The extreme of collectivism is having no personal identity. The extreme of individualism is narcissism.
I have written extensively about collectivism – how it prevents people from forming strong bonds and leads to manipulative and dishonest tactics. However, individualism has unintended consequences as well. Let's talk about one of the more subtle consequences of individualism/narcissism in the modern era and how a certain piece of Old Wisdom is not quite irrelevant just yet.
Respect & Tribalism
In the modern era (perhaps especially in the modern era), people can only be so self-sufficient. With social, technological, and political structures in place that were in the making for thousands of years, it is almost comical to hear someone claim that they don't need anyone, including society. Most people are so reliant that they don't know where their food comes from, how to sharpen edged tools, or even filter their own drinking water; but humanity is not without its charms.
People form strong bonds with one another as a result of our interdependency and sociability. We are psychoanalyzed, questioned, and observed by one another; and if we pass this inspection process, we take care of each other and only then, we are tribe.
One of the clearest examples of tribalism and the care we provide each other is of parents and offspring. In fact, it is not uncommon for parents to provide financial aid to their adult offspring. Most people receive some form of help into adulthood from their tribe; and I think most will admit that there is a reasonable chance that in the distant future, they may need further help. Life is chaotic and difficult, after all.
Despite this knowledge, people often make mistakes that they should never have made, and the burden of those mistakes often falls onto the tribe. Who knew our actions had consequences; yet in modern liberal societies, we often romanticize such mistakes as necessary to the concept of individualism. We claim that people can (and should) do whatever they want and consequences to our loved ones is less than an afterthought.
Take, for instance, the way in which we form romantic relationships and marriage. We all agree that we should not have to give up our hard-earned resources to strangers. We all agree that we should not have to give up our limited time to strangers. In fact, one of the great tenets of individualism is our free will to choose members of our tribe. So why would we bring a stranger into the tribe without the tribe's consent? What happens when we fall on hard times and the tribe (our parents, for instance) has to provide aid? We inevitably place them in a position where they have to give up their resources and time to someone (our new partner) they did not choose or consent to having in their tribe.
This is why there is such wisdom in arranged marriages, but uttering such a phrase is political suicide because liberal societies confuse arranged marriages with forced marriages. Arranged marriages are simply marriages where the tribe consents to the match. While this idea can be taken too far (as most ideas can), it is not fair to characterize the idea of arranged matches by its extreme. After all, the opposite of arranged matches is the flippant disregard for how one's tribe will feel about one's decision.
We are comfortable with the idea of consulting our spouse in major decisions, so why did our concept of "tribe" shrink to merely our spouse? We conveniently ignore the disrespect and potential consequences of our actions on our tribe. We want to form strong bonds, but we make selfish decisions based on selfish models and claim that this is the only way. This subtle narcissism of our society enables us to betray the sanctity of our own tribes by bringing in newcomers without the tribe's council. When we do this, we are implying that our tribe (for those of us lucky enough to have one) provides inadequate council; but if this is the case, then why do we belong to the tribe in the first place? Shouldn't those that provided for us and suffered with us be considered more often than they are?...or do we really think so little of our loved ones?
So we (1) want a group of people that will come through for us when we are in need. We also (2) believe that people should be free to choose their own group. Then we should not force our group into accepting new relationships when they were given no opportunity to provide council. Otherwise one of the two principles above is likely to conflict with the other.
I will forever defend the philosophy of individualism, and would never suggest a policy or action that would betray this philosophy; however, it is also clear that individualism can be used in unhealthy ways that justifies a narcissistic agenda.
I have spent most of my life following my every whim. I have traveled the world, debated every topic under the sun, encountered villains, been a villain myself, rebelled against certain institutions, defended others, fought for someone else's cause, fought for my own, and above all – I have always kept a barrier between me and the rest of the world. I bear the scars of this history, and though I physically walked that path alone, I scarred my tribe in ways I was too unwise to foresee while being lost in the moment.
I'm not arguing for major changes in a person's life, and I am certainly not arguing for policy, regulation, or any authority to step in to enforce my morality. I am simply providing some perspective on family and tribal matters.