Thursday, August 2, 2012

Obama and Collectivism

As everyone who is not politically comatose knows by now, President Obama recently spoke to supporters in Roanoke, Virginia, and said in his speech to them, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that . . . if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own."

His opponents have protested and ridiculed his statements, but there is a sense in which Obama's statements contain some truth.  As John Donne said, "No man is an island."  None of us is born in isolation where we grow, mature, and succeed all alone.  We avail ourselves - to one degree or another - of the talents, wisdom, and resources of others.  

But that does not mean that our success is solely attributable to others.  If President Obama was not heralded by so many as a great intellect, I'd be tempted to say that he simply did not express himself very well - that he didn't say exactly what he meant.  Surely reason would dictate that anyone who builds a successful business deserves the lion's share of credit for that business.
But when a man who is widely purported to be intellectually astute says, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," I suppose we must assume that he means what he says.  This statement, taken with previous statements he has made, reveal his collectivist mentality.   On several occasions he has expressed his belief in "collective salvation," the belief that spiritual salvation is achieved as a group, not as individuals - the belief that temporal success is achieved by the collective whole, not by individuals.
Some might argue that Christianity supports collectivism when it refers to believers as the "body of Christ." It's true that the New Testament honors the collective whole by calling it the "body of Christ," but an honest reader of the New Testament must acknowledge that this honoring of the whole is not at the expense of the individual.  The New Testament makes it clear that we are saved as individuals, not as a whole.  Your salvation in the spiritual sense does not depend on anyone else's salvation.  Your temporal success does not depend on the success of others.
Of all President Obama's beliefs, I find his belief in collectivism most disturbing.  I can think of nothing more dehumanizing than being lost in a sea of collectivism.  If we are not viewed as individuals - if we are considered to be only insignificant parts of a whole -  it becomes easy to rationalize any injustice to individuals by saying it's for the good of the collective whole. 

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