Like you, I’ve heard “united we stand, divided we fall” hundreds of times, probably thousands. If fact, we’ve heard it so many times that by now it triggers emotions in us: All together we can’t be stopped! And so on.
Except that it’s mainly a trap. Unity is the downward path – the road to decline.
In fact, being united has value in very few areas of life. If you want a mass of bodies to charge another mass of bodies on the other side of a battlefield – then unity matters. But when you want honesty, intelligence, compassion, innovation, and evolution, unity is your enemy.
Unity works for body-power, but it works against all the higher and better aspects of our nature. And to be blunt, that’s why the sacrifice collectors of mankind love unity – they want obedient bodies, not self-determinant minds.
The really pernicious thing about unity is that it’s sold as some kind of spiritual ideal: We each sacrifice our ourselves, then we somehow become magical, collective superheroes.
Again, this is false. The high and good – the truly spiritual – forms only in individuals. As I’ll illustrate below, the more united our minds are, the farther they sink to an animal level. The more individual our minds are, the more they rise toward the good and the ultimate.
Unity in the religious sense is a spiritualized dream of a free fix. By embracing unity, people hope to solve their personal deficits by magic. Unification calls the magic down from heaven, and boom! we’re all fixed… no work required… it’s “spiritual,” after all.
The truth is this: Where individuality has had the upper hand, prosperity, growth, and invention have defined the times. Where collective ideals (like melting into one) have had the upper hand, humanity has sunk toward an animal level of existence.
You Want Proof?
Let’s start with this: Every mass tragedy since 1900 has not only featured unity, but has been built with unity as its central component. This becomes utterly obvious with the use of just one word: collectivism.
Collectivism is unity by definition, and it stood at the heart of Mao’s China, Lenin and Stalin’s USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the various Kims’ North Korea. As a first approximation, these unity traps killed 100 million people.
Then we can add Hitler and Mussolini, who enforced unity; nonconformists were imprisoned or killed. We have more tens of millions dead here.
This fact hasn’t been lost on observers. Here are just two quotes:
[A]n individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd soon finds himself – either in consequence of magnetic influence given out by the crowd or from some other cause of which we are ignorant – in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotizer.
– Gustave Le Bon
Man as an individual is a genius. But men in the mass form a headless monster, a great, brutish idiot that goes where prodded.
– Charles Chaplin
And yes, our abusers know this too. Here’s a quote from Edward Bernays, who made a living teaching people to manipulate the masses:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
Want More Proof?
Here are some thoughts from people who knew something about creativity, discovery, and creating a better world:
[E]verything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
– Albert Einstein
Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it… the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.
– Albert Schweitzer
[T]his I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.
– John Steinbeck
The Power of Numbers
Every leader of a movement – or wannabe leader of a movement – stresses the necessity of numbers: “Every one of us needs to show up and make them take notice!” That, I hasten to tell you, is a fatal error. It’s wonderful for the wannabe leader – he gets to be “the great one” – but it destroys the followers.
When you have a mass movement following a “noble leadership,” individual-level virtues are squeezed out and actual improvement along with it. Like this:
Listening to the leader displaces self-judgment.
Following the leader displaces self-motivation.
Lauding the courage of the leader displaces the courage to act alone.
Quoting the words of the leader displaces self-responsibility.
If we want real and enduring progress in the world, we must each make our own decisions, we must each take full responsibility for our lives, and we must each muster the courage to act alone. Until we can do that, we won’t move the world forward by any appreciable amount.
So, if you need a pile of bodies to knock down other bodies, unity’s your ticket. If you want a large number of people to turn off their minds and obey you, unity’s also your ticket, especially if you mix in some fear.
But if you want, thinking, creative, upright, beneficial human beings, ditch unity and call for self-will.
As individuals we rise.
United we fall.
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If you’ve enjoyed Free-Man’s Perspective or A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, you’re going to love Paul Rosenberg’s new novel, The Breaking Dawn.
It begins with an attack that crashes the investment markets, brings down economic systems, and divides the world. One part is dominated by mass surveillance and massive data systems: clean cities and empty minds… where everything is assured and everything is ordered. The other part is abandoned, without services, with limited communications, and shoved 50 years behind the times… but where human minds are left to find their own bearings.
You may never look at life the same way again.
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