We Americans have had a long love affair with the myth of the rugged individual: John Wayne, Neil Armstrong, LeBron James, and so on. The myth pictures the (usually male) ideal figure as self-reliant, scornful of authority, independent of community, and completely confident is his own self-sufficiency.
On a national level, this myth encourages some to believe we don’t need to cooperate with other nations, that we can go it alone. After all, we are powerful and wealthy, self-reliant in food and energy production, leaders in technology and business.
Questioning the myth of rugged individualism can seem almost unpatriotic.
But at the same time, we have a parallel narrative that speaks to our INTERdependence. As the Declaration of Independence was being signed, Benjamin Franklin observed that, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Franklin D. Roosevelt memorably reminded us of our mutual dependence in his first Inaugural Address, in the midst of the Great Depression, when he said, “We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well.”
I like the FDR quote because it reminds me that “takers” disguise their selfishness as something noble. Times of crisis, like the Great Depression or today’s Climate Crisis, require us to remember our interdependence.The myth of the rugged individual allows “takers” to disguise their selfishness as something noble. Times of crisis, like the Great Depression or today's #ClimateCrisis, require us to remember our #interdependence. Click To Tweet
On the most cosmic level, we have to acknowledge that human existence is an integral part of a complex set of integrated physical and biological systems that make life possible. Politically, we have to acknowledge that our climate is global. Whatever impact any one country has on climate is not contained by political boundaries; it will affect other countries equally.
And personally, it’s easy to tell ourselves that our individual actions cannot possibly affect global climate. True enough … and yet, if enough of us take action in our daily lives, our collective actions will have an impact. So let’s resolve, on this 243rd Independence Day, to remember and act on our interdependence.
Let’s each take one new action, start one new habit, to reduce our impact on our shared environment: reduce plastic use, eat less meat, stop using pesticides on our lawns, or buy renewable energy through our electric utility. There are many options: start with one.
Happy Interdependence Day!
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