United We Fall

We’ve all heard the slogan,United we stand, divided we fall” hundreds of times. It is portrayed as wisdom, but if fact it’s generally false. If you require a mass of bodies to charge another mass of bodies on a battlefield, unity matters. But when you want honesty, intelligence, compassion, innovation and evolution, unity is your enemy.

Unity works for body-power, but it works against all the higher and better aspects of our nature. That’s why the sacrifice collectors preach unity: they want obedient bodies, not self-determinant minds.

Spiritual Unity?

The really pernicious thing about unity is that it’s sold as some kind of spiritual ideal: We each sacrifice our ourselves, then we somehow become collective superheroes.

This also is false. The high and good – the truly spiritual – forms only in individuals. The more united our minds are, the more we decline. The more individual our minds, the more we rise.

Unity in the religious sense is a spiritualized dream of a free fix. By embracing unity, people hope to solve their personal deficits without work. Unification calls power down from heaven and we’re magically fixed. It’s “spiritual,” after all.

The truth is this: Where individuality has had the upper hand, prosperity, growth, and invention have defined the times. Where collective ideals (like melting into one) have had the upper hand, humanity has sunk toward an animal level of existence.

A Bit of Support

Every mass tragedy since 1900 has not only featured unity, but has been built with unity as its central component. This becomes utterly obvious with the use of just one word: collectivism.

Collectivism is unity by definition, and it stood at the heart of Mao’s China, Lenin and Stalin’s USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the various Kims’ North Korea. As a first approximation, these unity traps killed 100 million people.

To them we can add Hitler and Mussolini, who enforced unity; nonconformists were imprisoned or killed. That provides additional tens of millions dead.

All of this hasn’t been lost on observers. Here are just two quotes:

An individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd soon finds himself – either in consequence of magnetic influence given out by the crowd or from some other cause of which we are ignorant – in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotizer.
– Gustave Le Bon

Man as an individual is a genius. But men in the mass form a headless monster, a great, brutish idiot that goes where prodded.
– Charles Chaplin

And here are some opposite thoughts, from people who discovered creativity and growth through individuality:

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
– Albert Einstein

Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it… the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.
– Albert Schweitzer

This I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.
– John Steinbeck

Beneath The Slogans

The appeal to unity works, fundamentally, by abusing what Gustav Le Bon called “the instincts of the herd.” Ultimately it goes back to primate influences, but I’ve been covering that elsewhere and won’t delve into it today. It’s enough to say that unity appeals mainly on an animal level.

When you have a massive and unified movement – a large crowd thinking and acting together – individual virtues are squeezed out, rather like this:

    • Listening to the leader displaces self-judgment.
    • Following the leader displaces self-motivation.
    • Lauding the courage of the leader displaces the courage to act alone.
    • Quoting the words of the leader displaces self-responsibility.

If we want real and enduring progress in the world, we must make our own decisions, take full responsibility for our lives, and muster the courage to act alone. Until we can do that, we won’t move the world forward by any appreciable amount.

Mass movements and unifying leaders are devolutionary.


So, if you need a pile of bodies to knock down other bodies, unity’s your ticket to it. If you want a large number of people to turn off their minds and follow you, unity is also your ticket. But if you want upright, creative and beneficial human beings, forget unity and start calling for individuality.

It’s as individuals that we rise. United we fall.


Paul Rosenberg


5 thoughts on “United We Fall”

  1. Why do the united Democrats and Republicans succeed so well at keeping out the divided (by definition) independents, Greens, and libertarians?

    It seems that the divided fall every election.

    1. Perhaps because the desire for power expressed as politics is itself a parasite of the United mind, and those who ally themselves with independent, green or libertarian parties are in the process of losing (or have already lost) this parasitic disease.

      As such there are less voters in the independent, green or libertarian parties compared to the Uniparty, and also a corollary amount of doubt in the efficacy of using politics to solve real world problems.

      You suggest these people are divided however you and I can both point to multiple examples of individuals banding together to solve problems around the world… Problems that governments and politics have failed to solve for years.

      I suggest these people are not divided, instead they have given up on the failed drive for power expressed in politics and are clearly thinking for themselves by definition.

      The fact that I disagree with your assumption that political power is something to be pursued in any fashion is itself a very nice example of the article author’s point: you and I have different viewpoints, and that’s important and valuable.

      1. Quite right. The idea that political power is a worthy value, is not something I accept. 🙂

  2. If this had been a long piece, I would have included a section on cooperation. Mainly, it would explain that free, voluntary and non-binding cooperation is a great value, but different in both cause and effect from unity.

  3. Unity has two edges.
    Positive genius tends to be alone. At the same time, a genius dropped into a Bushman tribe doesn’t get very far. That genius needs to interface with *something,* and societies that create more mechanisms and opportunities of this type are rewarded.
    With all that said, there is a state of social matter at the collective level, and it operates by its own dynamics. What we’ve seen over the last 100+ years is that individualism can be freed to perform great good – and also to destroy key safeguards and elements in the larger system that individuals need to thrive. Fracturing unity too far has costs of its own, and individualism without boundaries leads to atomization and the desire to erase all distinctions. The transgender child abuse cult is not an aberration, it’s a straight-line logical extension. Ditto the he pedophilia problems in sci-fi fandom (look up Marion Zimmer Bradley’s husband “Walter Breen” some time). The result is the loss of liberty and of individualism as a value, as the trust needed to support them disappears.
    Individualism needs boundaries that restrain the ruler and ruled alike. Those boundaries need institutional power for their continuation, and should value individuals as having intrinsic worth, in order to avoid breakdown or stagnation. But institutions are prone to capture and corruption. Which doesn’t make a lack of boundaries or of power preferable.
    The human problem cannot be defined away.
    We need to courage to step outside of “unity” in the service of greater things. The sense to realize where individualism needs to have strong boundaries. And the discernment to know the difference.

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