In a web article denouncing the administration's failure to recognize the meaning of what happened in Fort Hood, I read this sentence: "Conservatives are individualists", prefacing an invitation "to do something unusual: organize, organize, organize. Local and national. And even international".
A good project, but I don't agree with the premise from which it was drawn.
In the States "conservatives" like to style themselves as "individualists", to mean that they are against an invasive government styled as "socialist".
To do so, however, weakens their case. It allows their adversaries to make it sound like "we don't give a shit about our neighbors", or any such maligning.
Actually the real "individualists", who care just for themselves, are the smart people for whom everyone should be able to do anything he pleases, with the State to take care of everybody, assuring to each the freedom of doing so.
In other words: big government is only the other face of individualism.
It would seem, then, that we have "individualists" from the left and "individualists" from the right.
How confusing: the same word would apply to both the opposite sides. We need some way to distinguish between them.
Individualist is not the right word for people capable of caring: for their neighbors, for their community.
I don't know a word that could be idiomatic enough in English to take its place, so to make the distinction immediately understandable. It should be a word apt to convey the sense of a man of virtue, capable, on his own, of taking responsibility for the surrounding world of neighbors and community.
Any suggestion is welcomed.