Political movements have often fallen victim to criticism – some of it fair and some unfounded – whether it be due to the actions and attitudes of some activists or ignorance/lack of understanding on the onlooker’s part. Because of this, a lot of people feel uncomfortable getting involved in movements that they might otherwise support for fear of a negative stigma rubbing off on them.
It is unfortunate that this is the case when so many of the movements in question are inherently good and deserve to be supported by as many people as possible, whether it be causes regarding gender and race politics or an affiliation to a political party. Debate and discussion is a vital part of any group or organisation – without it, very little progress would be made.
Over this last year, I have experienced a metamorphosis on both personal and political levels. I have always been a leftie, but for a long time I was reluctant to associate myself with certain leftist movements that I did not completely agree with – I was too individualistic for that and feared being tarred with the same brush as those I criticized. With my fickle nature, conforming to labels is something I was never comfortable with, even when it came to trivial things such as style and subcultures since my tastes and interests were likely to alter within a week. It is not such a problem when it comes to self-identity since labels can be restrictive and stunt personal growth, but in terms of politics they play a vital role in aiding progression. It is impossible to do everything on an individual basis when there are so many voices fighting to be heard. It is very rare – if not impossible – to find something or someone that you agree with or feel defines you 100%.
After a long period of growth and self-analysis on my part, dissecting my morals and opinions to their very bones, I came to feel comfortable enough in myself and my own beliefs to be able to adopt labels without feeling as though they defined me on an individual basis. It feels perfectly natural calling myself a feminist even though there have been times in the past where I have fiercely disagreed with certain advocates of the movement. I feel perfectly at home as an active member of the Labour Party even though I might not share the same views as every single member/supporter. It is all about the bigger picture and using these labels as vessels to achieve progression.
The vessels metaphor is by far my favourite at the moment and is one that makes a lot of sense to me personally. I see movements as vehicles or ‘vessels’ which house a wealth of different beliefs and opinions that are all ultimately heading for the same destination. It’s like a colossal carpool – why waste energy fueling your own transport when you could chip in and have a greater impact in the process?
As long as you retain your strong sense of individualism within a movement and do not succumb to sheep syndrome, you can use your voice to help steer your vessel into a direction you wish to take. A difference in opinions is a great thing – without it, movements would come to a stand-still. As previously stated, there can be no progression without debate, even within a group you largely agree with.
Individuality is something that should be cherished and used to change our own worlds and those of the people around us, but there is strength in unity that can be made all the more powerful through debate and discussion. Do not be afraid to contribute to a movement you believe in. Challenge ideas you don’t agree with and learn to compromise on certain issues – a unified voice is much louder than a solitary one fighting to be heard above the din.
Do you agree that individualism within collectivism is a good idea, or would you rather go it alone/blindly conform?