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Individualism is "a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests." - Merriam webster [1]  

The opposite of individualism is collectivism.

Examples of Individualism

The COVID-19 pandemic

Government and individual responses to the covid-19 pandemic, especially in Western Nations that value capitalism, showed how individualism can cause harm. For example...

  • Individuals have been encouraged to make 'personal' choices on vaccines, masks and gatherings. This discourse suggests individuals are responsible for their health only, however, a lack of support and a lifting of mask mandates means many vulnerable groups suffered as a result of people only considering their own risk.
  • "There is no individual safety without collective safety and collective safety requires that no one is safe unless everyone is safe." - Mia Mingus [2]

"You enjoy connection at the expense of our isolation. Your wants are always more important than our needs. When you choose to gamble with your own health, you only take into consideration your own risks and never the risks of others. Abled entitlement ensures your risk assessment will always be, “if I get sick, I will be able to recover OK. My family will be OK. My children will be OK.” Never, “Will they be OK? Will their children be OK? Will their family be OK? Will everyone they might also interact with be OK?” Never, “Could this harm their neighborhood? Their state? Their country? Their continent?” Shielded by your abled privileged bravado of “it won’t happen to me.”  Never, “Who might I be exposing? I might be OK, but someone else may not.”- Mia Mingus [3]

The climate crisis [4] [5]

  • Much of the reason for individual-focused initiatives to addressing the climate crisis are the result of intentional, vast efforts by the fossil fuel industry to put the blame and solutions on individual consumption patterns, diverting focus away from the direct responsibility of the industry and the systems that benefit it. 
  • For example, British Petroleum, or BP, first promoted and popularized the term “carbon footprint". The company released a “carbon footprint calculator” in 2004 so people could assess how their daily life — going to work, buying food, and traveling — is largely responsible for heating the globe. Today, the carbon footprint is a staple assignment in many schools from elementary to post-secondary.
  • Oil companies themselves encourage lifestyle changes such as eating a 'low carbon diet', limiting travel, and turning off the lights. Yet, they continue to profit as the most direct contributors to the climate crisis.
  • Thus, an individualist approach would suggest we can individual-action our way out of the climate crisis.

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