Saturday, March 04, 2006

On a difference between Individualism and Egoism

And yet it is moving. Movrin (who by the way continuously misspells my name) has pushed our discussion in a much broader context with an apparent aim to undermine my emphasis on the importance of rights as opposed to duties in a democratic society.

He draws the apocalyptic scenario from the liberal individualism by contending that "With traditional mechanisms, human rights standards alone included, we are obviously very poorly equipped for preventing these possibly imminent scenarios."

Hereby, I refuse making any step back: in a democratic constitutional society in relation between the individual and the state the emphasis should be on the right, not on the duty. This is a sound basis of individualism, which I think Christianity is inherently based upon and it even promotes it as opposed to other religions - where the collective trumps the individual. It goes without saying what are the political and societal implications of this converse mindset.

Of course, it is different if individualism collapses into egoism, self-centerdness, alienation and mere pursuance of strictly personal, narrow opportunistic pecuniary goals. No religion would advocate that and neither would I. And I have not. I rather stress that it is the egoism that threatens the world and our every-day lives and not individualism, which is a sine qua non for our development as unique human beings created in the image of God or its secular equivalent, as Weiler would put it.

The red line between individualism and egoism is evidently narrow and tiny. The balance between the two is precarius and a lot of efforts are needed to preserve it. Here the church, the civil society, familiy and welfare state should step in and promote a public ethos of solidarity, mutal help and encouragement. Liberal society, and only liberal society - I am afraid - based on individual as a distinct subject, widely opens the door to these institutions and mechanisms to execute their role and missions.

If the world is failing, if it is drowning in the stinky lake of egoism, it is not liberal society based on the inherent respect for an individuum which is to be blamed, but rather the institutions within this kind of society that have not performed their roles. The state of liberty entails a responsible, reflective individuals, and it demands hard work and continuous improvements. Sometimes it is much easier to bow to the master, to live in the state of duties and to deny one's self than to exercise your freedom responsibly.


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