The Importance of Individuals

The Modern Survival Guide #85

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The Society Wheel

Let’s start with a simple premise: nothing happens in isolation. Individuals influence, and are influenced by, their society in myriad and sundry ways. To simplify that a little bit and set the stage for the next few articles, I’m going to be working off the following chart, which I call the Society Wheel:

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Society, in a nutshell

Individuals Have Power Through Institutions

One man by himself ain’t worth a damn, as the old timers used to say where I grew up. A man in isolation is vulnerable, weak, prone to error, and lonely. Vulnerable, because the slightest injury is potentially fatal. Weak, because there are some things for which you simply need more than two hands. Prone to error, because you never see the rock that trips you. And lonely, because… well… that’s how things are when you’re alone.

  • The assumption by the population that money has value is itself a cultural assumption emerging from our financial and political institutions.
  • The businesses and organizations that receive money and turn it into actions, goods, and services are each institutions in their own right.
  • The political system that enables, protects, or imposes itself on all of these other institutions is itself another series of institutions.

Incentives Drive Individuals

On the other side of the Wheel, individuals are the target for the vast majority of society’s incentive structures. Why do I get up in the morning and go to work? Well, if I’m extremely lucky, it’s because I enjoy my job and I want to do it because it makes me feel validated. But for most of us, we get up in the morning and go to work because we need the money.

Individuals on the Society Wheel

I started this set of articles with a discussion of the individual’s place in the Society Wheel for a damn good reason: they are the only point on the Wheel where rational thought actually happens. Therefore they are the only point in the Wheel that is actually a source of deliberate change. The other boxes on the Wheel are largely the result of individual actions — deliberate and otherwise — which have either intended or unintended consequences.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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