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Marita Prandoni

Marita Prandoni photo courtesy of Marita PrandoniMarita Prandoni has a passion for exploring different cultures and worldviews. She draws inspiration from her family, tutoring extraordinary youth, meeting unexpected heroes and from the stunning natural beauty of her home turf in and around Santa Fe, NM.

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Hyper-Individualism: Bad for Children, Bad for the Earth
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 00:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Girl Looking Out Window photo by D. Sharon PruittA recent BBC story by Mark Easton called “Selfish Adults ‘Damage Childhood’” piqued my interest, especially when it cited too much competition in education as a key reason. Easton summarized a three-year study by the Children’s Society called “The Good Childhood Inquiry” in which the panel concluded that children’s lives in Britain have become “more difficult than in the past.” It cited “family break-up, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and income inequality” as key reasons. The report also says that individual freedom and self-determination have been good for society, but that too much of this can lead to the decline of emotional health in children.

When I think about competition, I think of two kinds—destructive and cooperative. Destructive competition means the “winner takes all” and the winner’s success depends on the loss of the loser. In a game of musical chairs, for instance, one child might relish the thrill of landing on a chair when the music stops, while another suffers from the idea that someone will be left out. In cooperative competition, everybody wins.

Too much competition puts people at odds with the environment as the demand for everyone to become a winner outpaces the ecosystem resources our planet can provide. Many children may sense that competition is fruitless if what their health and prosperity depend on most—the natural world—is in grave peril as a result.

Since the US is the greatest promoter of individual freedom, how are we doing in balancing our self-determination with the needs of our society and especially those of our children? Often not well. We seem to have crossed the line separating healthy individualism and unhealthy hyper-individualism

The idea of hyper-competition is one that strikes me as an evolutionary dead end.  Environmental activist and author Edward Abbey said, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” Yet growth that is cyclical and limited by how quickly resources can be renewed are principles of a healthy ecosystem. Perhaps we should look to nature’s model for maintaining a healthy society.

Now, due to overpopulation and frantic consumption, we face an enormous challenge to reverse the self-caused damage to our environment and our children. David Orr, professor of Environmental Studies and author of Earth in Mind, disagrees with Scientific American’s idea that with enough knowledge and technology we can “manage planet earth.” He says,

What might be managed, however, is us: human desires, economies, politics, and communities. But our attention is caught by those things that avoid the hard choices implied by politics, morality, ethics, and common sense. It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants.

If we adopt this principle as a foundation of modern education, we can create a psychologically healthier world for our children and an environmentally healthier world for ourselves and future generations.

Interestingly, in speaking about Native-American prophesies and the degradation of the earth, Chief Oren Lyons of the Onandaga Council of Chiefs, a leading advocate for American Indian and indigenous causes, writes in  Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future (Melissa K. Nelson, editor):

We were told that you could tell the extent of the degradation of the earth because there would be two very important systems to warn you. One would be the acceleration of the winds…. They said the other way to tell that the earth was in degradation was how people treated their children.

Additional resources:
EcoHearth's Eco Parenting Blog

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Comments (20)add
Written by Jennifer Lynn , February 28, 2010
I am so glad I have found your blog, and thanks for visiting mine!! This is incredibly interesting. I will be reading regularly!!
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Written by MP , February 01, 2010
Observer, So you like the outdoors but don't care if someone knocks down a mountain in West Virginia. Nice. What if WV were your backyard? Would you care then?

We have to remember that some humans consume up to 600 times more than other humans. So maybe it's people in the global north who have the heavier footprint that should curtail their procreation.

And choosing less harmful natural resources (like solar and wind) over harmful ones (like coal) would certainly give humanity and all species a better chance at survival.
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Written by Observer , February 01, 2010
The question, central to Dork & mgregory's contentions seems to be weather or not the individual should determine his own economic fate, or if a group working together should be in control. I think the answer is a hybrid. What I would like answered, as far as capitalism's tendency towards negative effects on the environment, is so what?

I love the out doors, I think that the earth is breath taking, but I don't care if some one knocks down a mountain in West Virginia for coal. Before the advent of petroleum insecticides and a myriad of other advancements that accompanied the industrial revolution (and which are widely considered detrimental to the environment) the total human populace totaled 420 million. Unless you are suggesting people stop having babies, then there is no way to stem the growth in population. I think it is important that we sacrifice whatever natural resources we must to support the growing populace. Because someone among that populace will be able to answer these, questions, we just have to give them a chance.
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Written by Dork , August 19, 2009
Thank you for taking the time to respond.

I think it is governments who are the chief manufactures of fear, in order to maintain their ideology.

My truest hope is the expansion of individual liberty.

Collectivism is a method which I don't believe is compatible with individual liberty.

The history of socialism is that of totalitarianism. Just study any of it's proponents. From the Taborites to the Lennonists, Trotskyists, and so on. Marx himself in his dialectrical materialism was a flawed utopian thinker. Fatalistic determinism, may some up the beliefs of many collectivists.

I am ignorant, could you please name a socialist democracy?

I am afraid of oligarchy. I am afraid of those with power. Another great liberal, Lord Acton, famously said "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts, absolutely."

I am humbled by my many grammatical errors, and do apologize for them.
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Written by mgregory , August 19, 2009
Dork: I appreciate your wanting to reply. However, your comments are full of errors and distortions as were your first forays into the topic. Unfortunately, I'm too busy to go line by line as I did last time. Just wanted to let you, and anyone else who may be following this dialogue, know that I am not quitting because I agree with any of your statements.

But I will say that it is ironic that you end with the quote, "You may cage my body, but will never cage my mind," because from all appearances your mind is already caged. You appear to grasp onto whatever simplistic assertions the capitalist demagogues spout in order to assuage your deep seated fears, just as they had planned. For example, there have been many examples of democratic socialism in the world and yet you claim that all socialism is totalitarianism and use as your examples states that call themselves socialist, (e.g., the National Socialism of Nazi Germany), but really aren't. That's like pointing to all of the totalitarian communist states with "democratic" in their official names and claiming they prove that democracy is by definition totalitarian.

Again, it would take all day to go point by point to show the faults in your statements. It's just so sad that (probably well meaning) people like you go about spreading fear and disinformation that damages the world in so many ways.
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Written by Dork , August 19, 2009

Before going on I must first apologize for grammatical errors, and thank you reader for your time and patience, I would also like to thank all, for the comments.
12.What we have are ethics in collision. Individualism is the reverse of Collectivism. The two systems are not compatible, there is no middle road. Middle of the Road policy leads to collectivism. Individualism allows freedom. Again and again, "Collectivism is slavery"!

13. Actually you have it quite reversed. Aristotle describes democracy as rule by the poor. Only under a system of free social interaction, of private ownership of property, is democracy possible. Only when people are free to choose their own ends can they have authority over themselves and their own actions. It is the totalitarianism of socialism, where the elite are the few in control of society, and the masses are the impoverished living under servitude to the state.

14. The incentive lies in satisfying consumer want. Government incentives are almost always harmful market interventions, that not only upset the price system, but harm the actors in the market.

15. No under a system of free exchange, wealth does not command a power over the people. A person must continually be active in satisfying his consumers wants in order to maintain wealth. You see the wealthy are consumers too. If they do not add to there capital, they will use it up over time. Under free market conditions there are more people of means, than there are in any other system. Even a poor man today has a higher standard of living than a wealthy person did, even a few hundred years ago. Do you think those conditions would be around under serfdom?

16. The people are not the state. The people a members of civilization. Society is simply a collection of individuals. Groups are collections of individuals. All men are individuals. States don't actually produce anything, they sustain themselves on theft/taxes. Individuals are producers, they must produce in order to thrive. The state thrives on theft, and fear. The state has monopoly on the power of coercion. Worship subjugation all you like, it will not change the nature of the coercive forces.

"You may cage my body, but will never cage my mind".

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Written by Dork , August 19, 2009

6. The technical definition of a bureaucracy is: non-elective government officials.
Oh yeah the election system works really well! If it works so well, why do only democrats and republicans get elected? Why do the charlatans in office violate the constitutions of there respective governments? Why do the Strom Thurmond's of this world serve till death? I have found that in real life, these charlatans are rarely ever held accountable by the public. Often they blame their ineptitudes on the very public they are in theory serving.

7.Slippery slope! You possess predictive powers maybe?
The bailouts maintained the seats of power of bad exploitative businessmen. While without intervention bad man are weeded out. Risk is an inevitable consequence of all human action. Risk cannot be regulated away. When government goes to protect one group, it hurts all groups, and rarely ever performs a true good in kind for that very group they meant to help at the expense of all others.

8. The U.S. has had panics before central banking, it has had them even after the collapse of early central banks. But it hasn't had an extended panic till the Great Depression. Paper money has been around for three hundred years in the western world. In the east there were laws against it. But if you will study monetary history, you will see that all paper money has been a bust. You may think my comments are not 'worth a continental', but you should really study monetary history. In order to understand this one must ask; why is there a gross cluster of errors that lead to the bust faze of the business cycle? What happens is a missalocation of resources in capital goods over consumer goods. This occurs because the actors in the market are sent false signals, like artificial interest rates, so that they invest in more long term fazes of production. The point is that a paper money system creates an inflation that is hard to gauge, and grossly upsets the price system. Inflation is a tax on us all, that destroys wealth for everybody long term.

9. See many actors fail to see what is unseen, so how then can these unseen consequences be factored into prices. The equilibrium price is always the market clearing price. This price can of course change because things change. People have changed wants, capital goods can become scarce, whether can sometimes dictate the price level. I would like to encourage you to study how prices are formed. If you did so, you might understand the socialist calculation problem.

10. Whoop! We agree we live under a fascist economic system. So stop blaming free market, for the imperialistic serfdom in which we suffer. Again 'risk', is apart of all action.

11. The U.S.S.R. is an excellent example of this general rule. Nazi, a.k.a. National Socialist Party, Germany, would be another. How about studying Italian fascism for another good example.

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Written by Dork , August 19, 2009
1.There was a time when liberalism had a more narrow meaning. One of these liberals, Sir Edmund Burke, said "There me no more worst tyranny, than that by majority".
Socialism is and always has been totalitarianism. It involves a 'planned economy'. Under such 'planned economy' rationing becomes very difficult. It lacks the Pure Logic of Choice. Socialism becomes a calculational chaos. A just system of law respects property rights. Without private property, all those 'rights of man' wither away. All men are self owners. They should thereby have self rule, i.e. autarchy. This is different from the concept of autarky, which is economic isolationism. There is a division of knowledge in reality that provides for a spontaneous order. The division of labor is a natural beneficial tool for social cooperation. Men can achieve ends better when they work together, there different skills order their cooperative efforts. I don't believe it is possible to have individual liberty under socialism.

2.When men have free choice to satisfy their wants, there is no expropriation. There becomes a system of voluntaryism under free exchange. Consumers are not under the gun to bye peanuts, or any other commodity. They are not forced into employment, and they are not dictated their skills by the 'planning board'. It is very possible to have maximum employment, it just includes the forced labor of the very old, the very young, and the very ill. And under a socialist system if you don't like your job, you can be introduced to the firing squad(literally). And perhaps you can answer just what is it about being a government official implies that they hold any sort of scruples? It has been my observation that elected leaders are grafters, cheats, and totalitarians. The regulation of a free market is that by consumer choice. People choose not to buy shoddy overpriced goods.

3. If socialism can provide for mass production for the masses, than how is it that they run out of essentials like toilet paper. Try to imagine the government running a grocery store, and ask yourself what kind of choices would be available? If steak were dirt cheap compared to dog food, my pup would feast until the supply became scarce. There is and always will be a mighty need for a price system.

4. Oh yeah communism must of felt really good to those who suffered the gulag. What of the cases of famine under collective farming systems.
Wait; imagine the choice of books that Cuba, Nicaragua, and many other totalitarian countries have. And, if Cuba is sooooo great, just why do the Cubans risk their lives daily for the hope of freedom?

5. Roads have many great benefits, true. There have been roads for a very long time. Do you think that roads have always been a government undertaking? I happen to think that if I drive I should pay for it's utility, and if I don't I pay these costs through trade. I think that is more ethical than the highwayman of government."At least even the highwayman doesn't presume to manage your life for you".

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Written by mgregory , August 12, 2009
CONTINUED from above:

9. "There are always negative and positive externalities to all action." I'm not arguing otherwise, only that externalities be included in the cost of an item. Otherwise, decisions in regard to the items are not rational. In other words, your holy supply and demand curves are not accurate. Don't you want that?

10. "We don't live under a free market. When the state colludes with business, this is called fascism." This is exactly why the economic system recently nearly collapsed. The state was run by folks (Republicans and conservative Democrats) who were paid off by the capitalists, colluded with them to deregulate and thereby allowed insanely risky transactions to make the capitalists huge amounts of money while putting our whole economy at risk.

11. "Socialism fails on it's own accords, and on it's ashes sprout fascism." Don't know where you got this rule!?

12. "What bothers me most is the attack on individualism. Collectivism is slavery!" Life is a mixture of individualism and collectivism. Either extreme is a perversion of reality. That's why I am a democratic socialist. I favor a system where major, but not all, industries are owned by the state; there is representative democracy limited by a bill of rights ('majority rule, minority rights').

13. "I never stated that capitalism is perfect. It simply provides the most happiness to the most amount of people; i.e. utilitarianism." Pure capitalism is a system where a few are well off, while most people live a barebones existence given just enough to work each day for the capitalists. If this the greatest good for the greatest number? I think not.

14. "I strongly believe that if we had a free economy, we would have already had more people driving more environmentally friendly vehicles." Without government giving alternative energy incentives and increasing gas mileage standards, we'd have many less people. I think this is obvious if you look at recent history.

15. "The plutocrats will gladly use government force and oppression to keep their seats." This is true under any system

16. "Only a market economy can unseat these people. The hoi poloi is gettin' bamboozled into believing the state actually has their interest in mind.
Oh; and there is no such thing as perfect knowledge no man and no state is omnipotent." In democratic socialism the people are the state, thus the state by definition has their interests at heart They can change leaders whenever they like.

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Written by mgregory , August 12, 2009
Dork, below are quotes from you with my comments:

1. "Under socialism there is no freedom except for the despot." Even your simplistic definition of socialism does not include a despot. Just like in a capitalist country, there can be democracy or dictatorship. In a socialist democracy there is no despot. People vote freely for their leaders.

2. "Under capitalism people are free, and the ultimate ruler is the consumer." Again, just because a society is capitalist doesn't mean it's a democracy. And if you mean people are free to buy and sell whatever they want, then they are free to be exploited by unscrupulous capitalists. Under pure capitalism, which you seem to be promoting, there is no regulation of the capitalists. We all know how successful this has been in regard to Wall Street derivatives. Witness the the recent near economic collapse.

3. "Capitalism is mass production for the masses.' So is socialism.

4. "(Capitalism) has raised the standard of living for everyone. So has communism in Cuba, Nicaragua and many other countries. Example: In 1958, a year before Castro's communist government came to power, adult illiteracy in Cuba was 80%. Today, under communism, it has been reduced to just .08%--lower than in the USA.

5. "In transportation; the state has degraded it's utility. If I choose not to drive, I still pay taxes for roads. If I cannot afford a car, I still pay these costs." Roads are used for emergency services, public transportation and shipment of goods, to name a few things, which benefit everyone.

6. "There is no incentive for any bureaucracy to perform a good job, and they rarely ever do. The bureaucrat still gets paid, even to muck things up." If a bureaucracy doesn't perform, the elected officials who are responsible for it are held accountable on election day. Incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats can be fired. There are bureaucracies in private companies just as their are in governments. Some bureacracies perform well and some don't in both government and private companies.

7. "The bailout was a plunder upon the citizens. Businessmen who perform badly need to fail, so that better ones may take their place. There are plenty on those heels waiting for the opportunity. The economy wouldn't of (sic) collapsed if the plutocrats were not to get special favours, e.g. the bailouts." The government couldn't let the big financial institutions fail or the whole economy would have collapsed. The government can only be blamed for not regulating business enough so that the businesses were not allowed to risk so much. But it was laissez-faire capitalists like you who made decisions to not regulate enough--causing the problem.

8. "I think it remarkable that free market is blamed for the woes of the business cycle, when these harsh cycles can only be linked historically to paper money. Paper money is not free market money. If it be pure bank notes, they will fail on their own accord from redemption and confidence." Economic cycles long preceded our going off the gold standard.

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Written by Dork , August 06, 2009
mgregory:I think it's important to understand what some of these terms are. Communism, as Marx describes it is world socialism. Capitalism is the productive means are owned privately. Socialism is the productive means owned/operated by the state. Under socialism there is no freedom except for the despot. Under capitalism people are free, and the ultimate ruler is the consumer. Capitalism is mass production for the masses. It has raised the standard of living for everyone. In transportation; the state has degraded it's utility. If I choose not to drive, I still pay taxes for roads. If I cannot afford a car, I still pay these costs. There is no incentive for any bureaucracy to perform a good job, and they rarely ever do. The bureaucrat still gets paid, even to muck things up. The bailout was a plunder upon the citizens. Businessmen who perform badly need to fail, so that better ones may take their place. There are plenty on those heels waiting for the opportunity. The economy wouldn't of collapsed if the plutocrats were not to get special favours, e.g. the bailouts. I think it remarkable that free market is blamed for the woes of the business cycle, when these harsh cycles can only be linked historically to paper money. Paper money is not free market money. If it be pure bank notes, they will fail on their own accord from redemption and confidence. There are always negative and positive externalities to all action.
We don't live under a free market. When the state colludes with business, this is called fascism. Socialism fails on it's own accords, and on it's ashes sprout fascism.
What bothers me most is the attack on individualism. Collectivism is slavery!
I never stated that capitalism is perfect. It simply provides the most happiness to the most amount of people; i.e. utilitarianism.
I strongly believe that if we had a free economy, we would have already had more people driving more environmentally friendly vehicles. The plutocrats will gladly use government force and oppression to keep their seats. Only a market economy can unseat these people. The hoi poloi is gettin' bamboozled into believing the state actually has their interest in mind.
Oh; and there is no such thing as perfect knowledge no man and no state is omnipotent.

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Written by Kristaf , August 05, 2009
It's an interesting conversation. Humans by nature are hard-wired to be BOTH competitive and cooperative. While we've not yet found a happy medium expressing both in our economies or governments, one or the other extreme seems doomed to failure since we are incapable of repressing human nature without scary consequences.
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Written by mgregory , August 05, 2009
Dork - Like pure communism, pure capitalism is nirvana in theory only. Pure capitalism works only when the consumer has accurate information by which to judge the competing products or services in the marketplace. Advertising twists the truth and guarantees they don't.

Pure capitalism is based on short term profit for individuals not long-term common good or environmental sustainability.

Funny you should mention the term "externality." It is an economic term of art meaning real costs that aren't taken into account in a purely capitalistic economic transaction. This is one of the many reasons pure capitalism damages the common good--and the environment.

For example, under capitalism it is cheaper for an individual to buy a two-ton vehicle and drive it 5 miles to work every day than to take public transportation. But doing so is a waste of metal, production capacity, gasoline, etc., compared to sharing a train or bus with many others. But he does it because he has the convenience of riding in his own vehicle and the cost to him is the same or less. The true cost of his vehicle, however, includes the added global warming and pollution the additional production causes; the additional landfills and groundwater pollution; the cost to all taxpayers of providing road construction and repairs; etc. The true cost of the gasoline he uses includes increased global warming, air and groundwater pollution, the costs all taxpayers must bear to clean up the pollution or, in the alternative, the extra taxes or health insurance costs they must pay to cover the medical costs associated with living with this pollution. Yet these costs are not included in the cost of his car or the cost of gas at the pump. These are externalities, rampant in so many purely capitalist transactions. They severely distort the "perfect" (in your view) free market.

The bailout of the financial industry happened because certain areas of the industry (derivatives) were allowed to operate in pure capitalism causing a nearly complete meltdown of our economy. This proves the point that pure capitalism is a mistake and that government regulation is necessary, not the opposite.
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Written by Dork , August 05, 2009
Kristaf: In regards to your first question, yes. It is however not a competition driven society that is the cause of such plunder. The worst plunder of all is that by the state, under the guise of 'public service'. I admire humility, and am sorry for the name tossing. The main point is in folks satisfying their ends, they are also helping in social cooperation. When an entrepreneur satisfies the consumer, he is adding a positive externality to the social whole. Free exchange is a form of peaceful social cooperation. It is not coerced or planed by a despot.
MP: I find it vulgar that you lay blame on a free market, when the bailouts are not a part of that system. Free market is hands off. Monopoly can only persist by government intervention. Monopoly is a special privilege granted by force. Americans were pick-pocketed by their supposed representatives. It is the continual subjugation of mankind that prevents progress. It is individualism and laissez-faire that has always proven to provide the most peace, prosperity, and liberty. As for protecting mother earth, the market not government can achieve this noble end.
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Written by MP , August 04, 2009
Dork: When you refer to the invisible hand, do you mean the one that recently pick-pocketed American taxpayers for a trillion dollars—-the free-market, hyper-competitive, enterprising individuals on Wall St? They were certainly socially cooperative among themselves.
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Written by Kristaf , August 04, 2009
"Dork": Are famine and barbarism not taking place in the present? Under the influence of a competition driven society?

"enviro-mental-whackos" as you call us are exploring ideas out of a sense of humility at our place in the big picture and empathy for the suffering around us. If you don't share a respect for those values, which is what your name-calling suggests, then there's no real debate to be had.
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Written by Dork , August 04, 2009
Ever hear of "the invisible hand"? That nasty selfishness is a sign of social cooperation! The savagery of the tribe sounds like a rotten way to live. Man moved from the age of savagery by the ability to use tools. Thus the age of barbarism came upon mankind. Men will never reach the age of reason, if they are not allowed to compete freely under social cooperation. Collectivism will lead to famine, as it has in the past. What is the level of overpopulation? How many people are to much people? The lack of competition, turns people into mindless slaves. "Without freedom a slave culture quickly ensues". I am starting to think enviro-mental-whackos, are sadistic misanthropes.
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Written by Kim Schiffbauer , March 08, 2009
Thanks for this post. Great article. I agree as well, and increasingly am making the connection between us vs. them as humans and us as people vs. the earth. I see a definite correlation. While this economy and other world situations right now appear grim, it is my great hope that this will lead to less division and more cooperation both between people and species.
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Written by KristaF , March 05, 2009
I agree. Collaboration is more innovative than individuality. I take away the best ideas after brainstorming with others. If you're truly open to sharing ideas, sparks fly and plans really begin to gel. And if each person does have a unique creativity, how much more could we accomplish if we combined our gifts and insights? It could change the world.

The popularity of social media alone tells me there's hunger for a change. Maybe we're wary now of the pressure and loneliness that comes with a life as "The Individual".
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Written by Azlan White , March 05, 2009
I completely agree with this idea that "too much individuality is NOT a good thing." For the last few years, i've been acknowledging my deep desire to be a part of a "tribe" or a "team." I have such a longing for this kind of bonded collaborative experience with other human beings, that i am sure it is where we are headed. In the collaborative projects i've attempted with others, i have become aware of how extremely individualistic we are as a culture and how difficult it is for us to collaborate for projects, much less become a fully unified cohesive team for life. I believe that as economics become tighter and likely more REAL and more connected to the REAL resources available to us, that we will learn through necessity, how to live TOGETHER more effectively, sharing resources, and finding more joy in our togetherness. Thanks Marita--for the great article bringing this up.
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