Earlier, when "Nationalism killed humanism" happened, Fromm was addressing groups conjured during the war. Groups that began during the time of war made everyone feel as if they were contributing and being a patriot; in reality they were stealing the member's individuality. "The "organization man" is not aware that he obeys; he believes that he only conforms with what is rational and practical." (Fromm/Jacobus 332)
The men and women in the war groups believed they were doing the rational and practical thing by joining a group to contribute to the war. This is where their freedom went out of the window. Just like the war groups, Fromm uses the industrial system as an example of humanism perishing by nationalism; or in this case, standard of living killed humanism. He mentions how industrialist corporations contain thousands of employees that are organized in a hierarchically bureaucracy. "Each person turns into a small-or large-cog in this machine. He lives under the illusion of being an individual-while he is turned into a thing." (331)
He continues by saying that the illusion of individualism, caused by the corporations, had decreased adventurousness and increased the image of the safe path in life. The idea of individualism was persuading people to be concerned with "satisfactory retirement provisions" and marrying young to have that safety net. These people were tricked; with the war groups making people believe they were rational and corporations making people feel free.
Although Fromm has points that society tricks people into fleeing from their freedom, "he understood man's nature as something created through relatedness to the world and interaction to others, According to Martin Jay." (Weiner 61) There is another analyzer of the individual that says something similar. Ruth Benedict, "No individual can arrive even at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates.
Conversely, no civilization has in it any element which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual. Where else could any trait come from except from the behavior of a man or a woman or a child?" (Benedict/Jacobus 306) One of Fromm's 'heroes' agrees as well. Karl Marx, "He [Marx] believed that our individual thoughts are patterned after the ideas any given society develops, and that these ideas are determined by the particular structure and mode of functioning of the society. (Fromm Beyond 14)
As for our society tricking us in the twenty-first century, it is very common. Instead of war groups, we have tons of cliques and movements. Cliques are so common in schools, they are overlooked. Like the industrial system, most of the time, cliques have a hierarchical organization to them. This is regularly seen on television shows and sometimes in reality. In recent times, we see more movements than a politician's fibs. The most popular unofficial movements are the "peace" and "go green" movements. These movements have splashed peace signs and the go green phrase on clothes, accessories, house hold items, and much more.
They have been erected to bring awareness and promote the coming times of peace and change and environmental awareness, respectively. It sounds like it would really help America and every wholesome person would join in, right? That seems like society's tricks being played. Although these movements are not evil, they can easily steal your individuality, especially when everyone is wearing it. Two unofficial movements that go a bit deeper are the scene and pop movements. These have severely altered the average teenager's appearance and mental tracks. The scene movement has introduced skinny jeans and skater and Converse shoes to the everyday dress. It has spiked an interest in displaying bright, neon colors on clothes and even in hair colorings.
Piercings have rooted themselves into the sunlight as well. It is now common for a person to see lip rings, nose rings, and cartilage piercings more than once in a day. This movement has not only altered the outside, but the inside of teenagers as well. It is popular for teenagers to have therapists and medication for their mental stability. There has also been a rise in emotional problems which, most of the time, result in bodily harm. It is beyond me why that would be so popular.
As the scene movement mainly altered appearances, the pop movement has told not only teens, but everyone, what good music is. These bands may be classified as alternative or pop, but nevertheless, they all seem to display the scene movement quite well. The bands on my list of pop movement are All Time Low, The Academy is…, Paramore, Cobra Starship, and maybe even Green Day.
The music they produce and countless other bands like them have, no doubt made the music industry more popular. Now, I see "Music is my life" on many, many personal profiles on the sites I visit. However, when the music they listen to is listed, it includes bands such as the ones above. With the knowledge of a classical instrument (flute) it is sometimes offensive that people consider this 'real music.'
Of course bands use instruments such as guitars and drums, and it requires the same amount of rehearsal as a symphony orchestra, it just is not the same. Guitar players and drummers are less likely to know how to read actual notes on a page than the guitar and percussion in a symphony. The pop movement has encouraged music, which is fabulous, but they have given people the wrong idea about really beautiful music. The lyrics of pop/alternative groups are they only thing that could move someone, while listening to a symphony could bring tears to your eyes. Not only has society tricked the population into going along with the pop movement, it has almost destroyed their knowledge of real music.
After establishing what keeps us away from Fromm's ideas, how do we overcome them to become a true individual? If Fromm thinks that disobedience will bring us freedom, we should disobey. He says that in the industrial system, the 'cogs' become less adventurous; take more chances. To not consider outsiders strangers, we must accept them as we accept ourselves.
Fromm tells us this in A World of Ideas "As long as any fellow being is experienced as fundamentally different from myself, as long as he remains a stranger, I remain a stranger to myself too. … I discover that only the thought concepts, the customs, the surface are different, and that the human substance is the same. I discover that I am everybody, and that I discover myself in discovering my fellow man, and vice versa. In the experience I discover what humanity is; I discover the One Man." (Fromm/Jacobus 335-336) He is saying that when we are accepting of all races, religions, cultures, and ideas we can easily accept anything in ourselves. We should be open to everything because the ideas come from humans and we are all humans; we just have different surfaces.
When we are open to all things dealing with humans, prejudices should not even be thought of. It seems as if someone who is accepting of all men and himself would think, "Hmm, those are his opinions and that's that." These are the ways to be an individual derived Fromm's writings. It sounds like the freedom Fromm writes about is just doing what you want. If we do what we want without guidelines from movements and fads, stop being prejudice, and act however we want despite the rules, we would be true individuals. Listen to your heart instead of your brain.
Fromm's ideas on individualism may be compared to Lao-Tzu's ideas on government. When thinking of the perfect government, Lao-Tzu's ideas come to mind. Verse three from Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching reads, "Practice not-doing, /and everything will fall into place." (Lao-Tzu/Jacobus 24) Many people believe that this is the perfect government; the country taking care of itself and being in harmony as it does so. However, these are only ideal and would certainly not work in real society; too many clashing ideas would bring turmoil to a government like this. As people, there are various ideas and methods put out there, it is a set back at times.
This is why the perfect society would think the same thoughts and believe in the same ideas. It would be great for everyone to be their own true selves; freedom all around. With everyone dropping their prejudices, they should be open to everyone's ideas and be looking at them as equal to themselves. But let's get real, only the perfect society would contain truly free people without prejudices against one another.
If we are free individuals being accepting of men as we accept ourselves, ideas would not clash, they would just linger in the air. If one were to strive to have the freedom Fromm talks of and allow the strangers to be understood as we understand ourselves, then with time, it would be possible to achieve individualism.
However, it would be a long and sometimes grueling journey. Fromm's words are not easily understood. If completed correctly, the full process may take years, possibly a lifetime. With the equality of all men, it would seem that everything would be perfect in this society. However, there are certain people that would give up understanding Fromm's ideas or select persons that would not want individuality on account of their stubbornness. These people are the ones that are happy thinking they have freedom in the industrial system.
In conclusion, it is quite possible for one to follow the ideas of Erich Fromm, but it would not be possible for the whole world to achieve. A person with true freedom, viewing his fellow humans as equal to himself, and following his heart…This would be too much unless the whole world were in on it. Erich Fromm's ideas on individualism are quite thick, but would be worth the journey; true freedom, to do anything and not judge anyone around you-that would be perfect.
Benedict, Ruth. The Individual and the Pattern of Culture. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. Massachusetts, 2010. Print. Fromm, Erich. Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud.1962. Google Books. Google. Web. 05 April 2010. "Erich Fromm." George Boeree's Homepage. George Boeree, 1997, 2006. Web. 26 March 2010.