Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Myth of the Rugged Individualist

Americans worship rugged individualism! Just the sound of the words makes most Americans high with ecstasy. We romanticize the wild-wild west and the rugged don’t-need-anybody individualist. We especially exalt singular individuals like Edmund Hillary for their stellar achievements and we pull their examples from every realm of life.

The story of Edmund Hillary is especially revealing, in that we never hear the true story of how Hillary and Nergay, his Sherpa guide, mobilized and coordinated a dozen climbers, 35 Sherpa guides, 350 partners, and 3,600 pounds of equipment and supplies.

Truth in advertising should, however, demand that we tell the truth of the matter and reveal that the conquest of Everest was not the singular achievement of one man; rather, it was as one author described it, a feat of modern management, a cooperative team effort of committed participants.

Whether it be Mitt Romney, President Obama, CEO Pandit of Citibank, or Edmund Hillary, successful living is still a community event: the President can do little without Congress; Pandit of Citibank can do little without his faithful core of flunky employees, and Edmund Hillary could not reach the top of Mount Everest without the coordinated efforts of his guides, partners, and tons of supplies.

From Warner’s World,
The truth of the matter is, the rugged individualist we worship is merely a mythic god of self-adulation.
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