There has been a great deal of controversy over the graduation address of Fairfax County school board member Abrar Omeish into the Justice High School in Falls Church on June 7th. In her remarks to the scholars, Omeish commended a teacher that left social activism part of her class and warned that the graduates that they are going into a world filled with racism and white supremacy. But what really struck an authentic libertarian chord was that the third threat that she cautioned:”excessive individualism.” Like free speech, individualism is currently being presented as a threat as opposed to a power in our society.
Omeish is a powerful speaker that moved between English, Spanish, and Arabic in her address. But many parents whined in Fairfax (in which I live) into the material of their remarks. She labeled those who don’t agree with all the activism schedule as efficiently opposing anti-racism values:”You know that social justice isn’t only political for those that could afford to dismiss it. You know that’neutral’ is just another phrase for complicit. And you’ve made a decision to take a stand” She encourage the students to remain activists and chase”jihad” because”we battle with human greed, racism, intense variations of individualism and capitalism, white supremacy, developing prosperity gaps, disease, climate catastrophe, intense poverty amidst waste and luxury right next door. And the list continues.”
As we’ve previously discussed,”jihad” in Arabic doesn’t imply violent acts despite the common perspective of the term. It’s a reference to good acts or public service. There’s no reason to imply that this address was encouraging violent activity. Instead, she declared”Every component of your being may scream in anger in others have wronged you,” but”let compassion for the fellow human beings, not anger or rage — and believe me this is tough to do — fuel you”
What stood out to me was that the reference to”intense variations of individualism.” There was a time in which individualism had been viewed as a heart protection and worth from our society. Now it is often denounced because of damaging significance which frees more collective and communal priorities from fighting Covid-19 to racial justice.
For years, academics have lashed out in individualism as a barrier for people policy goals for example health care. On study over the”excesses of individualism” reasoned, for instance,”Libertarian individualism has produced political isolation and prevents the growth of democratic decision making and actual partnerships in healthcare.” Writers like Nick Romeo insist:
Radical individualism today retains this highly circumscribed notion of government’s function; the entire body politic — above all — serves to protect the security and the land of the individual. It’s a radical doctrine that suggests the political collective must not have any function beyond the protection of the individual.
The old belief of”rugged individualism” has become reactionary individualism for people fighting for a new collective consciousness. The move from individualism brings to mind a quote from Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago:
“The main misfortune, the root of all the bad to come, was that the loss of confidence in the worth of a person’s own opinion. People guessed that it was out of date to trace their own ethical sense, so they should all sing in chorus, and dwell by other people’s thoughts, ideas that were being crammed down everybody’s throat.”
Few could argue that there is no significance in collective actions and policies. Individualism isn’t anarchy. The concern is that the strikes on individualism are coinciding with strikes on values like free speech. There is a movement to induce adherence to accepted standards or values — and also a corresponding term for conflicting views.