Groupism versus collectivism

Hookworm, human needle worm

Albert Schweitzer, in Respect and Responsibility for Life: “I fished twice on the line with other boys. The torture of hook-impaled worms and fish that were tore their mouths inspired me with such horror that I refused to continue this cruel game. I even had the courage to turn my comrades away. […] We do not have the right to inflict suffering or death on another being. We must feel what is horrible about these acts of cruelty committed mechanically, in a kind of unconsciousness.”

Sylvie Simon, in Vaccines, Lies and Propaganda: “The overconsumption of vaccines and the escalation of prices will tip the machine. Guided by their greed, the laboratories have gone too far and it is they who will cause their own fall, like “the frog that swelled so well that it cracked”. Just like our intensive agriculture that has polluted all soils and depleted the earth, vaccines have polluted organisms and weakened the immune systems of individuals, such as those of animals and plants.”

Albert Schweitzer practices a respectable wokism. Awakening to neglected sensitivities. But do fishermen mostly agree with the word ‘torture’ to describe the hooking of a worm? As for Sylvie Simon, a notorious antivax, should we believe with her that vaccines have the opposite effect to that alleged, to weaken our immunity?

Two groupisms, one touching, the other comminatory. Can either claim the general interest? Are they collectivisms? Let’s revisit this notion from its roots.

No individual without a collective

If “I” were the only reality, “I” would be equivalent to Everything. Individuation can only intervene within something larger. Not necessarily humanity. Anything that is not “me”.

In this vast ensemble are mixed very different entities. I classify them using representations: animated or inanimate, plant or animal, beast or human, foreign or familiar. Each of these categorizations creates a circle within the initial large collective. Separate subsets, or overlapping, or interlocking like Russian dolls.

We are particularly interested in those that fit together here. I am a parent, human, animal, animated. What do I mean by “collective”? My family, the human species, the animal kingdom, the living? Depending on the topic I am discussing, each of these entities may correspond to the term ‘collective’. I thus designate the successive circles that surround me. Each is concretized by proprietary rules. Behaving as a ‘parent’ imposes additional constraints on ‘human’, who in turn adds to ‘animal’, etc.

When the individual discusses with the collective, “I” thus refers to one of the circles and not to everything that exists. If the discourse supports the rules of the circle, it is called ‘collectivist’; if it supports “my” desire, it is said to be individualistic.

Groupism protects the individual and not the collective

The ‘group’ is synonymous with a collective circle. Can we then say that groupism is a collectivism? Not. This is the mistake systematically made by the groupists who claim to be in the general interest to convey their particular opinions. Let’s see in detail the explanation:

The individual-collective relationship takes place entirely within our mind, which separates the representations between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’. Two directions for this relationship: the self judges the non-self and vice versa. Collectivism is not limited to hosting the collective in its mind; it is to privilege the direction of the non-self judging the self.

All humans in society know the collective and its rules. Their mind contains them but does not necessarily respect them. The desires of the self erase the judgment of the non-self. The most perfect knowledge of the rules does not make it a power of the collective. On the contrary, it willingly serves the individual to manipulate the collective. Arriviste, clientelist, businessman… refer to the effective use of collective rules for the benefit of a single individual. Wrong direction.

Collectivism is a direction of thought

Is there, above my personal interest, a collective whose importance far exceeds this interest, because it includes a multitude of others? Don’t go in the wrong direction! It is indeed the individual who creates the collective circle in his mind, but as a higher authority than himself. It is a transfer of power. Endowed with this major power, the collective now judges the individual.

Its tyranny can be excessive. The collective willingly suffocates the individual. Observation unfortunately diverted from its truth, today bad excuse to annihilate all power to the collective. A democratic collective of the twenty-first century is not the inquisition of the Middle Ages.

Terrible fragility of the collective

The direction self > non-self has never lost its power. The most tyrannical regimes have never done anything but cloister individualism within the mind, instead exciting its desire for revenge. The non-self > self direction is more fragile. It is subordinated to putting in the non-self things that resemble me. If the collective is the set of self(s) identical to mine, no problem to transfer power to it. But what if it includes off-clans, other cultures, races, species? I refuse to give power to this collective that is too foreign to me.

The importance of the collective in the individual is thus based, in the first place, on his horizon of thought, on his ability to extend his identity on the world. Who does not feel threatened in his identity easily encompasses others inside. Whoever feels threatened rejects them, traces a deep gap between them and him. Locked in the fortress of his private circle, he no longer sees the great circle that includes these others and himself. It does not grant any power to this larger collective, which it knows exists. It is no longer collectivist but groupist.

The opposite of the groupist is the idealist

In the mind of the groupist, the individual and the collective continue to exist. But the second has no power over the first. Only the direction self > non-self exists. The reduction of thought concerns the entire succession of social circles to which the groupist belongs. He comes before his family, but his family before others, his racial group before the human species, the species before animals.

The counterpart of the groupist exists in the other direction: it is the idealist. For him, only the non-self-> self direction exists. All animals come before the human species, the species before it. The idealist has a conception of collectivism almost as false, because he confuses the collective paradigm with his personal ideal. In his extremist version he is able, for example, to sacrifice his child to save more people.

In the face of the frightening radicalism of the ideal

This version is radical utilitarianism, whose dictates I discuss in the trolley problem. It commands to kill 1 person to save 5 others if one has no choice. The original dilemma is careful not to specify whether the person to be killed is Hitler, Einstein, a tramp, or his own child.

Any authentic collectivist will take this into account, however. Because the collective does not erase the rules of its subsets. It modulates and organizes them with new ones, specific to its level. The collective will never say to kill his child to save 5 strangers. Whoever thinks such a thing does not make the individual and the collective dialogue. He is just as blind as the groupist.

Two children in front of Gaia

Offer two children the choice between a loose candy pouch and another where they are wrapped in pretty drawn papers. You explained to them, just before, the interest of reducing waste, including packaging, to preserve Gaia. The Gaia symbol is useful, at this age, to avoid incomprehensible sentences about the ecosystem. You present Gaia as the great mother of all people, animals, plants, more important than each of us.

The profile of the first child is to build his personal insurance with ease. No doubt about his importance. Safe family atmosphere. Love given without compensation. Non-self is benevolent. It is easy to transfer power to it. As the child discovers new perspectives, expands his circles, he spontaneously grants everyone an inalienable share of power. This collectivist child chooses without hesitation the pouch of loose sweets. Gaia has power in him.

Future divergents

The second child, less sure of himself, does not yet include such a vast circle. Not sure, already, to count much for his parents, he seeks above all to strengthen his personal identity, therefore the power of his instant desires. He takes the pouch of decorated sweets.

The two children host Gaia’s acquaintance. It has no power over the second, a fragile individual who seeks to keep this power for himself. Individualism that will later turn into groupism, as he is forced to take into account the social circles that surround him. He always seeks to privilege those who are closest to himself. His supporters, people who think like him, same skin color, etc. Same aversion to any collective rule that seeks to impose itself on him. Groupism is the grouping of individuals who seek to escape the superior interest. They recognize its existence but not its power. Direction crossed out.

The example of antivax groupism

To be a groupist is not simply to be ignorant of the reasons for the collective. Many people follow groupists without being themselves, because they are poorly informed. For example, most unvaccinated people agree to receive the vaccine as soon as they are assured of protecting other people in this way. The collective interest has come to fruition. It takes power without difficulty.

The true groupist, on the other hand, actively protects his personal interest from collective reasons. For this, he does not hesitate to sort the information, retain only the protectors. Antivax differs from the unvaccinated by rejecting all data that contradicts his position. It is also the beginning of conspiracy theory, which labels ‘conspiracy’ contradictory opinion.

Who is the conspiracy theorist?

‘Conspiracy’ is of course an accusation that each opinion can refer to the other. The difference is that the groupist gives priority to his trust in himself, and by extension in the group that espouses his ideas, while the collectivist trusts those whom society designates as more expert than him, transfers his power to them.

That does not prevent him from debating it. It is only a matter of priority. The starting point of the collectivist is: “The expert’s opinion is superior to mine.” For the groupist: “My opinion is higher than that of the expert”. That each opinion plots the fall of the other does not therefore have the same value. Always a matter of direction, as you can see.

All groupists?

Aren’t we all groupists in the end? We are children, with circles still narrow. Few of us would take the pocket of loose candy for the sake of Gaia. Advancing in age, we acquire additional circles, but always position the collective on the most distant that concerns us. It is never universal. No one puts themselves in the place of the cosmos to know if Gaia’s eventual death would be galacticly criminal. A sorrowful mind might think that the extinction of humanity would save other habitable planets from the same fate.

Most of our contemporaries position their collective at the level of the human species, a rather exhaustive circle. Yet they appear groupists to those who extend their compassion to animals and are concerned about their rights within the larger set of animals. So, all groupists?

The border with the animalist example

No, not all. We have seen the border before. Collectivism is simply accepting the existence of a circle when you become aware of it, and adopting its current rules. Not to transfer to it the rules that are personally considered the best for it. That is what the idealist does. Certainly the idealist is the engine of the construction of new circles, but he is not yet the collective; he strives to be, convincing as many people as possible to join him.

Thus animal rights defenders cannot claim to be more collectivist by others. Their idealism seems premature, even indecent, when many humans still see their own rights violated. Efforts and means are to be devoted as a priority to this problem, judge the majority of us. The animalistic ideal must harmonize with the situation of humans to become an acceptable consensus.

The groupist forces… to protect himself

Putting plants and animals on the same footing is quite forced,” said Porphyry, a Neoplatonist. He was referring to the sensitivity of animals that plants lack. We could transpose the sentence to animals and humans, put on the same footing by animalists. Forced transplantation of sensitivity! But can we say that the animal has no sensitivity? Not. The difficulty is to have it expressed. Animalists distort it by expressing it in human terms. And we are already reducing, in the term ‘suffering’, a very wide range of our own sensations.

The collectivism of each one is defined, in the end, as the fluidity of the exchange between the different circles of our social consciousnesses. While groupism is forbidding entry to a consciousness that we know exists but that threatens our identity integrity. We then fall back on the group that protects us.

Opening, closing. Reversed directions for the collectivist and the groupist.


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