Our Kind of Individualist

Essentially, our paper is intended for a certain category of people only, a select body, distinct from the general run of society, who, in default of a better term, must be referred to as "our kind of individualist" and who are, it must be understood, the only variety of individualist we are interested in. This sort of person is invariably a "non-conformist" with regard to the ethics and aesthetics of the bourgeoisie, the present system of education, and, indeed,' with most majority opinions in society. He has taken due thought, and has jettisoned all those phantoms, those abstract principles which had haunted him when he floated back and forth on the tides of convention, carried along like 'a cork on such currents as "everybody does it", as the conformer must be. He has created for himself a personality which resists the influences surrounding it, which pays no attention to the vociferous, the braggart, or the fickle mob. He wants to know where he is going, though not without having carefully considered the route to be followed, and then without ever losing sight of the fact that his "freedom" must always be dependent upon his "responsibility".

What else is "our" individualist? He is a person who is united with those of "his world" by comradeship, which we define as "a voluntary agreement between individualists aimed at eliminating all avoidable friction and unpleasantness from their relationships". Now this definition is more than twenty years old, dating from 1924, and in 1939 I again wrote: "Our conception of comradeship is positive, not negative, constructive, not destructive." It is because such an idea is creative of good will, contentment and harmony that it will tend to reduce to a minimum the pain of living, and this in a society which is in itself indifferent. "And all this can be achieved without the, protection of the State, the intervention of governments, or the mediation of the law."

But our kind of individualist is not only mind, spirit, thought. He is neither dry, nor niggardly of heart. If exclusively a rationalist, he would feel himself incomplete, so it is a necessity for him to be both sensible and "sentimental". This explains his plan for freeing "his world" of useless and avoidable suffering. He knows that this is possible when one speaks and understands "the language of the heart", when one prefers agreement to struggle, abstention to the unlatching of actions dictated by bitterness, animosity or spite. Individualism as we conceive and propagate it is understood seriously, without equivocation, passionately. It postulates rectitude, constancy, reciprocity, support, comprehensiveness, indeed compassion. It implies fidelity to the pledged word, whatever the matter in hand may be; care not to interfere under any pretext in the affairs of another comrade (unless asked), or to encroach on his rights, nor to withdraw any rights once given except in cases of betrayed trust. This individualism does not wish to provoke disquiet, disillusionment, torment or tears. Its freedom of affirmation must cease when it threatens another with hardship or pain.

Our kind of individualist must not be misunderstood. He is no moralist. He loathes "conventional lies", the false pretenses of petite-bourgeoisie. He has discarded all preconceived ideas. he recognizes as a motive nothing outside himself. But he knows quite well that an individualist must give as well as take. He does not ignore the fact that the "gentleman's agreement" must be honoured equally with the formal bond. He repudiates violence, imposition, constraint, which is not to say that he accepts being exploited, duped, made a game of or inferior, whatever his personal appearance or level of culture might be. He does not wish to receive more than he gives, nor give more than he receives. He is proud. He sets a value upon his person. It means nothing to him that anyone else knows him only as a "poor relation". Towards those who would humiliate him he reacts and considers himself in a state of legitimate defense... but he is always ready to make peace on a man to man basis.

Yes, our kind of individualism loves life. It makes no secret of it-it revels in the joy of living, but in a discreet manner, without din or noisy demonstrations. It recognizes happiness as its goal. It welcomes anything that will increase its receptiveness and appreciation for either the products of the human imagination or those of nature. No asceticism, it is repelled by mortification. It is conscious of personal dignity. It can both sow and reap. It pays no attention to what they say. It is neither young nor old, it is the age it feels its self to be. And while there is a drop of blood left in its veins, it will fight for a place in the sun.

But this joy, the enjoyment of living, the conquest of a life without prejudice, the individualist does not intend to gain at the expense of others, whether his friends or comrades, or only the most humble and least important person in his society. He refuses to play the role of trouble-maker - he would not be the cause of any grief for anyone. He 'abhors the idea that one of the members of his circle should be in any way frustrated on account of his ambitions-on has account. He could never pardon himself for such conduct.

Nor does he wish to have anything in common with those armchair Nietzcheans or weekend Stirnerites who imagine, poor wretches, that they are "affirming their individuality" by petty dishonesty in money matters, or by forcing themselves upon the companion of a friend in prison. In short, the individualist, as we know him, abominates brutes, cretins, rogues, schemers, twisters, skunks and so forth, no matter with what ideology they wish to conceal themselves. But he also recognizes that practice does not always conform to theory, and that often, though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. He holds nothing against his associates on account of their inabilities or their weaknesses; he freely forgives them. Concessions are not rarities with him. And any damage he does, or suffering he causes, he will pay for or rectify to the best of his ability. But further than that he will not go - anything beyond compensation is extortion.

In the midst of a social order in which, despite frequent pompous discourses and bombastic declarations from allegedly responsible persons, the pledged word is more often broken than not and the philosophy of "get out of your problems as best you can" is the reigning attitude of man to his fellowman, our conception of comradeship, as described above, raises itself like a lighthouse to remind the world that there are still persons capable of resisting the seductions and gross appetites of our philistine society.

We believe that our kind of individualism has a bigger following than might at first sight appear, and that, though scattered, there is a not inconsiderable number of persons who are trying to reintegrate themselves on these lines; people who have revolted against social determinism and who have decided to submit an ideas to their own personal tests. These people we look upon as a psychological group apart from those who remain in the mass. To them our call goes out.

We look at "association" as a concrete manifestation of comradeship taking some co-operative or mutualist form, always providing that it is based on a sound understanding of the participants character We know perfectly well that if in this association our personality affirms its self that if the goal sought for is attained, it is at the cost of our "liberty". When he associates our kind of individualist accents the disadvantages along with the advantages and he does not complain.

Emil Armand, 1945

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