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The Greed of Rugged Individualism

I have a problem with the idea of "rugged individualism" as found in certain strains of occultism, particularly as it's wormed its way into witchcraft.

First, I should say that I believe that the worlds are entirely interdependent, relational, and alive. I'm an animist. I believe nothing happens in any of the worlds without co-reliance and cooperation. The worlds are a weave of countless beings and forces working together, devouring and birthing one another, transferring power from state to state and consciousness to consciousness.

Second, the narrative of "self-reliance" that we know phenomenally as rugged individualism is bullshit. The cup of coffee you drink, the spell you cast; none of it occurs because of just you. This narrative of self-reliance is something that the privileged elite erupt with, trying to pull a Wizard of Oz, but please, look behind the curtain. It's something The GOP and Billionaires trumpet, but we know better; the elite become wealthy by starting out privileged/monied and further taking advantage of workers and the system through exploitation.

Third, social power is incredibly misunderstood. Social power allows you to have currency, it procures access to people, places, and opportunities one would not otherwise have. The less social power you have, the less social mobility. It's why POC, women, the disabled, queers, etc., disproportionately live in poverty, have less access to education and jobs. They are less likely to be given the benefit of doubt. It's also the same in the spirit world. The more allies you gain, the more access and power you may procure and transfer.

The further you skew from white, cis-male, heterosexual, monied, youthfulness and able-bodied, thin/conventionally attractive, etc., the less social power you have. There are always obstacles to overcome, and it is with the help of others that obstacles are removed and navigated through/around. Social power gives us access to more folks who can help navigate obstacles, that can give us a hand up. Likewise, the more disadvantaged you are, the less ability you have to remove obstacles. And I know that we cannot rely, even as witches, on the spirit-world alone. They are not there to solve all our problems. The gods don't exist to save us, even from ourselves.

I also know that this addage of "pulling yourself up by your boot straps" comes out of the narratives of self-reliance and individualism, but the disenfranchised have little to no ability to move up the social ladder of our culture. This idea of individualism is laden with white supremacist thinking, as it doesn't acknowledge that POC, for example, aren't granted social mobility like white people are. Singular self-reliance will not help them.

White people, generally, behave as if they are entitled to social mobility, because our culture tells us from birth that we are, that we are superior. But the oppressed often do acknowledge through their cultures that it is through coalition-building and making allies that one can gain, move, and get help. It is the only way to get a leg up in a culture that is set up to devour you for the benefit of the privileged.

However, there is something real, I think, about self-reliance. It's called mettle. Fortitude. Motivation. Integrity. It's about your wholeness. But that mettle has to meet the rest of the world, and that requires allies; whether other humans or spirits, to help you transfer your power. Power-from-within does not functionally exist without power-with. They need one another.

But we live in a civilization that is twisted in on itself, where the elite actively oppress, through the social system itself, the disadvantaged and marginalized among us to keep things going. This has always been the case in our current culture, which is built upon the notions of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. We live in a colonial-imperialist police state. Resistance is squashed when we have no allies. Exploitation is the status quo.

To pretend that rugged individualism, "self-reliance" alone, is what got you what you have and where you are in life, is to deny the reality that it was through making deals and allies and, in many cases, exploitation, especially for US “consumers”.

So that's why I call bullshit and I want to root out rugged individualism from my Craft. Our autonomy should never be at the expense of the tribe. That is not a world that lasts, but one that is swallowed up by greed.

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