The End of Self


This article is also published at WorldNetDaily and American Thinker.

There’s a remarkable correlation between the power of government that people tolerate and the kinds of technology they embrace. It is no coincidence that Americans are now overwhelmed with invasive laws and gadgets that diminish their individual freedoms.

Welcome to the end of self.

Hillel, the great Jewish sage and originator of the Golden Rule, famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But, if I am only for myself, who am I?”

Fast-forward to the attitude of today’s entitlement culture, in which 50% of Americans pay no income tax and 14.1% of them are on food stamps: “If I am not for myself, my government will be for me. And, because I am only for myself, people will follow me on Twitter.”

A week ago, a new technology company, Color Labs, announced that it had raised $41M in first-round equity funding to build a service that broadcasts photos taken by each subscriber to the smartphone of every nearby subscriber, using proximity algorithms. Why does anyone want to receive strangers’ photos? We hate to receive them from our relatives! People are choosing to waive privacy and individuality to join a group.

The “open borders” lifestyle underscores the end of self, identity, and individuality. Accordingly, Sequoia Capital, which invested $25M in this startup, claims Color Labs is the hottest phenomenon since Google. Sequoia recognizes, accurately, that our culture has replaced the individual with the group. What happened to “I need my space”?

Color Labs is, in a way, akin to Foursquare, purveyor of “check-in” software. With their smartphones, subscribers can track the whereabouts of all their “friends,” no matter where they go. Ironically, survivors of the former Soviet Union risked their lives to escape the constant scrutiny to which these folks are voluntarily submitting themselves.
None of His Damn Business

I recall watching Johnny Carson relate an awkward encounter at a party he had hosted. A guest approached to ask the price he had paid for his beautiful home. Appalled, Johnny explained that he was raised in the Midwest, where people didn’t ask such questions. When the man reminded Carson that he could go to city hall to find the deed, which is public information, Johnny angrily invited him to do so while admonishing him that it was none of his damn business. Johnny’s attitude about self is so yesterday.

If he were alive today, Johnny Carson would find Foursquare and its ilk shocking and nonsensical. People have a natural yearning for freedom and privacy, but they also must work and fight to maintain both — because Big Government, the lifestyle dictator, has a natural yearning, and objective, to erode and steal our freedom and privacy. That’s why our Founding Fathers fought to build this country.

“End of self” conditioning has periodically raised its ugly head, starting with Woodrow Wilson. Never, though, has it been more entrenched than today. It’s no accident, then, that people are increasingly choosing group-centric technologies and governments. Using “chicken/egg” analysis, Big Government — such as FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society — fashionably preceded Facebook and iPhones.
Socialism’s Barometer

Technology, interestingly, has become a barometer of government power. As wimpiness, political correctness, and anti-capitalism insidiously pervade each successive generation, mostly through our federally controlled schools, all sense of self fades. Big Government then increases its fascistic power, and technology’s invasiveness adapts accordingly. The whole cycle is so evolutionary -– progressive — that few notice until it’s too late.

Reliably, technology — socialism’s barometer — symbolizes the populace’s willingness to be monitored and controlled. What Big Government leader doesn’t salivate over a more-pliable electorate and those who soon will join its ranks: students.

Ask any high-caliber schoolteacher about the contemporary classroom, and you’ll likely hear two sad trends: 1) the typical public school revolves around the worst student, not the best — shrinking the smart kids to equal the slowest kid, thereby making the “group” uniformly mediocre; 2) kids, who know more about recycling than the Revolutionary War, are being indoctrinated with socialism and taught to accept, expect, and extol Big Government.

It’s not surprising, then, that anyone who attends one of our identity-shredding schools will happily and readily support overtaxing the rich and greening the planet while also sharing her schedule, location, and nude photos with friends — and strangers. What a nice blend of socialism and socializing!

When a student gets his sheepskin and enters the real world, he’ll discover the end-of-self theme perpetuated as an extension of his school. If, for example, he wants to buy a 100-watt lightbulb for his apartment, Big Government will tell him that, to save the planet, he can’t. When he has to pay taxes while other members of “the group” don’t, he’ll hear that he must spread his wealth around.

If he’s not head-down, constantly texting his friends, our graduate may learn that, except for the dictator leader, there’s no individual in socialism — only the group. Given man’s natural quest for freedom, which he experienced in his rebellious teenage years, it might dawn on him that socialism (aka Marxism, fascism, communism, collectivism, Nazism) never succeeds and cannot exist without force or fiat: Obamacare is mandatory.

Finally, if our graduate discovers that fascism, which derives from the Italian word for bundle, is an oppressive, left-wing, invasive, wealth-redistributing system of government, he may even take another look at his Facebook page and resent his loss of self. Maybe.
What End?

Sequoia Capital, with its $25M investment in Color Labs, is bullish on the herd. Most technology companies — with Facebook in the lead — are following suit. The herd, the group, the bundle all signal societal submissiveness and voluntary exposure.

It’s not a stretch, either, to extrapolate that those who remove borders between people also believe in doing the same between countries. For example, Thomas Friedman, left-leaning author, promoted technology, in The World Is Flat, as a means to do just that.

Technology, like government, always has been, and always will be, a means to an end. The question is, what end? It’s disconcerting, at best, to see so many people actively and deliberately choosing the means to the end of self. Investors and socialists applaud.
POSTSCRIPT #1: UK Schools Mandate Groups Over Friendships

POSTSCRIPT #2: Why We Share Ourselves With Google, Facebook, and Government

POSTSCRIPT #3: Obama Tells Entrepreneurs That Others Built Their Businesses

POSTSCRIPT #4: Georgetown Law Dean Cheers Government Dependency

POSTSCRIPT #5: We Are Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists

POSTSCRIPT #6: Schools Using Common Core for Communist Indoctrination

POSTSCRIPT #7: Google Buys Nest for $3.2B to Control Your Life

POSTSCRIPT #8: Silicon Valley Coffee Shop Stops Tracking Customers

POSTSCRIPT #9: NEST and Dropcam Spy on You in Your Home

POSTSCRIPT #10: Elon Musk Predicts the End of Self with Driverless Cars

POSTSCRIPT #11: Apple to Force iPhone Owners to Use Health App

POSTSCRIPT #12: Amazon Echo to Spy on Your Bedroom (01.16.18)


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of two books:
Brand Is Destiny: The Ultimate Bottom Line
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


Copyright © 2011 by Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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4 Responses to “The End of Self”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article. I was berated by many for not having a facebook/twitter account and not having a smartphone (I have an older cell phone), but I'm glad that I still don't as I like my privacy. I'm also prudent with my money, which is why I have cash socked away for a rainy day. Having no debt is a lot of freedom, which I cherish dearly and wouldn't trade for anything.

    Make your mark on the world by accomplishing something, not by grasping for attention online. Onstar is adding a feature that lets you update your facebook status while you drive….you've got to be crazy…or at least an attention whore.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very insightful article! I especially like the way you make the connection between the public and private trends towards inappropriate 'self disclosure'. However, I feel the need to point out the dramatic difference between these two realms. Whatever motivates those who delve into the 'social media' culture, they do so on a voluntary basis with the knowledge that, just as a smoker or drinker retains the sole choice to indulge or refrain, the decision to participate rests with them alone. This cannot be said about the government. The state exists by removing the choice not to participate and replaces it with the not-too-veiled threat of aggression or, if the 'subject' is too stubbornly recalcitrant, outright violence if they do not obey.

    Humans have an innate need for acceptance in a community, conditioned by millennia of survival as a herding creature against the dangers of a carnivorous prehistoric world. This is balanced by an equal innate need for individual freedom, evidenced by the consistent failure of any largely socialistic society to thrive. We fear the ostracism of our neighbors as this conjures genetic images of being left out in the jungle alone. But we bristle at the idea of others telling us what to do, unless a complex negotiation has been arranged that respects our sense of independence. It is this balance of individuality and merging with the group that creates the tension that drives a complex and creative society. As long as people feel that they have choices and feel safe trusting their friends and neighbors, they will open up their lives and build a 'community'. There is nothing inherently wrong with this and is one of humanity's greatest strengths.

    It is only when the practice of coercion and the concept of an overriding Authority start to warp the fabric of society that the problems begin. The problem with government is that those within it or that enjoy it's largesse have an incentive that is at odds with the general population. It now becomes all about control, add since people don't like to be controlled, it then becomes all about indoctrination.

    "Technology, like government, always has been, and always will be, a means to an end. The question is, what end?" Technology, as a tool, has no moral component. It can be used to amuse, help or harm. Government, on the other hand, is based on the idea that a small number of individuals; whom Jefferson quite rightly observed have been "created equal"; nevertheless possess the exclusive power to do things their fellows have no right to do, such as take property under threat of force (taxes), forbid others from engaging in preferred activities alone or with other consenting participants and kidnapping them and throwing them in cages if they disobey. The moral questions exposed by the concept of a government founded on the concept of "inalienable rights" that nevertheless violates these rights as a matter of its basic function are too involved to discuss in this comment.

    Your article, Marc, has touched on a much larger subject and exposed the 'tip of the iceberg'. It's the contradictions inherent in our assumptions about society that must be examined before we can understand the direction we need to go to have a healthier and freer society.

    Here's a couple of books that take this further:

  3. Marc Rudov says:

    @Anonymous (April 19, 2011): I refute your contention that technology is voluntary and government is not. All elected officials, and their appointees, exist in government — at the city, county, state, and federal levels — because citizens made free CHOICES at their ballot boxes to put them there.

  4. Wes Bertrand says:

    As legal scholar Randy Barnett has wisely noted in his book The Structure Of Liberty, individuals have the inherent freedom TO contract and NOT TO contract with anyone else in society. In response to your alleged refutation that concerns democratic rule, by definition government violates this freedom of contract; taxation, regulation, and fiat currency are forms of theft on the grandest scale imaginable–fostering a culture of irresponsibility and "herd mentality."

    Any and all elections are, as Mencken observed, advanced auctions on stolen goods, where to the victors lie the spoils. Those who disagree are supposed to be placated by the notion that they got the "opportunity" to vote and voice their contrary opinions, which does nothing to restore their inherent freedom of contract. Did you ever consider the irony in being offered a chance to "choose" your rulers–while being prohibited from disobeying their edicts and their coercive subordinates' edicts?

    The silver lining in Web 2.0 and subsequent social technologies is that they will enable individuals to find the logical information they're looking for, get organized, and finally attain a society that is free from coercive and authoritarian control of their lives. One television/web show is already designed to promote such a perspective. Here's an example:
    Adam vs the Man: Episode 6 with Stefan Molyneux!