America was built on the social-political ideals of Individualism; the philosophy of self-reliance, in the face of peril, and in the name freedom. Our communities were forged by rugged personalities, adventurers and entrepreneurs, determined to secure their freedoms in a new land, far from the archaic ideas of statism that were popular throughout Europe. Indeed the Virginia Company of London, which founded Jamestown in 1607, the first permanent new-world English settlement, was an entirely entrepreneurial venture. The new world became a nation of nations, including individuals from all over the world from an array of varied cultural and economic backgrounds. America was the land of the big dreamer, where each man could claim fortune in accordance to his efforts and will and keep what he produced, and where a single person could enact real and immediate change in their lives to increase the quality of life within their communities. Indeed, American Individualism is solidified in the creation of America’s Declaration of Independence.
After the first World War, Individualism struggled under economic growth and security. A lot of free time for Americans meant a sudden need to celebrate ourselves as morally worthy individuals by spending money of material goods. Americans had heroes in both sports and on the silver screen and we became intoxicated by the possibilities of ourselves. Powerful organizations and corporations soon took notice and marketed heavily to the superfluous gratifications of individuality. Low and behold: corporate-run America was born. A vicious cycle began of conformist based society, where we are no longer celebrated for what we are capable of accomplishing, but what we own and might own.
Today, Individualism has all but disappeared in the sense that it existed during the conception of America. Individualism today offers no validation of self-worth or recognition of achievement. Instead, it celebrates selfishness and fear of change. Most Americans have become conformists, so much in the pursuit of short-term happiness and gratification, that we are willing to endure corruption, degradation, and disenfranchisement, all at the hands of the corporations we helped raise to power, who’s economic influence decides the culture and morals of its citizens.
The time for Individualism no longer belongs to the past; we must embrace it today. We must not be afraid because we rely too much on our government, on corporations, on powerful organizations, or any influence outside of ourselves, and are too afraid to take any action against corruption that may jeopardize aspects of our jobs, lives, and security. As Americans we must make big changes that might be scary, and different from what is comfortable or accepted, because it is engrained in who we are as a Nation. America today is in need of a change, one that breaks the power away from corporations and corrupt government and allows us to believe, once again, that we have the power to succeed for ourselves. It may mean hard times or chaos, but through it we will encounter some form of the sublime through our continued effort to perfect the balance between freedom and unity.