How Individualism Discounts the Lives of Others

Yes, I am aware that my post on Wednesday was somewhat of a rant. Yet, how else can one act when approached by such stupidity?

It leads into what I would like to discuss today. Recently, I have been reading James Garvey’s The Ethics of Climate Change. Admittedly, while I agree with his conclusions, I fear the route he chooses is a needlessly difficult path to select.

In concluding chapter four on doing nothing to avoid climate change, he wrote the following, which got me thinking;

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that selfishness is at the bottom of the arguments against action. The arguments can seem appealing only if you operate with the premise that our lives matter more than the lives of certain others. If my life matters more than yours, then risking your life for mine in various ways can seem like a reasonable course of action. (pg 111)”

This conclusion goes hand-in-hand with the most problematic ideologies which advocate business as usual and market based solutions, noted by various commentators; hierarchical individualism. These ideologies are entirely of that nature; selfish and ego-driven. The lives of people are not of equal worth, instead valued against personal financial success. Thus it becomes very acceptable for such people to select their own well-being at the expense of others whom are clearly lazy and have themselves to blame for their lot in life; they too would have the wealth to buffer the worst impacts of climate change had they demonstrated drive to achieve it.

Of course, this attitude is complete nonsense, but it is very well alive in the moral packages held by people able to fund influential think takes and institutions. Simply stating that it is rubbish will have little impact at the expense of long term prosperity.

For this reason, the need for increased equality is probably even greater than that suggested in Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) because we have a potent and invasive meme devaluing and degrading both human well-being and our resource base.

However one chooses to look at the problem, all roads lead back to the development of neo-liberal market ideologies obsessed with impractical notions of freedom and egoism for the personal, selfish individual.

Such ideologies should never have been socially acceptable.

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