Completely individualistic societies do not work, nor do completely collective ones. A person on his or her own is not capable of surviving, and a person who lacks identity, because he or she is mimicked in the mass, becomes a cog without a life of his or her own.
Today we face the challenge of finding a balance between individualism and collaboration. In other words, how much do we believe that life depends on personal effort and how much on collaboration with others?
At the planetary level we are challenged to reverse the climate crisis and COP 27 reaffirms the conviction: that no one person or country can succeed alone. “Our planet is fast approaching an inflection point that will make climate chaos irreversible,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, warning that “humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.
Cooperation will not only be a path to salvation, it will also open up possibilities for greater individual well-being.
Individualism is today the hegemonic culture that dominates relations between countries and between people. The world is increasingly moving towards a process of individualisation that has a negative impact on people’s well-being, even if there is no full consciousness of it. We do not realise how exacerbated individualism is deteriorating our mental health and relationships, increasing economic, social, cultural and environmental gaps.
Individualism is isolating people who stop trusting their peers and focus all their attention on individual effort. I do what I want or I get by as I can and want to seem to be the watchwords of our times.
According to a study by Global Advisor – IPSOS (2022) carried out in thirty countries, Chile is among the third lowest in terms of interpersonal trust. Only 20% of the population says they trust most people; it is even lower among women (16%) and slightly higher among men (24%).
Hormone production and release play an important role in how people feel. Collaboration enhances trust by generating oxytocin, the main hormone of happiness and well-being.
Collaborative behaviour is acquired in the exercise of relationships with other people and therefore school is a determining factor in the socialisation of children and young people. The suspension of face-to-face classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the problems faced by students, as well as the adult world, when returning to face-to-face classes, empirically demonstrated the benefits of collaboration versus individualism.
Unfortunately, we are very quickly forgetting these learnings and relegating the promotion of social relationships and social-emotional education in the education system to the background.