Achievement not an individual endeavor
Commencement is almost here. Itâs a time to see family, take pictures and get nostalgic with your classmates.
Of course, itâs also a time to be self-centered. Commencement ultimately exists to celebrate individual achievement. And, hey, if youâre managing to actually graduate â whether itâs in three years or six â you deserve to pat yourself on the back. You deserve to imagine a flashy future for yourself, possibly a future in which a campus building is in your name.
Though this attitude is excusable at commencement, itâs best not to carry it beyond May 11. Individual achievement is important, but we could all use a healthy dose of collectivism.
The official definition of collectivism is fairly neutral: According to Merriam-Webster, collectivism entails âemphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity.â
Nevertheless, in America, collectivism conjures strange and unpleasant images, most of which are probably related to communist Soviet Union.
The United States is one of the most staunchly individualistic countries in the world. Here, weâre taught to stand out and get ahead â preferably on our own, you freeloader. We learn that if we donât speak up and advocate for our interests, our go-getting peers will leave us in the dust.
Colleges certainly push this mentality. Iâm sure commencement speaker Christiane Amanpour will tell us to be leaders. I canât imagine sheâll tell us to blend in.
In collectivist societies, however, people who focus too much on their own wants and needs are seen as nuisances. The groupâs goals reign supreme.
Itâs difficult to imagine that mentality at USC. Here, weâre encouraged to highlight our differences and pursue ambitious goals. The more we look like special snowflakes, the happier the administration is. Few of us are going to become hardcore collectivists anytime soon.
But we have to remember that people rarely make it alone. You donât exist in a vacuum; like it or not, youâre defined by the groups to which you belong. In fact, a collectivist would say that without the group, the self is practically nothing.
As members of an individualistic society, we love heroes. We eat up stories that focus on one manâs struggle or one womanâs brilliant idea. But when everyone tries to lead, thereâs no one left to work behind the scenes.
Itâs tempting to chase the spotlight, but I firmly believe that the most valuable goal isnât to be seen as great â itâs to do great things, no matter who gets recognized in the end. Should the time be right, the spotlight will find you on its own.
Maya Itah is a senior majoring in communication. Her column, âTackling the â-Isms,ââ runs every other Thursday. Â Â