In Defense of The Competent Individual
A pervasive ideology of group-think and group-identity has been slowly infiltrating the college system in the West over the last 40 years and has finally made its way to the center of the political and social arena as a consequence. The post-modernist philosophy that has fueled this is based on resentment of Western culture, a rejection of the importance of the individual (post-modernists believe essentially that all individuals are constructs of their society, especially their race, gender and sexuality). In other words, to the post-modernist, you are your race. You are your sexuality. You are your gender. You are part of an identity group and all groups are in a struggle for power because of the existing dominance hierarchy. In other words, the entire world can be seen through the lens of the Oppressor vs. The Oppressed. The result of this thinking has manifested itself all over the West. Identity politics has taken center stage in the 21st Century political discourse, with various groups demanding that supposed existing power structures in societies be toppled by force.
Us vs Them
Surely dominance hierarchies do exist and they always will. (They will also exist within certain groups themselves which shows the futility of the post modernists attempts to take down the existing power structures.) Humans are animals and all animals fight to find their place in the pecking order of life. However, the problem with seeing the world through the lens of US vs. THEM is that it is a poor philosophy to live a good life. A problem with all ideologies is that, by adopting them exclusively, you are willingly sacrificing your ability to reason as an individual actor in the world. Instead, you have opted to engage in the collective thinking of the group. By engaging in group think you are likely to adopt a mob mentality, one that lacks reason, empathy and compassion. The result of mob mentality is almost always violence. Some post-modernists are okay with violence. In fact, some leftist politicians have even called for it. When mobs rule, regardless of the ideology, the rights of individuals will always be trampled. Without the importance and protections placed on all individuals disaster occurs, even genocide. This has been the case in Marxist countries and the atrocities have been well-documented.
Western culture is based around the idea that the individual has rights and those rights are not to be usurped regardless of what the majority of people believe. In other words, the individual has value in the world and they must be protected by the law. It’s worth repeating that there are no “group” rights. There are only individual rights. You have rights because you are a human being, not because you happen to be identified with a certain group. Any time you hear the call for group rights or new laws to protect certain groups of people, you should be suspicious of the people making the demands. What are their motives? Who will suffer as a result of the new laws? Who will benefit? Whose rights are being favored over others? Another question to ask is, “What are you against?” See, every political party and ideology says what they are for, but rarely do they say what they are against. The reason is often that they are against other groups of people entirely.
However you may identify with a certain group, your potential as a human being is not determined by the categories in which you believe you fit. All individuals have nearly unlimited potential, being limited only by their unique characteristics and beliefs. By allowing yourself to identify as a group rather than an individual, I am suggesting that you are damaging your potential due to the rigidity of your beliefs. You are not poor because someone else is rich. You are not fat because someone else is fit. You are not depressed because someone else is happy. Life is not arranged in such ways, although having a scapegoat may make you feel better. Labels create division and animosity between people. It would be wise, before lumping people into certain “oppressor” or “oppressed” groups, to look at the individual situation pertaining to people. If someone has done well, it could very well be that they are competent, not that they were given something not earned.
The world runs because of competent individuals. Regardless of whatever group you are identified with, the number one factor in regards to personal accomplishment is still competence. Mastering a trade or skill, being effective in communication, and performing a duty that others see as valuable is the number one way to rise above in any social hierarchy that values the individual and individual accomplishment. Today, there is confusion between extremely competent people and the so-called “privilege”. Groups of people are made to feel guilty because they were born with a certain skin tone or an XY chromosome, when in reality these people have no responsibility to make right the sins of their predecessors, whatever form those sins may have come. Personally, I think the attempt to label groups of people as “privileged” and suggest whatever success in life they have is solely a result of them being born into a certain group is atrocious.
Competence and privilege should never be confused. There are many people born into financial privilege who end up miserable, depressed failures. Likewise, there are many people born into “under-privileged” groups that end up massively successful. In the end, the greatest determining factor in how well a person does is his or her own personal philosophy and desire to achieve. Social hierarchies do exist in the world, but aiming up and taking action is the best way to get ahead in them. What I am really suggesting is that all this political discourse should be focussed around the protection of individual liberties, not mandating an equality of outcomes. Should a student who earns A-plus grades be required to give some of their grade points to those who have not done as well so all can have the same grade? Will that make us all feel better? That instead of celebrating someone who has done exceptional work, we can celebrate that all outcomes will be equal? This is what the post-modernists want in truth. They cleverly hide behind the false excuse that a white male dominated patriarchy has led to inequality in outcomes and if we could just eliminate this social hierarchy, everyone would have equal outcomes. When in reality, if you look at other groups, the outcomes compared to others inside those groups are often unequal as well in regards to finance, education and other important markers in life.
By demonizing certain groups, a philosophy of resentment takes hold in the minds of people. Those who feel oppressed begin to resent anyone who they feel has more than them and blame them for the unfairness of life. On the other hand, those who have been declared oppressors or privileged will begin to harbor resentment for those who call them such. Thus the cycle of the politics of envy and resentment continues as groups are pitted against each other thanks to such ideologies. The truth is that the competent individual is the one to be admired, because no one is quite like anyone else. Each person is unique and cannot fit conveniently into whatever philosophical boxes that certain people would like. Every person is a mixture of both good and evil, determination and laziness, compassion and indifference. If systems are rigged to limit opportunities, they should be fixed, but to fool ourselves into thinking that equal opportunity means equal outcomes is ridiculous. Each person determines his or her own outcome based on their talents, intellect, physical attributes and competence. All of these gifts vary from person to person, so outcomes will never be the same because people are not the same. That is something to be celebrated—uniqueness. Instead, groups of people tear each other apart in the street because they think the world is rigged, US vs. THEM.
We have seen where this ideology has led. Let us not go down that path.