Stop being a robot; live and love like a human!
Modern society seems to have forgotten that we are both the Individual and the Person. In this post, I focus on why we should reject the current argument for being Individuals and become aware, creative and critically thinking, Persons.
An ancient insight, suggests that a human is comprised of two parts: the Individual and the Person (Gracia, 1991; Luhmann, 1992). The Individual links us to other animate and inanimate objects; where we are a category, bound by the laws of cosmic, ethical, historical influences – no different to rocks, plants, stars or other animals. Through our awareness, our creativity, our liberty and our ability to reason we become a unique Person (Maritain, 1946; Gracia, 1991). As humans, we are both Individual and Person; however, it is the Person that must be in the ascendancy. And yet, many of us have been reduced, by a consumerist and Individualist cultures, to little more than Individuals; being encouraged to live robotic and isolated lives, simply consuming whatever is pour before us; food, technology, TV box sets etc. When the Individual is in the ascendancy, we become homogenised, losing what differentiates us not only for the other orders of creation but also form other human beings.
In many workplaces, you hear the suggestion that ‘we are not a community; we are a pack of animals.’ This pack of individuals, has been categorised by McCowan (2006, p.60) as ‘alienated individualism’ where people either separate them;eves, or are excluded form their community, and prioritise their own needs over those of the community. In my PhD research, the data analysis supported McCowan’s arguments by highlighting those circumstances where people, acting as Individuals, prioritise the achievement of objectives at the expense of the team while demonstrating a lack of awareness of their impact on others and demonstrated a lack of awareness (or even concern) by many of their impact on the behaviour on their colleagues.
An Individual is an animate being who seeks to satisfy his/her immediate needs, without recourse to reflection or reason, no longer caring about creating anything; trapped in Freud’s oral stage of development, simply consuming everything around them. As an Individual (automaton/robot), acting upon instinct, bound by processes, procedures or task lists (what might be called ‘servile work’, we try to exercise control over that which we can influence, which is that which we consume. At a symbolic or magical level, by consuming, we are incorporating for the sake of possession; having something that cannot be taken away.
The Individual as consumer ‘is the eternal suckling crying for the bottle’ (Fromm, 1976, p.36). We are suckled at the breast of the manufacturers of the latest fashion, software, phones, cars, TV box sets, fast food craze, to name but a few; gradually living an isolated existence between work and the distraction of consumption at home. By contrast, the Person, engaging with the metaphysical meaning ‘beyond the physical’ (Ocalan, 2015, p.57) aspects of their humanity, moves beyond consumption to production.
The main concept I introduced in my PhD thesis, Being-Fun emphasised the development of humans as Persons, in relationship with the extended community. Barney Glaser (the developer of the Classical Grounded Theory (CGT) research method I used in my study) argued in favour of developing the social value of individual researchers/analysts and the CGT community. CGT is a research method rooted in the community; the method gains from encountering the community in context and then offers a theory back to the same community. It is a mutually symbiotic and autopoietic relationship which works for the common good. Furthermore, the emphasis paced by Glaser on developing awareness, creativity and critical thinking among researchers, responds to the ancient call for the movement from Individual to Person.
We are not all CGT researchers, but the emphasis on awareness, creativity, critical thinking and building our own social value as a Person, is something we can all strive to achieve and is a central pillar of my work as a counsellor.
FROMM, E., 1976. To Have or To Be? Reprint 1976. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
GRACIA, J. J. E., 1991. The Centrality of the Individual in the Philosophy of the Fourteenth Century. History of Philosophy Quarterly, 8(3), pp. 235–251.
LUHMANN, N., 1992a. Communicating with slip boxes: An empirical account. [online] Available at: <http://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes> [Accessed 20 January 2017].
MARITAIN, J., 1946. The Person and the Common Good. The Review of Politics, [e-journal] 8(04), p. 419–419. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0034670500045101.
MCCOWAN, T., 2006. Approaching the political in citizenship education: The perspectives of Paulo Freire and Bernard Crick. Educate, 6(1), pp. 57–70.