No mercy in collectivism

No mercy in collectivism. By Bruce Davidson.

In 1885, Jo Niijima (sometimes romanized “Neesima”) gave an address at the tenth anniversary convocation of Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. During that address he declared, “A single individual is important.” That might seem like a bland truism to many people these days, but in nineteenth-century Japan, it was a radical assertion. At that time almost everyone in Japan subsumed his individuality under some form of corporate allegiance, such as the family clan.

Niijima himself had escaped overseas from the constraints of feudal Japan, closed to foreign contact and Christianity at the time. Japan has changed dramatically since then, but this strong sense of group identity still operates as a powerful force. Niijima’s words on that occasion about individual worth made such an impression that they were eventually engraved outside a walkway on the Doshisha campus. They are still often quoted.

Jo Niijima was a Christian who had returned to Japan from study at Amherst College and other institutions in America. …

In societies untouched by such influences, people often are not considered to have much individual worth. In particular, children are not accorded much value apart from the family unit. For example, in ancient Rome, before the advent of Christianity, a father had the right to kill his own child. In 374, the Christian emperor Valentinian finally made infanticide illegal under Roman law. …

In our own time, collectivist regimes do not grant individuals much consideration. In Nazi Germany, a Jew was treated as a Jew, regardless of his own personal actions, and in Soviet Russia, a class enemy often suffered the punishment due his class status in brutal imprisonment or death. In North Korea, even the grandchildren of those who defected or fought the communists in the Korean War are looked upon as part of a tainted, suspect group.

As a result of similar collectivist thinking, Americans these days frequently find their individuality eclipsed by the group identity assigned to them. Furthermore, the cost of offending a designated victim group is often instant condemnation and punishment without the possibility of self-defense. Nevertheless, even members of victim groups are not safe. Those considered traitors to their assigned collectives (often called “communities”) — conservative blacks and women, for example — receive the worst treatment of all. …

Were the journalists at CNN, The Washington Post, and other news outlets thinking of 16-year-old Nick Sandmann as an individual when they defamed him? Probably not — until he brought lawsuits against them. After all, he was only a white male and a Trump-supporter.

Speaking of religion, Jesus hardly spoke at all of group identities. The individual is the central unit of Judaism and Christianity, which are the guiding influences of western society. The modern leftist trend towards tribalism and group identities is yet another way that they come into conflict with our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Which has the better record of success for civilization, Christianity or communism? Stalin was pretty dismissive of religion — he banned it, and derisively asked after WWII, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” But today the church flourishes and communism has wilted in the land he once terrorized.