By Anjali Nayak
Rather than valuing what fosters the common good, we faultily resort to hyperindividualism and what enhances only an individual or small group of individuals. From everyday crimes such as households routinely wasting nonrenewable resources to the expectation for young girls to cover up and carry pepper spray, a “mine and yours” mentality is embedded in American culture, leading to wide-ranging ramifications for us as a nation.
For one, the American antipathy toward taxation is best understood through a hyper-individualistic lens. We Americans want to keep as much of our wealth as we can. On a surface level, it makes sense—it’s important to take pride in your successes and achievements, who wouldn’t want to bask in the benefits of their hard work? But what is uniquely American is the ever-consuming belief that a citizen has the right to benefit from the labors of other citizens, and not proportionately distribute the earnings. Proportional distribution does not have to be as scarily Socialist as a complete redistribution (although that is not an idea I am completely opposed to), but rather a company that makes a lot of money off of the backs of a large base of workers should look to give back to their workers. The earnings of the company should be somewhat proportional to the pay and benefits of its workers. Instead, billionaires look to tax avoidance through shell companies, failure to report income, claims of excessive deductions, and offshore taxable assets to wiggle their way out of basic utilitarian decency. Hyperindividualistics point to their “entrepreneurial spirit” as scapegoats for their crimes—but a crime is a crime nonetheless.
Furthermore, the creation of a mental health industry has worked to monetize rehabilitation and well-being. Minority groups are more susceptible to crippling mental health and lack of stability due to a wide array of factors: housing, employment, and crime among them. However, instead of fixing any of these issues at a systemic level, the American government forces the problems onto the individual. We must scramble to find our own happiness, even in the most stressful of living conditions and situations. Even worse? Most of the probable solutions are heavily capitalized upon; for most Americans, insurance is needed in order to gain access to therapy or medication. Hyperindividualistics look at leaders in mental health as captains of industry as well as the market’s impact on the GDP—if the economy as a whole is benefitting, wouldn’t that make the industry a utilitarianism good for all American citizens? Who is the government to encroach on the right to capitalize off of any industry an individual may choose? However, many fail to consider that the GDP could be even better if America’s working class had widespread access to resources that could enhance their productivity and (far more importantly, but often much more overlooked) their well-being. Once again, profits over people.
America must learn to share. Rather than “mine and yours,” I propose a new mantra; “what’s mine is ours.” Our patriotism and belief that Americans live in a “work hard, play hard” country has blinded us from realizing the importance of building community and working for the common good. Through and through, hyperindividualism splinters off of hyperpatriotism and plagues the country as a whole.