Capitalism and its Individualist Culture
A culture is the barometer of a society’s degree of morality, freedom, and intellectual state. A society’s culture, objectively speaking, is the totality- the result or remnant- of the intellectual accomplishment of its members. It is not required for every social member to fully accept or embrace a nation’s culture. When we speak of a ‘culture’, we actually speak of the existing, remaining or dominant ideas of influences that gradually became accepted to some group of people, due to various factors, over time. A culture is an intricate battleground of different ideas, beliefs and influences that partly or wholly affect people.
In today’s age of nihilism and intellectual bankruptcy, we must fully identify and explain the nature and context of a culture. For most people, the word culture means traditions, social norms, religious practices, government’s cultural programs, etc. Others associate a nation’s culture with native ‘cultural’ practices, folk dances, pamahiin or superstitious beliefs, attributed ‘collective’ flaws, ‘observable’ attitudes or behaviors (e.g., laziness, productiveness, discipline, independence, etc.), among others.
For many statist-collectivist intellectuals, they advocate the use of state or government force for the preservation and transmission of a society’s cultural heritage to next generations. Like the elitist Marxists who seek to centrally plan an economy or to socially engineer a society, these cultural statist-elites dogmatically believe they possess an omnipotent power and ability to arrange a nation’s or even a global culture.
If there are ‘cultural nationalists’, or those who fanatically promote a nation’s dominant culture, there are also the ‘cultural globalists’ who dogmatically advocate or push for the establishment of a single global culture to be engineered and arranged by government or self-appointed ‘intellectual’ elites. In the Philippines, the cultural nationalists succeeded in merging the society’s dominant culture with state power. In fact the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, under Article 14, Sec. 14, empowers the state to “foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression.”
The following sections further bolster this merger of culture and state:
Section 15. Arts and letters shall enjoy the patronage of the State. The State shall conserve, promote, and popularize the nation’s historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations.
Section 16. All the country’s artistic and historic wealth constitutes the cultural treasure of the nation and shall be under the protection of the State which may regulate its disposition.
Section 17. The State shall recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions. It shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies.
Section 18. (1) The State shall ensure equal access to cultural opportunities through the educational system, public or private cultural entities, scholarships, grants and other incentives, and community cultural centers, and other public venues.
(2) The State shall encourage and support researches and studies on the arts and culture.
These constitutional provisions led to the creation, with the help of taxpayers’ money, of cultural institutions and programs that promote the Philippine’s national culture, such as the National Commission for Culture and Arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Artist Award, among many others. Even local governments use these constitutional provisions to waste taxpayers’ money and to buy people’s votes in the name of national culture.
But what is culture in the first place? Some clueless people say it’s part of our national identity, humanity, or personal attributes. This suggests that wherever we are and whatever our beliefs and convictions in life, we are forever attached, by law or social mandate, to our social culture. There’s no escape, they say. Once a Filipino, always a Filipino. Thus, you must blindly or consciously accept your national culture. Your personal convictions and beliefs no longer matter. They are immaterial. Your genes, your glands, your organs, your entire person and life are, whether you like it or not, part of our national culture, of social norms and traditions, and of the state. Why don’t these government-funded intellectual elites simply admit: “You are a property of the State.”
To these intellectually bankrupt, government-subsidized cultural nationalists, a culture is a national asset that must be funded, preserved, promoted and transmitted to yet unborn generations by the state. This is why we have to waste government resources on programs and gimmicks that promote our national culture. This is why we have to subsidize budding or even established artists. This is why the government had to create a gallery of ‘national artists’ who were given public awards, recognition, praises, and even government money, not because of their artistic ability but because of political mandate or decree. It seems that these cultural nationalists and the politicians who supported their agenda forgot that the greatest artists of all time achieved their status by selling or offering their works and ideas to the public. Let the people or the markets anoint or choose the real artists.
With these statist cultural programs, what the government is doing is that it’s trying to artificially create or preserve a culture that benefits, not the people, but our mediocre collectivist culture and system. Just as the government cannot be trusted in running our national economy with government-appointed statist economists from the University of the Philippines, so it cannot be trusted with arranging or engineering our national culture with government-appointed or subsidized cultural nationalists from the University of the Philippines and other so-called elite universities.
With almost every cultural program, cultural idiocy, cultural intellectual, cultural mediocrity that depends on government funding, subsidy and support, it appears that the cultural nationalists and their political cohorts are maintaining, preserving, promoting a CULTURE OF MEDIOCRITY AND DEPENDENCY.
A culture does not need state funding or intervention. Intellectual bankruptcy or arrogance is the proper term to call the political Marxists or leftists who seek to centrally plan a highly complex economy with their subsidized brain and subsidized diploma. Also, intellectual bankruptcy plus arrogance and utter naivety is the proper term to describe the cultural nationalists who dogmatically push for the central planning of our national culture using the Marxist and B.F. Skinner knowledge they uncritically learned in college.
Observe that all government-engineered cultures are dangerous or inimical to individual liberty and rights. Observe that when the cultural statists promote their government-funded cultural agenda, it is individual identity which they start to attack and destroy. In China Mao Tse Tung and his comrades destroyed the Chinese people’s remaining individual identity and freedom through their destructive, bloody Cultural Revolution that established a collectivist, Marxist/Maoist culture. In North Korea, the deceased dictator Kim Jong Il used the power of collectivist culture to indoctrinate his slave people and to establish slavery and the distorted concept of equality as a way of life. The evil slave culture designed by Kim Jong Il and his father formed part of the North Koreans’ way of life.
The religious clerics in Iran made Islam the central, indispensable element of the nation’s culture, legal system, tradition, and way of life. The case of the totalitarian Islamic Republic of Iran shows the evils and destructive nature of a government-imposed, sponsored, funded culture. Any culture- whether it be religious, secular, traditional, superstitious, medieval, Marxist, etc.- if it’s forcibly imposed on citizens at the point of gun, would inevitably cause the destruction of esteemed men and of civilization.
No evil, destructive culture could ever achieve social or political dominance without the support of a society’s intellectuals. The success of a culture- every culture- relies on the intellectual and conscious efforts of men who genuinely understand the power of culture in either changing, destroying or improving a society.
The only antidote to all anti-mind, anti-freedom, anti-rights cultures is the culture of individualism. Every politico-economic system has its own corresponding culture. This is because a culture serves as a glue that binds a society. In fact, the success or continuity of every social or economic system depends upon the strength or dominance of its parallel culture. The success and continuity of communism and socialism- whether it be religious socialism or secular socialism- depends upon a state-engineered and funded culture of slavery, dependence, self-sacrifice, and mysticism.
To be valid, practical and moral, a culture must be consistent with the nature of man. Since a culture is man-made, it can be rejected, replaced, destroyed or improved. Since man is a biological, moral being, a culture must be anchored on the concept of survival and human well-being. A culture that oppresses women, enslaves colored people or a certain class or race of people, sacrifices the best to the weak, kills apostates and infidels, subordinates the individual to the state, to religious clerics or to society, kills the hero in man, destroys independence and self-esteem, pollutes man’s mind, and puts faith or mysticism above reason, is ANTI-MAN, ANTI-MIND, ANTI-FREEDOM, ANTI-REASON.
For those who advocate the free market system, capitalism has a parallel culture. Capitalism cannot survive in a society, the culture of which is anti-man, anti-mind, and anti-freedom and anti-reason. To survive, a capitalist society must sustain, preserve and transmit its individualist culture, not through the use of people’s money, but through the intellectual efforts of men and women who value freedom and individual rights. Government interference is the main difference between a capitalist society and a socialist slave pen. A capitalist society does not use government force to impose or promote its own agenda; a socialist society does the exact opposite. The first- its survival and continuity- relies on the voluntary efforts and intellectual pursuit of independent men who understand the value of a free society. The second- its survival and continuity- largely depends on the use of state force and intervention in order to preserve its totalitarian, evil system and to destroy dissents and potential resistance.
The culture of individualism regards man as an autonomous being with conscience, consciousness, morality, and free will. It regards man as a conscious, thinking entity capable of rational and independent thought, of productive work, of moral judgment. This is what a proper culture is all about. A culture pertains only to man, not to animals, to supernatural beings, or to inanimate objects.
However, there are those who have a crude, mediocre, stupid understanding of individualism. To these people, individualism presents man as a single, unaided, unsupported, uninfluenced being. To them individualism means man is a hermit who must live in solitude. That is the kind of mentality that makes them defend and promote collectivism, because collectivism, to them, means collective effort, collective work, cooperation, volunteerism, association, and social interaction. If this is the real definition or concept of collectivism, then all communist or socialist slave pens should have survived. If collectivism is all about cooperation, then Mao Tse Tung’s collective farming should not have led to the death of around 70 million Chinese during peace time. Cooperation should be voluntary. Group efforts come from the willingness of individuals to share their talents or abilities. Individualism, which is a moral concept, “regards man- every man- as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a moral being.”
Therefore, an individualist culture regards man as the object of morality or moral values. That man is capable of creating, developing, and preserving a culture for his own survival and well-being. The individualist culture of capitalism thus includes independence, productiveness, rationality, self-esteem, and respect for the rights and freedom of others.