Focus Question #1 Assignment
November 8th, 2010
In society, we are brought together by our sets of beliefs and values that we share with others. However, in many cases, people can disagree due to varying beliefs and ways of life. In the two example sources we have been given, various levels of dedication to Collectivism, a system reliant on society as a group working together to sustain the entire group, as well as levels of Individualism, a system focused on promoting the needs of the individual and working alone, rather than working together to better the majority. Through these beliefs, both sources have also developed opinions about the system of Classical Liberalism, and whether they think it would be more beneficial to take a similar route, or whether it would be more productive to stray away from such a concept.
The first source, written by an Inuit elder, describes the importance of working together and trying to provide equal standards for all. She believes strongly in the sense of community, and is disappointed with how the present-time communities have taken a more distant approach to the concept of the group. For example, the elder stated, “They had strong friendships and helped each other out in hard times.”, pointing out the Collectivism notion of cooperation, showing that she thought the needs of the group were more important than the needs of the individual. The elder then went on to compliment the ideal of Economic Equality, where it is believed that all people should share in a country’s wealth. “People shared food, even if they didn’t have much …” the Elder declared. The Inuit tribe described worked together as a single driving force to ensure that the entire tribe’s interests and needs were being met. “Before this community had so many people, we were all very close and helped each other in times of need.” she said, which can easily be directed to the principle of Collective Interests, where a similar interest, such as food or survival, can bring a group closer together to make certain that the group would make it through.
“The problem today is that there are too many people in the communities and a lot of them are too self-centered and involved with their own problems to help others.”
- Mary Anulik Kutsiq, “An Elder offers advice”
Alongside speaking of the benefits of working together, Mary also speaks of the negative aspects of individual motives, which can be related to the principles of Classical Liberalism. “As the population grows, so does the gap between people. We are no longer one big family.” When the Elder tries to bring forward the thoughts of a much more distant community, she emphasizes the negative aspect of concepts such as Self-Interest, where the decisions made by people are based on the benefit and well-being of the individual, rather than the group as a whole. Also, through saying “Today, some people have so much while others have so little and do not bother to share at all.”, Mary emphasizes the fact that Economic Freedom, where people have the right to try and benefit individually in the economy, is a given right than throws society into an unbalanced mess. Easily, it can be said that this Inuit elder believes strongly in the group working together and achieving their goals as a team to further accomplish anything that is thrown their way.
The second source is a political cartoon in which a businessman is speaking to a beggar, portrayed as a bear. “In my day, bears worked for their honey”, he said to the bear. Through that statement alone, it is fair to say that the businessman is promoting the concept of Individualism, simply because he is describing how people, or bears, worked to sustain their own lives for themselves, rather than having a group to fall back on. Self-Interest is implied when he states that people were meant to look out for themselves, and it is also portrayed from how the businessman is not offering any ‘honey’ to the bear, despite the fact that he is most likely better off financially than the bear. Alongside Self-Interest, Economic Freedom can also be expressed from this cartoon, due to the fact that not everybody is wealthy. The businessman has worked hard to sustain the money and lifestyle for himself, and the whole society is not benefitting from his course of action to profit economically. Though it is not directly mentioned, it can also be implied that there is a sense of competition between the man and the bear, simply because the bear could be a potential threat to the man economically, if he were to be in the same field of business. The choice of portraying the beggar as an animal can also imply the fact that the working class businessman is of a different species than the bear, stating that the working class and the groups in financial deficit are of a different breed.
Seeing as the principles of Individualism and Classical Liberalism are very similar, it is reasonable to say that the businessman’s words are very supportive of Classical Liberalism as well. Overall, the cartoon is trying to express the fact that the needs of the individual should outweigh the needs of the group, and it also promotes the thought that everybody should simply be looking out for themselves. When the businessman looks at the bear, he does not think of the bear as a fellow member of his society, but instead, he believes that the bear is not of the same type of being, eliminating the sense of society working together, as well as the sense of equality.
Though the two sources have very dissimilar views on society, they both believe strongly in the idea of a hard day’s work. They both understand that, regardless of if they are in a group or alone, people need to work hard to try and benefit themselves. Through different lifestyles, these people have grown into different sets of beliefs and values that have ultimately shaped their opinions on how a society should be ran. In a sense, despite having similar customs and systematic beliefs, these two sources express a concept of simply wanting prosperity for the target of their kind of system.