“toxic mix of individualism and fear”

A couple of weeks ago our Saturday morning discussion group in the hospital cafeteria talked about how the lack of care and medical treatment for pain and addiction patients seems to stem from a lack of empathy rooted in a culture overemphasizing the “I’ at the expense of the “we.”

Came across the following that uses clear language to describe a parallel situation school children face:

Collini, Stefan. “Side by Side: On Britain’s School Wars.” The Nation, November 1, 2011.

Recent schools policy in Britain, like so much of current politics in Britain and the United States (and elsewhere), is founded on a toxic mix of individualism and fear. The fear is evident in the various metaphors of contamination that turn up in responses to any proposal that suggests the more advantaged may have to share life experiences with the less advantaged. Even parents who profess to believe in greater equality among adults want their children’s schooling to be protected against behavior associated with the lower orders. But the deforming perspective of individualism is more poisonous still—a refusal to place one’s experience and concerns in a larger social context, an indifference to the overall pattern, an obtuseness about the social determinants of behavior, a denial of the legitimate claims of others.


A Buddhist approach would talk about the illusion of the independent self, the consequences of attachment to that illusion, and the fearlessness arising when that attachment dissolves.

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