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Too Much Rugged Individualism?

John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in The Searchers (1956)

John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in The Searchers (1956)

As a nation, we’ve always prided ourselves on our rugged individualism. And I must say that worked pretty well for us—until the world suddenly grew more complicated after World War Two. Costs began spiraling upwards, at times, such as medical care and housing, beyond belief. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a world where there were 300 million rugged individuals, all competing with one another for scarce resources.

Some of us have learned to walk gingerly through this strange new world. Others have continued on as if it still were the Wild West, and as a result failed spectacularly. No matter: They had their guns. It was just a matter of shooting a bunch of innocent strangers and then turning the gun on themselves. This way they were making a point. What exactly that point was, I cannot even begin to guess. But, by golly, as long as they pretended to be a “Militia” as specified in the Second Amendment (the one part of the Constitution that makes me wonder about our Founding Fathers), they could wreak havoc and go down in flames.

Many Americans of a Conservative bent are scornful of what they call Socialism. In a few weeks, I will be spending some time in Iceland, a Scandinavian country with social guarantees that make it less likely that flagrant failures will shoot up their fellow man in spectacular ways. Medical care is far more affordable than in the U.S., though gasoline costs more. (They have to ship it in from the North Sea and other distant locales.)

Even with only 300,000+ people, Iceland has a number of maladjusted individuals who cause mayhem, but their mayhem is more limited and they are more easily captured because, hey, just about everyone is related to everyone else.

With 300+ million people, the United States has far too many rugged individuals. We need to put an ad on Craig’s List for people who are willing to play well with others.

Not that I have anything against John Wayne! The Searchers is probably my favorite film of all time, though I myself probably resemble John Quayle (the Swedish farmer character) more than the Duke.

3 thoughts on “Too Much Rugged Individualism?

  1. My ancestors settled in the frontier, starting with Maryland in the 1700s, the midwest (and south, or parts thereof) and then the west, getting to California via Panama in the 1850s. Actually, people had to cooperate and take care of each other and the group in order to survive. These were not saints, and they were flawed, and no doubt rugged, but the individualism and violence part has been exaggerated. Yes, there was certainly war, but we have war, now. What we believe about the past says a lot about how we are now, and what we need to change.

  2. People did have to cooperate with others of their kind, but remember the horrible racism that prevailed until recently. The following quote, for instance, is from none other than Abraham Lincoln in one of his Lincoln-Douglas debates:

    “There is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior & inferior. I am as much as any other man in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    And this is the man who freed the slaves—apparently against many of his own inclinations.

  3. “People did have to cooperate with others of their kind,” I think that is the key sentence , It has always been a balancing act between the two almost since the beginning of time . who is us and who is them . One of the easy ways to start a war big or little is to label the side you are fight as the other , sadly it is something I see happening right now , the poor , the homeless, etc are being labeled the other and the other is bad .

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