Archive | January 2013

Collective Insecurity

“I am for the individual, not the collective.”

So I read on the profile of a US serviceman, who is also (of course) a right-wing Christian conservative, and it got me to thinking.

This person is a hypocrite.

There is probably nobody more for the freedom of the individual than I am but that freedom and being against the collective are two different things.

What do we mean by a “collective”?   Chambers English dictionary gives this definition;

“collective adj said of, belonging to or involving all the members of a group • a collective effort. noun a an organized group or unit who run some kind of business, etc; b the individual members of such a group. collectively adverb together; as a whole.”

“belonging to or involving all the members of a group”.   That is a very interesting definition.

Properly speaking we are all members of a collective in one way or another – unless you are a hermit living in a cave or on an island somewhere.  But then, if you were, you would not be reading this, as it is posted on the internet, where people can read it – as part of a collective.

If you identify yourself with a country, you are effectively part of a collective.  I actually found it amusing that the person who posted the above statement was on a Scottish social-networking site, because he has Scots ancestry.  He therefore not only identifies with the USA but also Scotland, two collectives, and furthermore joined a social-networking site of other such people, another collective.  There are very few people in this world who are true “internationalists” – do not recognise countries in any way shape or form.  Interestingly enough though, those who are internationalists tend to become so because they stand for all mankind – as a collective.

Margaret Thatcher, when she was Conservative Party Prime Minister of the UK, once stated “There is no such thing as society, there are just individuals.”  It was later claimed that what she meant to say was that society was made up of individuals.  The latter definition is of course very true and very laudable.  It is not however what she actually said.   Margaret Thatcher is actually a very important case in point here.  If she were so much against the collective, why then was she not only a member of the Conservative Party but rose to become it’s leader?  Why indeed, did she stand to become the Prime Minister?  That could only mean she believed in the UK as a country, a collective as it were.

In 1982 Argentina invaded the British dependency of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Margaret Thatcher responded by sending a task force to the islands to oust the Argentine military and retake the islands.  The Falkland Islanders wished to continue being British and Margaret Thatcher stated “The wishes of the islanders are paramount.”   And the British military did indeed retake the islands.  We see here yet again a commitment by a conservative to a collective.  It is worth noting that when Scotland called for a referendum on having a devolved parliament, Margaret Thatcher refused that.  So the wishes of 2850 Falkland Islanders were paramount but the wishes of 5 million Scots were of no consequence.  But then, why was Thatcher opposed to Scottish devolution?  Because she was afraid it may have led to Scottish independence, and the end of the collective which is the United Kingdom.

And speaking of Scotland, in 1295 when Edward I, King of England, who had declared himself Overlord of Scotland, asked for Scots troops to help in his invasion of France, the Scots King, John Balliol, instead signed the Treaty of Perth, assuring mutual assistance against common enemies (who COULD they have possibly meant???).  That was the world’s first ever treaty of collective security.  Collective security has been used down the ages with varying degrees of success and failure.  The crusades were a matter of collective security.  When England went Protestant, the Roman Catholic nations of Europe grouped together against first Henry VIII, then Elizabeth I.  Europe gathered together in collective security to oust Napoleon Boneparte.  Otto Von Bismarck gathered many nations together into Germany.  German plans for expansion led to the UK signing a treaty of collective security with Belgium, which led to the First World War, which saw two groups, the axis and allied powers, both grouping in collective security.  Later Britain’s commitment to protect Poland led to the Second World War, and the collective security of the world coming together to combat the Nazis.

Out of the second world war grew the United Nations, the European Economic Community (now the European Union) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – all collectives designed to ensure peace.  So it is that collective security continues to this day.  Indeed, the “special relationship” of the UK and the USA is probably the strongest bond of collective security in the world.  And what have these two nations done, along with others, done in recent years?  Ousted brutal regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Collective security in action.

Most nations really started as tribes which grew and took over portions of land, which became countries.  As they expanded in some cases other peoples joined them to become larger countries.   In my own country, the Scots arrived in Caledonia in 500 AD, and started the nation of Dal Riada in the west of the country.  In 844 Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots of Dal Riada, ascended the throne of Pictland and united the two countries into the Kingdom of Alba.  Over then next 200 years the Briton Kingdom of Strathclyde and the Angle Kingdom of Lothian joined Alba.  The Norse Western Isles were incorporated and by the 12th century Alba was being referred to as Scotland (it’ll never catch on).

There have been a great many other examples of nations being founded by collectivism down throughout history.   And what more are the 46 states and four commonwealths which make up the United States of America than a collective?  The largest collective in the world as it happens, and made up of a great many people of varying ethnic backgrounds.  Let us not forget that up until 1956, the original motto of the USA was “E Pluribus Unum” – one from many.  There are some, particularly American, right-wing, militarist, conservative Christians who would say “That’s commie talk.” – but these are exactly the same people who spout on about “God, flag and country”.  Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.

Of course, to defend that country and way of life, such people join the military, which they are extremely proud of.  So they enter into a collective of like-minded individuals, who in this case absolutely rely upon each other to do their bit for the common good.  Sounds a bit like communism, doesn’t it?  But in the broadest sense that is precisely not only what the military is but absolutely relies upon, for both the safety of a battalion right up to the security of the country.  Each has their job to do which others rely upon totally.  Not such a far cry from “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” (Karl Marx), is it?  Frankly, if I were an army officer and heard one of my soldiers state he was against the collective, warning bells would be going off in my head immediately and I would be watching him like a hawk, just in case my unit could not rely upon him, or he was likely to carry out some dangerous rogue action.

As I say, these people join the military to protect their country and their way of life, which includes country, community, religion and families.  Hold on – community?  That is a collective; any community is.  Likewise anyone who identifies with a faith, short of starting their own religion which only they are a member of, is within a collective of people sharing the same faith.  And no doubt this means such people will attend a place of worship regularly, which of course means being in a collective for communal worship.

Part of Christian worship of course talks of the importance of family and the Fifth Commandment tells us, “Honour thy father and thy mother.”   Surely however the family is the first collective the vast majority of  human beings become part of?  Then as we grow, most marry (a collective of two) and start their own family, another collective.

Like it or loathe it, being part of a collective is an unavoidable part of life, and in a great many ways.  From being a child, to being a member of a community of 7 billion members, the human race, and at a great many stages in-between.  Think on that the next time you drive your kids to scouts or guides, or even the sports team they may be part of.  Being part of a collective is part of the human condition.  It is because human beings are social animals that we seek out others of our own species.  That is precisely why we have flourished to 7 billion and  so many countries – and faiths – have been formed.  Ultimately, to deny the collective is to deny yourself.

It seems to me therefore that when someone speaks of being for the individual and against the collective, they are either the most selfish person in the world, they are a hypocrite, they contradict themselves, they simply don’t know what they are talk about, or far more likely, all of the above.

Moreover, anyone like the person who originally posted the statement at the beginning of this article is a disgrace to their uniform, their military, their flag, their country, their faith and even their own family.