When you put forth a gamble, you take a risk with a desire that you will profit. Oftentimes, humans gamble unconsciously hoping that somehow we will reap the benefits of said gamble. By prioritizing an individual in a community, a gamble is made between the chances of this individual either damaging or benefiting the community.
This gamble can lead to one of two things, selfishness or selflessness. The individual will either take advantage of the community, or justify the generosity of the community. If the individual were to take advantage of the community, the population will suffer the repercussions of the individual’s actions whether or not it be their responsibility. In contrast, if the individual were to justify the community’s generosity, the population would benefit from the individual’s efforts to reciprocate the community’s kindness. Yet in most cases, the chances of the individual bettering the community is highly unlikely.
Taking into account the tragedy of the commons, for instance, you can see how one’s efforts for personal gain can negatively impact the community around them. As Nicholas Amendolare puts it, the tragedy of the commons “provides an opportunity for an individual to benefit him or herself while spreading out any negative effects across the larger population” (Amendolare). Let’s consider a corporation like Amazon. While it may provide jobs and opportunities for those in the factory industry, Jeff Bezos is the person profiting from the detriment of society as he continues to capitalize. The growth of his business contributes to factory and vehicle pollution, the failure of small businesses, and the destruction of land to industrialize. Amendolare keeps this in mind after stating that “optimizing for the self in the short term isn’t optimal for anyone in the long term” (Amendolare). While Bezos continues to benefit himself and his workers, he may not take into consideration the impacts of pollution, the livelihood of small business owners, and environmental matters such as deforestation and extinction. With due time, the benefited individual will be floating in a sea of profit while the larger population works to lower the tide.
If the individual is continuously put before the community, their wants will soon become needs which will be put before the community in a continuous pattern. In Garrett Hardin’s Lifeboat Ethics, he states that “needs are determined by population size” (Hardin 367). If there is a significant focus on one person’s needs, the larger population will suffer a loss of importance causing their demise. Consider a pampered teenager. If the teenager’s parents continue to over-provide and coddle their child until adulthood, the parents will not be able to prioritize themselves and their child will not learn self-sufficiency. While I am aware that children depend on their parents or guardians in order to provide and care for them, as the children continue to grow this is not meant to become habitual. In this particular case, both the individual and the community will be harmed. It is not logical nor realistic for the community to relentlessly overindulge the individual. Humans are creatures of habit and it is inevitable that the individual will one day ask for more than what the community can provide.
Once the individual prioritizes themselves over the community, all chaos will break loose. We can see this in Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish & Mandala after Pham states that in Saigon traffic “nobody gives way to anybody… All parties are equally determined to get the right-of-way” (Pham 75). In this case, each person in traffic prioritizes themselves over the community with a lack of consideration for their fellow drivers. Everyone puts themselves in the perspective of the individual and the community of individuals becomes selfish. With a lack of consideration for others on the road, Pham states that “within fifteen minutes, we see three accidents, one of which is serious, involving a cyclo and a motorcycle.” (Pham 75). By placing the individual before the community it will lead to the detriment of order within the community. Since all drivers enter traffic with a mindset that they and their plans are the priority, the community falls and we are left with a set of individuals determined to accomplish their own goals. This sense of self-prioritization within the individual above the community, displays the tragedies and risks at stake. If everyone perceives themselves as the individual put before the community, it will lead to the detriment of the community and there will be no community left.
As the community continues to prioritize the individual, the larger population will fail to support itself and lead to its demise if the individual doesn’t reciprocate the community’s efforts. This is supported through Nicholas Amendolare’s, What is the tragedy of the commons? after he explains what the community will experience if they continuously concentrate on the individual. We can also form a connection using Garrett Hardin’s Lifeboat Ethics, where he clarifies that needs are met in relation to population size, and by putting forth the individual’s needs rather than the community’s, it will lead to negative repercussions. Along with this, in Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish & Mandala, Pham puts into perspective what happens as a result of centralizing the individual by referencing traffic in Saigon. Overall, each source works to compliment one another in displaying the many ways the prioritization of an individual can damage the community.