Some thought on our Scandinavian (or Western) individualism
At Ikea a sign read ”Being single has both advantages and disadvantages, but the situation at home is definitely one of the advantages. My cottage has traces of everything in my personality and I enjoy the garden, cooking and spending hours reading without being disturbed. Yet at the same time the rest of the world is just a phone call away.”
It makes you think. More and more people in our part of the world live by themselves now. Once we lived in big families, grandparents, aunts, uncles and children all together. These days care of the elderly and children is institutionalized and Scandinavia, the supposed model societies, lead the world in this regard. Our social organization is developing in a pattern of entropy. Early on we teach our children their individual responsibility and the lyrics we listen to have for many generations emphasized the individual. Remember Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” our Jon Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life.” On the subject of lyrics, also worth pondering upon is the message of Twisted Sister’s “We’re not gonna take it” and Madonna’s “Papa don’t preach” – rebellion against parents. By no means do I want to hold these musicians responsible for the atomization of our families and the diminishing respect for age, but they are indicators of the trends in society. And certainly western individualism has deeper roots, many say in the Renaissance and secularization.
Then maybe someone considers the rise of the individual from the chains of patriarchal oppression as a positive development and not related to suicides and the growing phenomena of stress, “burning out” and depression. My answer is, widen the perspective to the evolutionary level; how do you think we are biologically fitted to live, alone or in a flock?
Milan Kundera wrote in “The Unbearable lightness of being” about the temptation to be independent as it is seemingly easier to stand alone without burdensome relations and Camus’ “Stranger” was untouched by the death of his own mother, but angst is omnipotent in these works. Also, recall the empty conversations in Ingmar Bergman’s movies between people which one would think should be close. Many have realized that what has happened in our society is anything but positive. But in the end I am optimistic as our countries are seeing a great influx of immigrants from the East and South, from countries less affected by individualism. Hence, I am convinced we must open the gates to our so-called welfare states widely. That Kurdish janitor that cleans your office is here to save you, and you should learn from him.