6. "Isn't this whole individualism thing a little quixotic? What's to keep those who a host says "no" to, from isolating his group, the way you fear a standout individual would be isolated, if he says no to those around him?"
The presence of support. One person, makes for a very small group, and provides himself with little company. The larger a group becomes, though, the harder it is to insure that someone outside of it, will speak to NONE of its members, and hear their side of a dispute. The larger the group, the easier it will be for it to ride out a time of seperation from the broader community, until that time passes, because there will be more going on inside the group, to hold the attention of its members. If need be, the larger the group, the more interesting a reception it can give to complete outsiders, who come to visit, given the larger pool of talent it will be drawing on. The easier, then, it will find it, to recruit new guests from the outside world, bypassing what was the larger community one dealt with, altogether, if necessary.
True enough, one does have to worry about backbiting, and the possibility that those who haven't encountered one's group yet, will be persuaded to not listen to any of its members, as a result of that backbiting. It's not even a matter of a newcomer being gullible - those politicing may have drummed up a lot of support, and the chorus of agreement may make slander seem plausible, as a multitude of people pay lip service to it. An account of one of the more absurd cases of this, is present on this site. However, as a group gets larger, so does the group of friends surrounding the group. Thus, the likelier it gets that when our would be backbiter persuades people to not really listen to what members of the group have to say, that she will overlook a few of them. Or that some of those friends won't have been recognised as such, until after a number of people have heard what they have to say.
Sometimes, one has to take a slightly longer view, and wait for things to work out in the long run, even if they don't in the short run.
6. "But even if you're the reasonable side in a dispute, what makes you so sure that time will be on your side? You, yourself have argued that social change hasn't always been for the best, so wouldn't that be an acknowledgement that in the somewhat long run, the wrong side prevailed in the popular consensus on a disagreement, of a sort?"
Yes, but it prevailed not because people rejected the more pleasant alternative, when it came to a choice in lifestyle. It did because they were either made oblivious to the fact that such an alternative ever existed, in some cases. In others, because they found no place to pursue that alternative, and became resigned to a way of life that they detested. Much of our "freedom of choice" has been an illusion. This, we've discussed elsewhere.
But, to focus more on our much less global situation ...
The answer would be that in struggling to keep one's way of doing things available as a viable alternative, open to those who wish to take part in a group, one relies, not on the reasonability of the group at any given moment (as those who would push for absolute majority rule, would), but on the discipline exerted on the group will, by competitive pressure. That is to say, on something not governed by human whim.
If a group is being dominated by an absolute tyrant, and his friends - as is often the case, sad to say - the fact that people have been browbeaten into thinking of him as a nice, reasonable guy will not change the fact that he is an absolute tyrant. His wishes will make life unpleasant for those taking part in the group.
However, the group that is guided by a sense of fair play and compassion, should it endure, will be a group in which each, nurtured and accepted by the others, may truly be at peace. Denial and suppression of the conscious awareness of one's emotions, as the former group would promote, will not change the reality of the greater happiness of those in the latter.
The suppressed anger and sorrow of the former will merely go below the surface and reappear elsewhere, spilling out in pointless disputes with innocent third parties, in all of its passive aggressive glory. As the members of that first, more cultlike group, in general become increasingly unpleasant to deal with, they'll even lose the perspective needed to see, how they will seem to those not conditioned to accept what they have come to think of as normative behavior.
If the group should the sort that smothers the individuality of its members, even if it should refuse to recognise this in itself, the creativity of those in it will suffer, and their capacity for self expression diminish, until they find healthier surroundings.
The group that embraces the individual, and provides him with a place where he can fully explore what it means to truly be himself, will be a place where people will find the greatest opportunity to be their best. In the case of a religious group, the rituals will be more colorful, the food will taste better, the music will be more beautiful, the people more articulate ... and those who have partaken, will wish to do so again. The demand that they refrain, will merely highlight that spitefulness, that they may have been gradually conditioned to overlook.
By being better, we live better, and if others notice, they will be tempted to enjoy some of that which we have given ourselves the chance to enjoy. We prevail, not by fighting the more power hungry among us on their own terms, but merely by making a better life for ourselves, and those who would make our acquaintance, and explaining ourselves reasonably to those who would care to listen.
Now, depending on where you came from, let's return to
- the discussion of Freedom on the main Almond Jar Site,
- the Table of Contents on the main "... and sometimes we stumble" page,
- the table of contents on the main Almond Jar page.