Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"We" not "Me"

by Aaron

One of the things we’ve been learning about in the past week is the difference between individualism and collectivism. Dominant western culture can be categorized as individualistic, “meaning that the most common psychosocial unit of operation is the individual, not the group. Individualistic societies believe that the needs of the group are satisfied when the needs of the individual are satisfied” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 178-179). I do not believe that when the needs of an individual are met the needs of society are met. This is evidenced in the lack of basic healthcare, access to equal education, and affordable housing in the United States, to name a few. I think that we can learn from collectivist societies, which “believe that the individual needs are met when the group’s needs are met” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 178-179). I think that this individualistic culture in which we live has led us to being greedy, selfish and caring more about having things than loving people.
Now, I’m not proposing that individuals should not have the freedom to choose who they are, how they want to be in the world, or what they believe or think; I’m proposing that perhaps there is a middle ground where we think less about how something is going to affect “me”, and more about how is something going to affect all of “us” as a country, state, city and community.
Our individualistic culture in America has led to an uneven distribution of wealth. One of the news items I submitted for this class was an article written by Michael Moore about how “400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer ‘bailout’ of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined” (Moore, 2011). Our society of individualism is costing us our collective wellbeing.
What do you think?

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL Lyceum Books, Inc.

Moore, M. (2011, April 27). America is not broke. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. Aaron,

    Thank you for this blog post! I find this relevant to what I have been studying and learning in Mexico. I agree with you that the needs of society need to be met to better ensure that individual needs can be met. The structure needs to be in place. For this reason I believe strongly in not only working on the individual level but also focusing on the broader societal needs and working towards advocacy and policy change.
    In Mexico I have learned that social work generally focuses on the community and bringing people together. There is an overall sense of community and collectivism. Mexicans that I have interacted with usually not only ask about how you are, but they also ask about your friends and family members. Community and family are valued and seen as the means by which individual needs are met. I have learned that many migrants send remittances not only to their families, but to support entire communities. One great example of community work is seen through the Christian Base Communities. These grassroots groups are present throughout Mexico and Latin America. The groups usually begin with Bible study but the members interpret the scripture and apply it to their current issues. Using the Bible, they work towards social change. These groups address community needs such as the needs of women, youth, indigenous groups, families, environmental, political, or other social issues. Although rooted in the Catholic Church, these groups demonstrate Liberation Theology and usually do not stand on the side of the church. These groups have given me great inspiration and provided me an example of the power of community and the importance of collective wellbeing.