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The top 10 reasons why people like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have it wrong when they emphasize individualism and self reliance over values like community, cooperation, and collaboration

By Michael Dykstra and Forrest Miller

The Great American Narratives

The Great American Narratives

There is a well-known American narrative: it is the story of self-reliance and rugged individualism.  It’s a story told and retold many times in movies, books and in song.   This fact is not lost on Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and other “Conservatives.” One of the primary themes, if not THE central message of the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign is “individualism and self-reliance.”

We are all for the concept.  How can anyone disagree with the common sense notion that for a nation to be prosperous, it’s citizens need to be hardworking, industrious, and self-reliant.  But there is another ingredient to any large group success — and there is another great American narrative that today’s Conservatives, including Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, rarely if ever address:  It’s a story of the other great American virtues like community, cooperation, and collaboration.

Thus, we present for you our list “The top 10 reasons why people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have it wrong when they emphasize individualism and self-reliance over values like community and collaboration.”

10. Christopher Columbus and His Journey to the New World

10. Christopher Columbus and His Journey to the New World

Despite what you may think or feel about good ol’ Chris Columbus it’s pretty clear he must have been a driven and hardworking individual.  But all that drive and hard work didn’t get him across the Atlantic on his own.

He must have been an incredible team builder.  Starting with his benefactors and “venture capitalists” Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain and continuing through his formation of multiple crews, and what must have been endless hours of collaboration with ship builders, navigators, and map makers that made these journeys of adventure and exploration possible.   In other words, there was a lot more to his success than his strong will and self reliance.  Unless someone knows something about his attempts to row across the Atlantic in a dingy.

 

 

9. American Movies

9. American Movies

Making great movies is something Americans are good at.  Hollywood is known around the world as a mecca for movie makers.

It is hard to imagine a more collaborative endeavor than that of producing a major motion picture.  Countless individuals come together in what those who do it best call an amazing team effort.  Writers, producers, investors, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, actors, make-up artists, set designers, and countless other creative and technical types all working together (as driven individuals you might say) to one end — the creation of a motion picture.  And American’s are pretty damn good at it.  What does that say about Americans?

8. Olympic Athletes

8. Olympic Athletes

The recent 2012 London games reminded us all once again of the incredible dedication and truly heroic effort required of Olympic athletes.  American’s performed nobly and won a record number of medals for themselves and, as virtually every athlete admits, for Country.

But not one of those athletes reached that Olympic stage alone.  Even those that concentrate on individual events such as track and field, swimming, or even shooting events, have others to thank for their successes.  Coaches, parents (who drove them to practice every day at 5 Am every morning), teachers, mentors, sponsors, other team members — all vital to the development of that incredibly talented individual athlete’s successes.

 

 

7. The Internet

7. The Internet

The invention of the Internet has been pretty much the most important development since the wheel, and the creation of the Internet is one of the best present day examples of what we would call “complex, disorganized, organized collaboration,” or CDOC for short (we just made that up).  The Internet was “born” as a result of efforts undertaken through U.S. Government organizations, which developed a precursor to the Internet largely through Defense Department research and development efforts.  In addition, large U.S. academic institutions continued research and development through scientific and technical research largely through Federal grant programs.

Then somewhere in 1990 a little known programmer at the Government funded CERN Laboratory in Switzerland,named Tim Berners-Lee (with help from colleagues of course) created something he called the World Wide Web or WWW for short.  We hope you’ve heard of it!  Follow that up with the creation of the first good “graphical” Web browser (“Mosaic”) in 1993, under the auspices of the the publicly funded NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) at the University of Illinois, and we have a formula for our Internet is everywhere world of today.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, email, your smartphone surfing the web, all came about as a huge and complicated collaborative effort the likes of which the world has never before seen.

6.Early Humans

6.Early Humans

As a species we are inclined towards cooperation.  The origins of early human cooperation are complex and there is no flawless or definitive theory that fully explains it.  However, in simple terms, collaboration in early hominids promoted survival, proliferation, and advancement.  Forming reciprocal relationships allowed for a support network for mutual defense, sharing of scarce resources, and advantages over competitors.  Bands of early humans who cooperated together would have had a huge advantage over competing bands that did not.  In other words, in that tough environment, if you tried to go it alone, you didn’t last long.  Many hunter-gatherer societies relied heavily on large animals for food meaning that their livelihoods were dangerous.  Hunting in groups made for a higher success rate and the sharing of information, resources, and food, further benefited individuals within the group.  Had our ancestors not developed a sense of unity and cooperation, we as a species may never have gotten out of our primordial state.  It could be said that collaboration is in our DNA.

5. NASA’s Curiosity Mars Expedition

5. NASA’s Curiosity Mars Expedition

NASA recently landed its little rover “Curiosity” on Mars and made history once again.  So far the Mars expedition has been a complete success, and an inspiration not only to Americans but a world-wide audience.

Anyone who watched the shear adulation of the hundreds of NASA scientists, engineers, and programmers who made up the team that envisioned, designed, engineered and built “Curiosity” can attest; that was the epitome of team efforts.  Government and private sector effort together envisioned and successfully carried out one of the great missions of exploration in human history.  Congratulations to all of us!

 

 

4. The Moon Landing

4. The Moon Landing

When people think of the first moon landing, they think of Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon’s surface and saying, “that’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”  He was right.  It wasn’t about that one small step that he took as an individual, amazing as that was.  It was about the communal whole of mankind moving forward.  Neil Armstrong died on Saturday, August 25, 2012 and he will be remembered always as a great American hero.  Yet, his success was only possible through the work of many scientists, engineers, politicians, and a whole host of people over the course of a decade of preparing for spaceflight.  John F. Kennedy famously challenged the nation to get to the moon by the end of the decade saying, “No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space… We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”  The delivery of a man to the moon was not a triumph because Neil Armstron took a single step, but because mankind took a collective and rather large leap — together.

3. The Virtual Eradication of Smallpox

3. The Virtual Eradication of Smallpox

Smallpox was one of the worst diseases known to man.  Believed to have originated in India or Egypt 3,000 years ago, it tormented mankind for millennia.  It killed about 30% of the infected population and those that survived were usually left disfigured and blind.  No treatment was ever discovered for it.  Doctors and scientists understood that developing a vaccination and delivering that vaccination to nearly the entire worlds population of children, was the only way of wiping this scourge from the face of the Earth.

Although a vaccination was developed as early as 1798, in the 1950′s there were still as many as 50 million cases of the disease world-wide.  Not until an unprecedented world-wide vaccination effort launched in 1967 by the United Nations World Health Organization did the global incidence of small pox begin to dramatically decrease.  Through an amazing collaborative effort of doctors, nurses, government officials, drug companies, politicians and public health officials world-wide, small pox cases fell year after year, and in 1977 the last known case of the disease was documented in Somalia.  Three cheers for teamwork Planet Earth!

2. World War II

2. World War II

In a lot of ways America was just a fledgling nation still hobbled by the Great Depression at the outbreak of World War II.  World War II was an unparalleled tragedy.  Yet, it was also one of the greatest examples of courage, cooperation and selflessness the world has ever seen.  The coordination of nations was paramount to fight off titans like Hitler across the battlefields of Europe, Africa, and the Pacific.  The U.S. also came together in an unprecedented way by joining the fight, buying war bonds, collecting scrap metal, building munitions, and supporting the families of soldiers in ever community across the country.

After the Second World War ended, much still needed to be done to get the allied countries back on their feet.  The Marshall Plan, supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, provided monetary aid to Europe allowing for the reconstruction of economies, industry, infrastructure, and everyday life.

 

1. The U.S. Constitution

1. The U.S. Constitution

Drafting the U.S. Constitution was a tricky business.  It was crafted essentially by committee (itself an incredible collaborative effort) , in a give and take endeavor that took months of debate and wrangling.  While some founders saw a need for a strong central government, others, leery of the pitfalls of too much centralized power argued for another course. Through compromise, however, the U.S. Constitution was born, with it’s hallmark provisions that remain the founding principles upon which our country is based.  Through it was envisioned a Government made up of three co-equal, yet separate branches- judicial, executive, and legislative.   Sounds like team-work to us.

Let’s review the first 52 words of the U.S. Constituion:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Heck yeah!

 

 
Tags: politics, conservative, liberal, presidential election, campaign, mitt romney, paul ryan, conservative ideology, individualism, self reliance, democrats, republicans, american politics, 2012 election, american debate, moon landing, world war II, WWII, WW2, small pox vaccination, neil armstrong, neal armstrong, US constitution, internet, tim berners-lee, WWW, world wide web, NCSA, Mosaic, collaboration, community, team work, movies, american movie making, columbus, the new world

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