The Myth of Misanthropy

It’s normal to hate people.  Everyone hates people.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as people.  There are only individual persons.

There are no classes, groups, nations, or any other collective capable of acting or believing.  Only individuals love, hate, lie, steal, give, create, think, and act.  Collectivism is a convention of language, but it is probably the most dangerous paradigm in human history.  Not just because it has led to massive violence in the hands of mobs and states, but because of what it does to the individual.  It let’s us get sloppy in our thinking.

We like to collectivize because it lets us avoid responsibility and accountability.  I can say I hate people and that people are guilty of all manner of crimes and deserve what’s coming to them.  But if I’m forced to point out a single, actual individual that I hate and believe ought get it, things get very uncomfortable.  I want to place blame on a fictitious entity and get the self-righteous satisfaction of setting myself above it (while simultaneously benefiting from the false humility of lumping myself in with it) without any sort of repercussion.

If you find yourself angry at humanity it’s instructive to dig a little deeper.  It’s often not the millions of individual actors pursuing their own ends that cause annoyance as much as certain phenomena and patterns that result from these interactions.  Those are the result of the norms, rules, institutions, and incentives faced by the actors, and those can often be altered or worked-around.  It’s not people that cause traffic jams or bad movies, but individual persons responding to incentives and seeking satisfaction.  Maybe you can change the incentives or introduce new ones?

De-collectivising doesn’t necessarily make you any happier, but it can focus your discomfort onto real entities that are changeable or avoidable.

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