What Current Times Can Teach Us.
Every generation has had their share of deciding what legacy they wanted to leave to the next. The changes happening in our world today give us an opportunity to decide what legacy we want to leave to our children and grandchildren. It’s also an opportunity to showcase that the real world is not either – or. It is a constant balancing act of joys and tribulations, good and evil, bad politics and good politics, yin and yang.
Changing times demand changing and evolving mindsets; and give us a chance to right the wrongs, and come to a common hope and common purpose. Our humanity is real, and whatever we put out as individuals, or as a collective society influence the results we reap. Sometimes, people blame economic and social systems such as capitalism vs. socialism, or collectivism vs. individualistic societies for what’s not working. But, there is no perfect economic or social model. People who live in collectivist societies cannot expect people from individualist societies and vice-versa to understand them right away. It’s not what they grew up experiencing. That’s why there is friction between the “Me” and the “Us” mentality. However, both models can cohabitate in a harmonious way, but only with understanding, give and take, teaching and learning from each other’s strengths and limitations.
In the individualistic societies for instance, one of the upsides is to control one’s destiny, give a leeway to share one’s gifts in a freer environment and room for individual expression without having to consult the group or the collectivity. The downside of this model of course is that the individual is only valued by the society in which they have certain accomplishments they can show outwardly. There is also the risk of losing connections in one’s life moments when you need others the most. Such examples are found in how individualistic societies treat their elderly, and senior homes are a test to this individualistic model’s downside. The elderly is viewed as a burden to society that values individualistic contributions and youthful appearance at all cost. Although this reality is on a per case basis, it is no wonder that in those individualistic communities there is a higher level of suicide, addictions, and loneliness.
On the other hand, one of the collective societies’ strengths is the sense of belonging to one another and helping each other in times of need. The downside of this model is that belonging together can also mean a lack of individual liberties to express one’s individual talents and self-expressions. This can stifle how one goes about fulfilling one’s own purpose in life. Also, collectivist societies dictate what’s good for all, and disregard how it can hurt people on an individual level. Another downside is that if you only stay within the bounds of your own cultural comfort, you don’t stretch much to connect with those who have different cultural makes.
The collective society model is the one I grew up living in. And it continues to affect my decision making to this day. Even deciding to publish my first book, Evolving Through Adversity, a true account of my life journey, growing up in my native country of Burundi and immigrating to North America, I felt the inhibition in how much personal details I should share with the world. I had a constant nagging voice in my head reminding me that I was sharing way too much with the world! “This is not how your collectivity does it Seconde”, my nagging voice would scold me.
In all, there is no perfect model, and no perfect system. A society must determine what works and what doesn’t work. A mix of the two models could bring a balance to societal harmony. You would have a community-based society, but at the same time, you would have space to grow and explore your full potential as an individual, and speak up when it’s needed without the fear of being ostracized by your collectivity. You would have the opportunity to help yourself, but also, be able to help others without losing your identity in the collectivism.
This dual social system is by no means a passive one! To be successful, it requires both the personal and collective will to balance it out. It needs to include a political component to bridge the gaps with legislations that foster personal creativity and critical thinking, while encouraging the collectivity with social incentives to bring people together in a more harmonious way.