Friday, October 20, 2006

The value of individualism

Individualism is a much maligned and misunderstood concept. Too often it is used to describe a 'me first generation'. Individualism is necessarily accompanied by voluntarism whereas collectivism nearly always relies on compulsion.

The following is the conclusion of a column from Peter Saunders of the Australian Centre for Independent Studies. It appeared in the NZBRT's Perpsectives;

The attempt by our politicians to identify ‘Australian values’ is degenerating into a farcical stand-off between those who insist that immigrants should know the rules of cricket and those who want them to understand the history of trade unionism. What neither side in this debate understands is that we do not need a prescribed set of values for everyone to sign up to.

To live peaceably in Australia , it is not necessary to understand cricket, celebrate trade unionism, or even call people your ‘mate.’ Nor does it matter if you are a Catholic or a Protestant, a Muslim or a Christian, a conservative or a socialist. All that matters is that you should respect other people’s right
to be different from you.

Arguing about whether this or that value is essential to an Australian identity is therefore pointless. All that needs to be said (and reaffirmed repeatedly in all our schools) is that in Australia you can believe what you like, but using force to impose your morality on anyone else puts you beyond the limits of tolerance. As a society of modernity, we must tenaciously and unambiguously defend our commitment to the core ethic of individualism, nothing more, nothing less.

No comments: