Exploring Human Potential

7 & 7: Individual vs. Collective.


The role of the collective or community of people is determined by the needs of the people. What the individual cannot do for himself or cannot do as well by himself should beg the question “Can we help?” This is a question, not a knee-jerk response. For attempts to help may be ill-conceived and not contribute positively in part because they can disrupt individual initiative and ingenuity. This is in no way to dispute that we are members of one another, sharing a common responsibility. But the power of single individuals to rise to the occasion is awesome, and demands at times, that the occasion be allowed to arrive. As rugged as individuals are, so too are they fragile. They are joined for strength, for truth, for beauty, for adventure, for art and for peace! The most successful unions are never the product of tyranny but rather the offspring of free consent. As such they are self-governing and invite the active participation of each individual in the pursuit of reason and justice. When the collective is successful, so should be the individual, in an environment of peace and security. The efforts are both practical and theoretical, impacting individual lives and the environment that sustains them. Success requires open dialogue, debate, and decisions. The conversation defines the scope of the community, which may be as small as two neighbors planning this Saturday’s school event or as large and global as modern E-nets provide. And when the collective overreaches, overpromises, overrides by arrogance the richness and diversity of the individual experience, it is art that reminds us of the sensibility, faithfulness and vision of the individual mind, and our need to ensure its supremacy. What to give up, and what to retain, in the interest of the one, in the interest of the many, will always be a question that challenges all mankind.


The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities.
Abraham Lincoln 

That government is best which governs least, because its people discipline themselves.
Thomas Jefferson

We are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:25

It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honour, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or for its regeneration.

Snowflakes are one of natures’ most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.
Vesta M Kelly 

A civilized society is one that exhibits the five qualities of truth, beauty, adventure, art and peace.
Alfred North Whitehead 

No man is good enough to govern another man without his consent.
Abraham Lincoln 

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.
Harry S. Truman 

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
Brendan Behan 

Every man wishes to pursue his occupation and to enjoy the fruits of his labours and the produce of his property in peace and safety, and with the least possible expense. When these things are accomplished, all the objects for which government ought to be established are answered.
Thomas Jefferson 

If you want to understand democracy, spend less time in the library with Plato, and more time in the buses with people.
Simeon Strunsky 

The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.
Gunter Grass 

The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.
Marshall McLuhan 

When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his experience. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist…faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an offensive state.
John F. Kennedy

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