This word or concept is so new that it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page yet. I say "yet" because I believe that hyper-individualism is a real thing, and all real things should have their own words and definitions, as it makes it possible for us to discuss and think about them.
In previous posts I've made up my own term for that same thing; individualist-fundamentalism, and I've described individuals who adhere to this stance or philosophy, among which are many libertarians, neoliberals, neoconservatives and anarcho-capitalists, as individualist-fundamentalists. There's nothing wrong with "individuality", that's just a fact of life. "Individualism" on the other hand is an ideology, a political philosophy that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual, and assigns extra value to that individual's independence and self-reliance. This idea is also embedded in the capitalist ideology that also makes the individual its focus. And it's only a small step from there to the hyper-individualism or individualist-fundamentalism that has infected the western general psyche.
Hyper-individualism is individualism in the extreme, to the extent that it supersedes and severely harms what we used to call "the common good". I place that in the past tense for good reason, as there seems to be almost no mental space left for the idea that it is society that breeds individuals, and not individuals that breed society; Margaret Thatcher got what she wished in the end, as it was she who famously claimed that "there is no such thing as society". It amazes me how those who claim to wish and fight for more individual freedoms are so easily duped into thinking that "freedom" can ever be truly gained individually. And it's not just freedom itself, but freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of choice as well; all these freedoms are made and broken in the power hierarchy of the society in which we seek them.
And it goes even further; this rabbit-hole is so much deeper. Thought itself, even our emotions and subconscious motivations are shaped in and by society. We know this to be true; the science is clear on that. That makes the assertion that where individuals end up in life, the measure of their successes and failures, is simply a matter of individual effort, taking personal responsibility and making the right individual choices, is an unscientific one. It's simply not true. If you don't believe the science, you're suffering from that same hyper-individualism and believe you, as an individual, can bend reality to your will. The internet has created millions of hyper-individualists who safely reside in their own bubble, and have individually chosen to believe the QAnonsense, fear the ancient Bavarian cult of the Illuminati and are convinced that Biden is an avatar for the socialist Deep State.
A conspiracy theory that's true, one that actually happened, shows us the fallacy of the idea that thoughts come from within, and that's the story about the then secret CIA Project MKUltra. During the Cold War, both sides of the Iron Curtain feared infiltration by secret agencies from the other side. Here in the west the false idea was spread during the Second World War that prisoners of war were brainwashed, and then set free as as unknowing and unwilling secret agents. The CIA then got the idea of doing some brainwashing of themselves on their own people. Candidates (Manchurian candidates) were submitted to a cruel treatment of electroshock therapy combined with high doses of LSD in order to wipe clean their memory. All that those persons were was erased, and the idea was that the CIA could than implant new memories to make them into unwitting spies and assassins.
The Manchurian Candidate is a novel by Richard Condon, first published in 1959. It is a political thriller about the son of a prominent U.S. political family who is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy.
The novel has twice been adapted into a feature film with the same title, in 1962 and again in 2004. The 1962 film is faithful to the book; the 2004 remake updates the action and alters characters.
This experiment worked only for 50 percent; the CIA psychologists were successful in wiping the memory but were unable to implant new ones. Here's a snippet from the new Adam Curtis documentary "Can't Get You Out of My Head", dealing with this experiment and what it means for our ideas around individualism, as a survivor of the MKUltra project is also heard:
His brutal techniques succeeded only in wiping the minds of those he experimented on. He then found he could put nothing back. He totally failed to implant any new memories or any new ways of seeing the world. His patients found themselves in a world that had no meaning any longer.
"When I was discharged from the Allan Memorial I felt like a... like an alien from another world visiting this world. I knew I was different, and I didn't know how to become like everybody else. And it was a very lonely, scary place to be. 'This is your husband'... What's a 'husband'? What's making love?"
In the world of individualism that was about to come, psychology was going to play a powerful role, because it said it could help to change what was inside peoples' minds. But what Cameron and the CIA had done showed in a dramatic and extreme way the weakness of this. They had assumed that most of what people felt came from within them, and to make them happier you just had to alter what was inside their brains. What was forgotten was the other view; that what shapes how people feel is the society around them, above all the structure of power that not only controls their lifes, but also how they feel. And if you want to change the way people feel, you have to find a way to change that too.
"Memory is wrapped in what society has decided we should feel like. You should cry at funerals. I found myself not crying at a funeral, and I felt just fine. And I thought 'gee there's something the matter with me, I'm not crying.' I should cry. Everybody else is crying... But... But there wasn't that need to..."
Modern hyper-individualism is closely intertwined with the capitalist power structure, the rulers of which have an invested interest in making you hold on to the belief that you're special, that you to can make it if only you work harder, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Boy, am I sick and tired of that widely debunked bullshit phrase... This individualist-fundamentalism is a ruse, it's one of the many fairy tails implanted in our minds by capitalist propaganda, advertising and marketing. These same modern imperialists will use the Great Man Theory to tell you their version of history and current affairs, in order to solidify further the idea that individuals shape society instead of the other way around. And besides all this, it's just bonkers to even try to describe or explain the state of our society from a purely individualistic perspective. Now, watch this short video to erase from your mind this crazy idea. And after that, if you've got a couple of hours to kill, go watch that great new three part documentary by Adam Curtis: Can't Get You Out of My Head (2021) - Part 1: Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain. I'll leave you with one more quote from him:
In the growing age of the individual it lead to the conclusion that the fault is inside you, the individual, not in society. Those who'd wanted to change the world now began to turn inwards. This distrust was going to be reinforced by the growing influence of the psychologists who said that human beings were really irrational and lived in a dreamworld. Out of that was going to come the modern system of power in which psychology would join with economics and with finance, to make sure that that dreamworld was managed. It would be a wonderful world to live in, but its weakness would be that at its root was a pessimism about human beings, and whether they should ever be allowed any control...
The Problem With Hyper-Individualism
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