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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The multiplication of solos

I am not referring to those who find themselves alone in spite of themselves, due to circumstances of life. I will speak of the loneliness of individualists. They are those who, out of self-sufficiency and/or comfort, tend to act according to their own and exclusive criteria, without taking into account those who belong to the same group and without abiding by the rules of coexistence established in the same. For that reason they do not value the work in team.


Tue, 16 Jan 2018 10:32:00 +0000 Published in Digital Confidential

Individualism is ambivalent; it has been interpreted as a positive self-realization and also as something arbitrary and unsupportive. It was highly valued in the 19th century, when it was linked to the philosophical current of liberalism. Today, an individualist is no longer seen as "liberated", but as someone who is only interested in himself and always acts for his own benefit.

It is a new form of egocentrism that is dysfunctional for maturation staff. It differs greatly from the unconscious egocentrism of early childhood, which, moreover, had a function in the evolutionary development .

Gustav Thibon points out that in today's society there is an enclosure of individuals and a massive indifference towards others. He adds that there is a process of social erosion that Paul Valéry called "the multiplication of the lonely". This process often affects families as well. Many of them lack family life; their members act more and more independently of each other; "each to his own" in a "house-hotel".

Individualism can generate alienation (loss of identity) and boredom (staying the same). Some disenchanted individualists, after hitting rock bottom, try to break with this attitude, but it is not easy. A humorous cartoon by David Bomy puts it this way: "I have started a detoxification treatment of myself".

Paradoxically, individualistic behavior often has a social origin: it is society itself that has become individualistic, giving primacy to individual choices over social norms.

For a better understanding of current individualism, it is useful to remember that the advent of postmodernism as a cultural movement of the 20th century generated a crisis of reason, which was displaced by desire and appetite. The consistent was replaced by the banal and altruism was supplanted by a new individualism.

In his work The Empire of the Ephemeral (1987) Gilles Lipovesky describes the individualistic "narcissist". He points out that he is endowed with a superficial and polarized optimism in the present time, to the point that he lives forgetful of the past and unconcerned about the future. Daniel Innerarity calls it "instantaneity orphaned of report and project".

The individualistic mentality gave rise to a "new lifestyle" in society (mainly in North America): the so-called "morality of tolerance". The life-style justifies any "weakness" of the human being, providing him with unlimited understanding (alibi) for all subject of behaviors.

The new "morality" establishes that whatever I do is good because I wish to do it. What gives it a guarantee of goodness is that it emanates freely from my desire; by that simple fact it is justified in itself, without it being necessary to contrast it with an objective moral rule . The new rule is the absence of any rule.

Adolescents and young people trapped in presentism become accustomed to the rhythm of the fleeting; they only enjoy the changing and the novel. This makes them fickle and impatient, which makes interpersonal relationships difficult.

Can individualism be prevented with an anticipatory Education ? I believe that in some way yes, especially in the family environment, which is where living together is more intense and continuous. I suggest doing some things together from an early age, such as playing, reading and studying. The experience of reaching goals thanks to mutual support will be a good reference letter for the future work as a team.

The essential thing is to foster the person-to-person relationship and the willingness for mutual meeting, as an expression of family love.