Thanks to Ian Gonzales and Jill Scharr’s stories this issue, on The Prisoner and Transistor respectively, I’ve been thinking a lot about the individual versus the collective.
Let’s start with pasta. Can you imagine how awful it would be if every string of spaghetti had its own unique flavor instead of being smothered in unifying tomato sauce? On the other hand, the wine you drink with your meal is celebrated for its endless variations and subtleties.
Both philosophies can be taken to extremes, of course. You need to look no farther than the ugliness of Ayn Rand for an example of individualism gone too far. On the other side, it is a kind of collectivism that spawned the disgusting Dragon Age modders that are the subject of Joe DeMartino’s story.
Hints to the secret balance may lie in Jeremy Voss’ piece, in which he ponders collections. Curating a collection, be it of media (in Jeremy’s case) or of artefacts, is an exercise in personal taste. However, for a collection to have any value, it must be presented in a way that is accessible to anyone, like when a librarian files books according to call numbers. Organization, and, for that matter, language itself, is a matter of consensus.
If only there were a way for us to harness individualism and collectivism together on a massive and immediate scale, so a chorus of unique voices could serve the greater whole without being diminished by it. A place where ideas could be exchanged and implemented without judgement or persecution.
Then again, if we did have such a miraculous machine at our disposal, we’d probably just use it to distribute insults, find porn and share images of our meals.
Kearny, New Jersey
July 7, 2014