A few weeks ago I was trying to solve a problem. My first response to this problem was to get frustrated, then to start to post on social media, asking the Great Hive Mind of my friends and associates out there to help me solve my dilemma. About halfway through composing this post I had a revelation, and deleted what I’d written. I then went and researched stuff on my own, and managed to solve the problem reasonably well. Now, I suppose that finding a new sofa is way down on the list of things one might ask about, but its just one of many small things that might be communally solved. In the end, community didn’t enter into it at all.
These last few weeks the news has been full of items about individuals and communities, about localities and states, states and the federal authorities, the federal authority and the wider international community. All of these items started me thinking back to myself and The Great Hive Mind. Was it possible for an individual to go it alone completely, or did some working together need to happen? Would working together negate my own choices? How did my choices affect others?
The United States has always been about individuality from its earliest days. The Founding Fathers wanted a nation that could thrive on individual accomplishments, yet come together to create shared goals. It hasn’t always worked, and the needs of the individual have outweighed the needs of the many over and over again; and vice-versa, since there have been times that the needs of all have outweighed the needs of one, or a few. Yet the push-pull of these opposite ends goes on.
In recent days one man’s suicide has sparked both a call for help that could benefit many, and the knowledge that he acted alone, without any feedback or communication. His individual act was his alone, yet because the larger group knows what he did, there has been a group effort to prevent others from taking this same individual way. In a small suburb of St. Louis, the act of one official with a gun has sparked a response from the many that has left the area both physically and emotionally devastated. In western Africa, many individuals are helping spread a deadly virus by putting their fears and cultural needs ahead of the well being of society as a whole. In America we are all struggling to figure out how the federal mandate for healthcare is going to affect our personal choices and needs. In the wake of several mass shootings, states and localities have responded in various ways to limit the choices that individuals may make about gun ownership. In education, the Common Core is trying to be The Big Solution to an educational mess, but is failing because localities and individuals are not able to make rapid changes. The needs of the many vs. the needs of the one come into conflict over and over again.
Where do we as a nation draw the line between individual need and want, and the betterment of all? Some would say that individual need is the larger, therefore it is what we should focus on. Some say no, we have to come together and look at the needs of the many, and if an individual suffers because of that, so be it. It seems a never ending battle.
I need to go back and look at some of my own choices made in recent days. Perhaps I will ask my own Great Hive Mind on social media to help me solve a dilemma or two. Or perhaps I will go it alone and say “I don’t need your help.” I don’t know where my own balance is yet, and I suspect that 99% of you out there don’t know either.