The concept of the collective is not something we hear or read about often. It’s always ME, MYSELF and I. We as individuals are constantly fed with the propaganda of the media to promote individual interests. If our lives had to be summed up in two words, it would be called a rat race. We have been programmed into thinking that regardless of whom the person beside you is, you have to be a step ahead of them. This line of thought starts from a very young age when you are compared to other kids with better marks and reminded that you can do BETTER than them.
Whenever we think of any team, there is always a star player that comes to mind who gets all the attention and credit of the entire team. Is this correct? Could the team have won without the other players’ contribution? When Spain won the 2010 World Cup for football, it was a team success rather than that of an individual. This was obvious because Spain at that time had no big stars. But if we examine the matter closely, in most cases, teams do win due to a collective effort, though this aspect rarely gets highlighted.
We essentially live in a bubble in which we have goals that are all centred on ourselves which include being rich, successful, owning every possible new electronic gadget, etc. ‘Other people’s problems aren’t yours’ is something we often hear.
However, contrary to the above ideas a number of examples can be provided from science where the main focus is not on the individual but on the collective.
In chemistry, a single water molecule or a single carbon atom tell a boring tale. But when they form compounds in case of carbon … or in the case of just flowing water, they have remarkable properties.
Also consider the formation of crystals. It starts when molecules of the “solute” (the stuff of which you want to grow crystals) are in the solution. Most of the time they see only solvent molecules around them. However, occasionally they see other solute molecules. So with the attractive forces these solute molecules come together. Most of the time when there are just a few molecules joined together, they break apart. However, once there become a certain number of solute molecules, the combined attractive forces between the solute molecules become stronger than the other forces in the solution which try to disrupt these attractive forces. So these can be considered as pre-crystals that float around in the solution and encounter other solute molecules which feel the attractive forces and join in. And that’s how the crystal begins to grow….
If we move to physics we have electric current which is purely a bulk property which means that a single charge cannot constitute a steady current.
These examples display and prove that the collective is not only stable but also immensely powerful.
This individualistic approach has not been there since the dawn of man. If everyone only cared about themselves we wouldn’t have come all this way.
And the concept of tribes or tribalism has had an adaptive effect in human evolution. They survived in packs, protected and looked out for each other.
If we even just consider the human body, it requires the functioning of the various organs. The heart or brain alone cannot do it all. However small an artery or vein may look each has its own part to play.
We must certainly have seen the audience in a stadium performing the (“Mexican”) wave.
In order for this to happen, the majority of people need to participate and co-ordinate with each other.
We don’t need to stretch our imaginations too far to find examples but instead try and think about the concept of the collective.
In the present time we are constantly faced with injustice at our universities, work places, etc. So when we raise objections to their actions individually we won’t see much of a change, whereas when we go as a group the impact is unimaginable. It sends a clear and loud message that WE are united.
Now when we say fight against injustice as a collective we also mean supporting people when it’s not directly affecting you. Just imagine, you have a large number of people raising their objection against an authority or university and have the support of people who are not even working or studying there. How effective do you think it would be??
So, the overall essence of this article lies in the fact that one human cannot change much, but when he is in a group of people, THEY TOGETHER can bring about the necessary changes!