I’m all for individualism, but can too much focus on the self be hurting you? Furthermore, what’s best for the people of our nation?
Firstly, “What’s best for the people of our nation?” is an opinion piece and should be read under the context of someone with thoughts on the subject…. Enjoy!
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Right off, I must say that I am not anti-individualism. I understand that we are wired, at least to some extent, to need time to ourselves. But it’s more than that. For instance, we know we have our own individual wants, needs, and desires. Therefore, holding on to and following things of personal interest can boost our happiness.
However, can we place too much of a priority on ourselves? I would argue that indeed we can. In fact, I believe that too much emphasis on the self has created a mental and medical health emergency.
Why? Well, when we place more value on the self and less value on what’s best for all, you have fractionation of the social fabric. “Huh? What are you talking about, John?”
Here’s my thoughts
I think a great question to ask ourselves is “What’s best for the people of our nation?” Rather than, “What are you going to do for me?”
For example, in Canada we have a universal health-care system and while it has its drawbacks, once you get past the waiting lists, the care is world-class. It should be noted that the long waits are due, at least in part, to bad policy and therefore, this is not evidence that publicly funded systems don’t work; they do.
As we speak, there is a concerted effort to dismantle the health care system in Canada and replace it with a for-profit, insurance-based private system. We only need to look to our neighbors to our south to see how bad an idea it is to support such a divisive and money-centric system. Much of the population stays home, even when in dire need of medical care. Why? Because they are poor. Rand Corporation: Report on profit Vs not for-profit health care
There are many documents that create a lot of debate on the effectiveness of paid medical services. However, we aren’t here to get into the depths of the systems but are here to evaluate the effects on mental health. In this case, we use it as an example for individualistic priorities over society as a whole. For profit, by its nature, services the interests of a few. When care is industrialized, it’s profit over care, shareholders over compassion… One seems to be able to justify anything as long as there are profits to be made or lost.
Here’s how “the self” can be dangerous:
In my view, when we place too much of a priority on the self, we de-prioritize our responsibility to act in the best interests of everyone. The consequences in the above example are the successful takeover of public health by industries.
A focus on individualism in this regard is dangerous because it allows for a peaceful corporate acquisition of service. If we aren’t paying attention, we are targets for profiteers – something that should never be allowed. Furthermore, if left unattended by people like you and me, it is likely to create division. From there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a correlation between division and a rise in mental-health conditions.
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So, in a sense, our need to be individuals comes full circle – resulting, for example, in a substantial increase in anxiety. This has an obvious impact on society. Not the least of which are deaths by suicide. (Increased depression and isolation). What’s worse, our heads in our phones creates additional pressures on medical services, creating more backlog and increased wait times. And all because your need for “likes” on Facebook distracted you and millions just like you.
In other words, we feel alone and powerless because our “me-focused” attention allows systems to be dismantled, thereby causing a deeper sense of loneliness and depression when we struggle to access what’s left – in this case, health care.
Going back to the question, “What’s best for the people of our nation?” We can see that it’s clearly not in anyone’s best interest to place sole priority on themselves.
Perhaps the best example I can think of in Canada, is the Two-tiered mental health care system. This breeds a focus on the self – while at the same time systematically discarding the mentalhealth needs of the “have-nots.”
How? Let’s lay it all out.
Dave is a successful lawyer at a large law firm. While on his lunch break, he gets involved in a spirited conversation with Katlyn, a local coffee-shop employee. Somehow, they get onto the topic of mental health. And…. as it happens, they both have a mental-health condition. Dave is getting the help he needs because he can afford the $190/hr for privatized treatment. Katlyn, however, cannot afford for-profit mental health care, and is on a waiting list from the public system. This is where the conversation gets heated.
Katlyn: “I have been waiting so long to see a psychologist, but I wish the system was completely universal for everyone. I know so many people who are suffering. Plus, if all the mental health-care professionals worked under the same system, everyone would have access.”
Dave immediately takes her statement as passive-aggressiveness and responds with:
“Well, I disagree, I can afford it – so, if this is the case, I should be able to have the care I need! Being able to afford it is the privilege of me having money.” He goes on to say, “Life’s just not fair. Someone has to lose, and I am not that guy. I think people just need to work harder or get a better job, then they can afford it too,” he adds.
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Katlyn, mad as hell at this point says in a raised voice, “That’s selfish! YOU can get the care you need but you are not the only person in this country!” She adds, “Those who can pay, are taking mental health professionals out of the system. and in doing so, are leaving so many people without care. It’s even killing people! What about the extremely poor and marginalized? A private system is divisive and immoral.”
Dave’s response? “Meh, life’s not fair and it’s not my problem.”
Little does he know, neglect of people in a society harms everyone. The healthier a nation, the more prosperous it can be. To Dave, his position makes sense. However, it’s always worth entertaining the idea that what’s best for you, may be hurting many others.
Who is right?
In this day and age, they both are. I, however, don’t buy Dave’s position for a second. In fact, I would go so far as to say he is wrong. A focus on a few, leaves many to suffer. A fact that has been demonstrated time and time again throughout our history. It’s wrong because it’s only right for him.
For me, the fact that Dave has chosen himself over his fellow human beings says something about us. It says that our need to think of the self as the only priority, is in fact dangerous. Privatized systems encourage this behaviour, especially if you can pay. While at the same time, it disempowers the masses, making them sick with mental illness, fear, and self-blame. Not being able to look after oneself may not be all of their own making.
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What’s worse, most of us, those on the less fortunate end, go into “self-preservation” mode. An understandable, yet equally selfish reaction. We effectively live in the perceived safety of our own bubbles. However, I ask you, “What good does that do?” My answer, in short: “No good! “It is after all, a form of self-defense.
Saying things like, “I know there’s a lot that needs to be fixed, but I just can’t help, it’ s too much” is, again, understandable. With that said, if we don’t act, we lose, we ALL lose. Except for those who can pay.
Canada, your health care is being hijacked for profit and if you don’t act now, you will pay. And…. if the two-tiered mental health-care system is any indication, many will pay with their lives. Time to put people over profit and universal suffering over self.