Everyone who has been paying even scant attention to current events is witness to discord, and strife seemingly all around us. This disharmony is nothing new, but has been ramped up during the multiplicity of crises currently facing humanity. As we work towards solving what ails us, it’s good to recall the call for unity from former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity–or it will move apart.”
While individuality and independent action have important roles to play in civilizations, they work more effectively when they’re focused upon working together towards the preservation and improvement of life in general. The important ingredient in the mix between individual action and solidarity is balance. The idea is that when we have collaboration among individuals, great things stand a much better chance of being achieved.
In so much that we all live together and rely upon others in society in order to survive, sometimes we must make temporary sacrifices. Many people choose to serve their nations in military service. Others commit themselves to humanitarian or civil service. Helpful people who cannot do any of these, do not hinder the efforts of people working to bring about peace and health.
Another way of seeing the need for unity is that we are a species made up of billions of individuals. There is no denying that we are interdependent social creatures. History tells us about the struggles between actions of self-interest versus the overall needs of society as a whole. We also find numerous examples of societies that take unity to radical, unhelpful levels. Far right and far left regimes subjugate their populations to conformity; such citizens have few or no personal freedoms.
Like many things in life, unity works on a sliding scale or a spectrum. Not enough unity brings about scattered, contentious society, and too much unity ushers in tyranny. This is why it is helpful and wise to be mindful of when the balance scales begin to tip one direction or another. Ideally, society works best when it is balanced between individualism and unity.
The most simple determinant of healthy unity versus unhealthy unity is when destruction is the goal, this is when unity goes too far. Demagogues rally their followers to unite in their evil intent to destroy and subjugate others. Meantime, when constructive, healthy outcomes are the motivation, unity has the potential to enable phenomenal, positive results and overall well-being for everyone. This is why good intentions tempered by pristine ethical behavior are important.
The desire about action that benefits the well-being of us all seems like a no-brainer. Most of us want to live in a world where we get along with each other and offer support to people in need and kudos to heroes. We simply want to have the freedom to peacefully live our lives as we see fit. Again, this is so obvious, it barely needs restating here. The point I’m making is that it is possible to live independently yet, at the same time, live unified as part of the whole.
Perhaps this little article seems Utopian. If so, I admit that I still retain a fair amount of adolescent idealism. Still, it appears that humanity is a synthesis of individuals and groups. We work best when we reconcile the individual with the species as a whole. We seek balance between individuality and unity. Experience shows us that this balance is biologically crucial. When individuality works in concert with unity, we thrive.