when people apply their love for one group, area, or nation over another into the political and economic world we see some issues.
Foreign Goods and Wal-mart Example
One of the most common and easy to identify examples is the catchphrase “Buy American!” I’ve heard it everywhere and I’ll bet you have too. For some reason many people see the purchasing of goods from places that aren’t America as a bad thing. You may think so too. However, I do not. In fact, I see this idea as naive.
If I lived in El Paso, Texas, why should I buy goods from a man in Oregon before I buy goods from a man in Juarez, Mexico, which is a mile or two away. If I lived in Maine, why should I prefer goods from California, rather than Newfoundland, in Canada? People only say that, and similar, lines because they value “their” group over a different group. If a person in Mexico can produce a better, cheaper product for me, than he should deserve to get my business, and of course the opposite holds true as well. To choose to buy goods because of national identity and not quality is a round about way of awarding less efficient producers and punishing more efficient ones. (Assuming of course that the “foreign” producer has a better good. As I said before, the opposite can hold true, but buying by nationality and not quality is my issue.)
Collectivism often promotes an “Us vs Them” mindset that I believe has cost the lives of millions. When 9/11 happened, it wasn’t just an attack that killed thousands of people, it was an attack that hit America, and Americans personally. However, in a similar fashion as above, why would someone in Hawaii or Alaska feel like “they” were attacked but not someone from Ontario? Ontario is far closer and I’m sure interacts with people from New York more often. It is because collectivism of this degree often blends “America” and “American.” Let me elaborate with a though experiment:
Let’s pretend for a moment that Wal-Mart bought and trained a small army that they sent to the Middle East. This army bombed cities, destroyed holy lands, and killed many innocent people. Surely, the folks living in Wal-mart’s war zone are going to seek revenge. Now, beside the obvious soldiers in the Wal-mart army, who is a “target” of these anti-invasion fighters? I doubt they will fly planes into huge skyscrapers that have nothing to do with Wal-mart. I doubt they would shout “Death to Wal-Marters!” and capture people who have nothing to do with Wal-mart, being a customer does not make you “part” of Wal-mart. It is because they would most likely (and you probably already have) realize that I, you, or any random individual does not “belong” in any way to Wal-mart. We are not Wal-martites, if they were to attack us, it would not affect Wal-mart in any way.
The same could be said of our military. In reality, I am not part of some giant “being” known as America. I am me. My locale of birth should not make me a target of revenge for people that have been attacked by Americans soldiers. Yet, since my birthplace makes me an “American”, I am fair game in a war against America. This is the same if you wind back time and look at the allied bombing of Germany. True, many, many military targets were bombed, but so were cities. Some cities that had no significant military targets. They were bombed because the people that lived there were not considered “separate” from the government that happened to be at war with ours. They were considered the same. This is the collectivism that scares me.
I, as a Libertarian and an Individualist, value the individual more than the group. Groups cannot posses rights, only individuals can posses rights, because only individuals can act. Groups cannot act, they are not one entity, but a collection of many. Individuals should not have to sacrifice their rights for the sake of the group. Countless politicians throughout history have pushed through wicked and brutal schemes in the name of the “People.” Perhaps the worst collective group ever devised. One that everyone can belong to, and everyone can be considered the enemy of. I’m aware that we all consider ourselves to be a part of something, be it culturally, politically, etc. However, when it comes to people’s lives and freedoms, treat them first as who they are and not what they are. Millions of lives may never have perished if more of us thought this way.