Is Individualism a Sign of Modern Society?

I could say that my Filipino background has a big impact on the decisions I make everyday. However, in the last few months, I gradually embrace the notion of taking more responsibility of myself, as well as choosing options that would more likely be beneficial to myself than others. This I have learned primarily from observing and through my experience in Norway, the country were I live. The contrast between the family-oriented conservative Filipino perspective and independence-directed philosophy lies on the background of this change. However, what seems to have caused this shift in mindset? Is there really a change in the first place? And would this mean I am becoming modern, as part of a more modern society? These are the questions I will attempt to answer in this article.

The shift reflects a change of the environment.

All of us is part of a greater whole. The environment we belong is an influence to the values we believe in. What we see and hear, as well all the things we experience affect us in one way or another. In ancient times, strength is determined primarily in show of force and number. This resulted to empires colonizing other countries, and perhaps forming alliance with other competing groups of people. The greatest challenge is to choose carefully one's friends and attempt to avoid stronger enemies. Nowadays, the need for subjecting the weak to a superior power to establish a large force for others to fear is slowly diminishing. Yes, there are still threats of wars, as a sign that totally show of force has not been eliminated. However, people nowadays are more concerned with what they have and they can get. The society has shifted from contributing to greater common good to seeking what provides most pleasure and advantage to oneself. This is the greatest factor in this phenomenon.

A modern society values self-determination.

Before what the society deems right and wrong is very important. What we wear and eat is a manifestation of the group we represent. This has resulted to high sense of belongingness and community. The social norms dictate significantly how everyone should behave and even what thoughts they need to think. However, as large organizations fail to meet their own expectations, its members are starting to ask whether it is better to follow what others would say than their own. Religion, for example provided guidance to most of its followers. Followers themselves would regard the whole organization as pure and ideal as possible. But when reality seeps in that the organizations are as imperfect as themselves. People lose that guidance and eventually would turn to themselves to know what is right and best for them. This is when strong emphasis on self-determination has been born. Everyone is given the right to decide, free from any external influence or coercion. This is perhaps the greatest value the society holds as important nowadays.

A modern society goes beyond mere survival and sustenance.

Unfortunately, there exists many groups of societies. They develop and adapt in different pace and mode. Some do it slowly as large organizations still hold a significant influence to the people. This is where the Philippines stands. Catholicism and democratic institutions are still controlling the people in a way. In addition, poverty makes it difficult for the people to merely think of themselves. Just like in the ancient times, people in need would cling and ask for help from others, nurturing the sense of community. This is more evident in times of calamities and tragedies when effective individual coping is highly dependent on the support of others. On the other hand, in developed societies where people have the means to survive without depending on others, the sense of individualism is more distinguished. People would no longer see what they need, but they themselves want. Hence, establishing the strong association between humans and its environment.

There is no real change in me at all. Time has changed perhaps. People adapt accordingly but the original values are still there, but more values are added as time passes by. A new set of values create a new mindset that may seem to others a sign of a drastic change, but deep inside the same just with a new layer of understanding and experience. My explanation maybe too technical to hide the occurence of change, but what matters most is that as we individuals adapt, we try to comprehend that the adaptation does not just happen within ourselves, but in the society as a whole as well. The society perhaps is not getting modern, because what is modern today will be outdated in the future. The correct description would be the society today is an adapted one to what values the people are learning and appreciating.


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