The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Battle Between the Herd and the Individual

There is some interesting psychology in the TV series The Gifted, a show about individuals in society who are mutants with “powers,” but who are pursued by a Moral Majority-like group of fanatics who pretty much have control of the government and hunt down the mutants.

The psychology that interests me is the anti-mutant fanatics are driven by the idea that because mutants are different they are evil. And because they are different and evil it means they are automatically a “threat to us, our country, and to humanity.”

What we have here is the fundamental conflict between liberalism — properly understood — and conservatism. The conservative remains a herd animal. They need conformity. As such they are instinctively against a primary tenent of classical liberalism — individualism.

When someone says, “Hey, to each his own,” or “We’re all different,” they are speaking about an individualist concept of society. They probably are unaware of it. They aren’t thinking in terms of philosophy. It just seems apparent to them everyone is different and that’s not just okay, but it’s a human strength, that there is power in diversity.

The conservative is terrified of it. Bryan Fischer of the anti-gay, anti-immigrant Christian fundamentalist group, the American Family Association, explicitly attacked individualism. He said, “Perhaps the most sinister and dangerous lie the left has beaten into the brains of unthinking Americans is that there is strength in diversity. Nothing could be further from the truth.” He compared society to a football team who “wear identical uniforms, take directions from one coach, follow one game plan, and serve one high school, college or franchise.” That sounds like North Korea.

Back in the 1940s Ayn Rand warned, “If you preach that it is evil to be different — you teach every particular group of men to hate every other group, every minority, every person, for being different from them; thus lay the foundation of race hatred.”

That is the war between the herd and the individual, the battle between collectivism and individualism and conservatives are on the wrong side of that war. We see this battle played out constantly. The herd fears anyone who is different. It demands total conformity. The election of Trump had nothing to do with economics or “poor whites” looking for a champion. If anything, those worried about their own economic well-being tended to vote for Clinton. What terrified them was they, members of the herd, felt they were being displaced. The white in them felt displaced by non-whites. The Christian in them feared displacement by non-Christians—hence the Charlottesville Nazis chanting “the Jew will not replace us.” These were people who demanded conformity but were watching a diverse society form in front of them.

It is a society where individualism has replaced conformity. It is cultural displacement which terrifies them, not poverty. They will happily lower their own standard of living—and everyone else’s in the process—in order to return to a society dominated by straight, white, Christian, men and where everyone else—the mutants—are kept under control. This is one reason I call these conservatives “socialists of the soul.”

The conservative, in the past, presented himself as something of an advocate for free markets. That charade is over. They have caught on to something many progressives have failed to comprehend—capitalism encourages individualism and individualism encourages tolerance. To the herd, individualism is the enemy and tolerance is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Historically conservative hate movements have always targeted people for being different. Over the generations they attacked Native Americans, blacks, Catholics, immigrants, gays, etc. Regardless of the target the message barely changed. In each the “other” was different, different is dangerous, diversity must be surpressed. Economic freedom encourages diversity. Entrepreneurs look for markets that are not being filled. That may mean opening a gay bar, or “horrors of horrors” selling marijuana. It could mean publishing adult material, or offering transition services to trans individuals.

Over and over the conservative sees capitalism catering to those who are different. Some Christian conservatives have seen this quite clearly. Religious nutcake Linda Harvey previously complained on the wacksite World Net Daily that as we approach Christmas good Christian conservatives have to decide where to buy gifts, “The problem is — what stores? For any Christian who wants to spend hard-earned dollars with family-friendly, Christian-affirming retailers, restaurants and service providers, the list is growing shorter all the time.”

Now, it’s not that any of these stores are family-unfriendly, or hate Christians. It’s that Harvey and her fellow fundamentalists insist these stores must hate the people Harvey and crew hate. If they aren’t explicitly against people who are different then they are enemies of the herd. Harvey said, “I stopped shopping at Macy’s in 2011” because they wouldn’t discriminate against a transgender employee. Target is “now ‘proudly standing’ with homosexuals and cross-dressers (she means transgender).” Even Walmart, a “one-time reliable backer of Judeo-Christian standards has gone to the dark side in a big way. Wal-Mart put pressure on the governors of Arkansas and Indiana to oppose religious freedom bills. Why would Wal-Mart side with sexual anarchists against the First Amendment liberties of all Americans to oppose homosexual behavior?” For bigots, capitalism is a bitch.

Is it any surprise that the Party of the Herd, God’s Own Party has abandoned all pretense of being pro-capitalist and has put in the White House the most anti-capitalist president in recent memory—perhaps ever. The GOP has declared war on free trade, trade encourages diversity. Trump’s anti-market rhetoric and his racist, hateful rants all come from the same place—he’s a herd animal terrified of the individual.

Ayn Rand wrote: “Individualism regards man — every man — as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights — and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.” That is precisely what the conservative herd will no longer tolerate.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.