I remember one time reading a web document claiming that our present generation is confronting a serious ideological problem different from previous generations. That document describes this ideological problem as the conflict between collectivism and individualism.
The Danger of Collectivism
G. Edward Griffin understands collectivism as the idea that upholds the significance of the state over an individual and if necessary, an individual is to be sacrificed on the altar of the greater good for the greater number of people. This is the existing dominant idea that governs the mind of the politicians, the media, the professional economists, and the public. Akin to this idea is the belief in the “divinity” of the government. The government is expected to solve all our problems – economic, political, and sociological.
The prevalence of the foregoing idea makes the government a huge “magnet” that attracts predatory class of people, says Griffin. This people know how to use the law for their own ends. They fight terrorism, they fight global warming, and they can come up with all types of just causes serving as disguises to continue their tight hold on the helm of power.
Control of the Internet
We are told that the flow of information in the web is threatening the predators’ hold to power. The Internet is the greatest tool an individual has to educate himself about what is really going on in the world. Powerful entities dislike such flow of information and that is why early this year, we witnessed an intense struggle between those who want to censor the Internet and those who advocate freedom of expression. Some would even claim that the control over the Internet will ultimately determine the fight for personal liberty.
The recent cyber crime law in the Philippines is a recent example of such an attack on personal liberty. Criticizing such threat to freedom, Paul Tassi claims that there are lawmakers who want to regulate something that they do not fully understand. He even implies that such law is actually a “web tyranny” and has no place in a country exercising good governance. A writer on GMA News expressed the same idea and designated the law as “digital martial law” and enumerated ten frightening things about this law.
As a result of the above law, I notice several reactions among netizens in their comments on blogs and social networks. There is a mixture of fear and defiance. Some would resort to just saying “nice things” about the government in sarcastic tone. Others would start their comments with negation followed by numerous anomalies saying that such and such politician did not commit those wrongdoings. If you plainly read the comment, it appears logical and as if nothing negative has been said. But discerning readers know what is really going on. There is an increased animosity and anger against those who intended to suppress freedom of expression in the web.
We know that the people behind PIPA and SOPA will not stop until they achieve their ends. Netizens and freedom lovers need to be vigilant in fighting for their right to express their thoughts. Commenting on the health of the Internet, G. Edward Griffin is alarmed about ongoing talk both in the national and international level to control the Internet. Describing the subtlety of such an attack on personal liberty, Griffin said:
“They use all these good excuses – they want to stop child pornography, they say there’s cyber terrorism and all these good things they want to control – but you and I know what they really want to control is our personal communication, and the rest of that is just an excuse. They want to clamp down on the Internet so it’s no longer a vehicle for people like me to express my views. So I am worried about the future health of the Internet and I just hope more people will come and defend the Internet against these attacks, which we know are coming.”
The tension between collectivism and individualism is most evident in economic and political arena. To my mind, philosophy has its own terms expressing similar tension. It is the conflict between the one and many. In religion, we also face similar struggle. There are those who believe only in one God and others uphold the plurality of gods. In Christian theology, it is claimed that the tension between the one and many, collectivism, and individualism, unity and diversity, singularity and plurality, universal and particulars, are all resolved in the teaching of the Bible on the Tri-Unity of God.
In the Bible, we find in the Triune God that both singularity and plurality are equally ultimate. And since the Triune God is the Creator of all things, His creation including man and nature reflect this foundational nature of God in time.
Sin distorts the relationship between one and many. In political and economic terms, this would mean exalting collectivism as the ultimate ideal at the expense of individualism. It could also manifest as an act of absolutizing individual freedom and rejecting the legitimate existence of the state. Both tendencies are wrong. In their proper places, we affirm both.