The Common Good vs Individualism
The Common Good vs Individualism

I love coming of age stories. I think most people do. Here’s why; there comes a point in your youth where you are confronted with the challenge of aligning the two levels at which you exist. That is, within a society, and as yourself, individually. This concept permeates every part of our personal lives and, at large, global events as a whole. The relationship between the self and the society is a complicated one, and at the same time, it’s straightforward.

We each are affected by our cultural and experiential background, and in turn, our cultural and experiential backgrounds are affected by us. We all come to a situation with our own ethical baggage… what’s right and what’s wrong differs from person to person and from culture to culture. The spaces in which these ethical standards clash is where we get conflict or turmoil of any sort.

The resolution should be simple – we should all agree that respecting each other is right, and not doing so is wrong. The thing that stands in the way of this simplicity is the concept and workings of ‘power’. When one person is assigned more worth than another (that be monetary worth or otherwise), the system based on mutual respect becomes unimaginable.

We want to believe that we individually have substantial personal power, but that’s not true unless you’re obscenely wealthy or in a position of ultimate political power. We can pretend that you and your friends using paper straws will fix the climate crisis, but it won’t. It places the responsibility on powerless individuals to feel they have control over a situation that starts and ends with mass corporations and those with substantial power.

The idea of individualism is this saving grace we are gifted through the suffocating midst of capitalist control. We want to believe that we have power, but we also want to think that we are in some way unique and different from everyone else. This duality clashes when you consider that if small individuals ever do have significant power, it’s only through unanimous cooperation.

Outside of completely dismantling the idea of power, the only chance we have is standing by each other. So, in issues of more considerable concern, the common good can only be achieved by sacrificing our egotistical attachment to the idea of individualism.

On the one hand, it’s okay to be different, and most of us naturally are different to others. It’s only harmful when you want to be different so much that it affects other people’s lives. It’s okay if you genuinely enjoy metal music… it’s not okay if you’re racist. See the difference?

Post Content Covid Vaccine Artwork
Image: Covid Vaccine

The problem is, I’m convinced that many people say and do some really outlandish things, not because they genuinely believe in it, but just to have their metaphorical “I’m not like other girls” moment in the sun. For example, the Sydney lockdown protests a few weeks ago… I hope that I don’t know anyone involved in that, but I’d have some questions if I did. Did you really think that that was going to get us out of lockdown? Did you really think that your personal ‘right to freedom’ is more important than everyone else’s health and wellbeing? Did you skip the lesson in kindergarten where they tell you that all rights come with responsibilities?

Granted, the concept of ‘the common good’ isn’t homogenous from person to person. Our perspectives on what is right and what is wrong are shaped by our own experiences and background. Different people are going to perceive a universal ethical standard and common knowledge base to include different concepts. But, in circumstances such as… oh, I don’t know… A GLOBAL PANDEMIC… I feel that the prioritisation of the community over one’s self is a pretty basic concept to grasp. Right now, ‘the common good’ refers to getting out of this massive, all-encompassing health risk.

On the 19th of August, I will be getting my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. I hate needles like nothing else, I’m scared shitless, and I’m pretty sure that personally, the vaccine will do me more harm than good in terms of my health. However, I want everyone out of lockdown. It’s not right that we’re all stuck inside. And to achieve the common good, people have to abide by the same rules during a lockdown, and the vaccination rates have to rise.

I understand that there are people who aren’t able to get the vaccine, for one reason or another. If it’s a medical or religious matter, then of course allowances need to be made. But if not, if you’re just someone who ‘doesn’t want to’ or you think it’ll give you autism… if you’re out there, going about business as usual, not wearing masks, dodging fines and refusing to get vaccinated, you need to reconsider your nauseating sense of self-importance. You are one peg in a worldwide clothesline. You are one card in a very tall stack. You have to do your part; otherwise, the effort the rest of us put into this little group project goes to waste.