The Individual, The Community, and Their Value

For the past couple weeks or so I’ve been talking about my current classes, specifically my Literature class, and how much it’s helping my writing.  And now I want to share some of those interesting ideas with you all.

This post is mostly going to be about the Leaders of the societies your writing about, whether their ruled by one person, or a group of people.  And even though what we discussed in class was about the right ways of forming a democracy, in terms of the greek myths, I feel that by playing around with different aspects of your world, you can create very interesting, and thoroughly developed place without in necessarily having to be a democracy. 

First thing we talked about in that class was: an individual can’t succeed in his or her world at the expect of others (if they want a successful democracy).

I though this was interesting, because there are plenty of stories were the rulers do whatever they want without consequence. In my (tentative) idea for one of my novels, the ruler is basically a tyrant. He doesn’t care what people think, what they want, or how they feel. And because I want to show through my stories, in part, how I feel people should be treated, he will most definitely get punished for this, probably by losing the things he wants/loves most: Controlling his lands.

Along with this,  even with this specific tyrannical leader, he still needs his people, even though he feels he doesn’t. Without those people he rules over, without them fearing him, or acknowledging his strength, knowledge or whatever trait in is that makes him feel he is fit to control them in the first place, he means nothing. His honored and valued traits or ideals are worthless when no one else around him agrees.

The individual needs the community to validate and celebrate them, and the community needs the individual protect their ideals, and improve their lives, in whatever way they see fit. The best leaders ( I believe) carry out good deeds on behalf of the community.

And sometimes, this means self-sacrifice on the individual’s part.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

I also found it interesting when we talked about the particular traits that are valued, and how they affects the society who values them. Since we were reading the Iliad, we looked at their idea of physical prowess in war, which was the highest of all traits and deserving of honor. A violent trait. And because of this casual look on violence, and because of how high they hold this ideal, they can only react in violent ways when the feel threatened, or angry, or sad, etc.

As a minor trait, they also honored those who spoke well, so in this aspect, they weren’t completely barbaric. But for them, if you weren’t an honored warrior, if you didn’t fight in the wars with swords or spears (instead of bows and arrows, for example) you had no right to speak against anything at all.

But what if, instead of valuing fighting and killing, a society saw compassion as the ‘best’ trait? Or ingenious problem solving? Or even wit and charm? What kind of society would that be, then?

I’ve never really looked at stories in this way until now, so when I do find examples of this, I’ll definitely let you all know.

So tell me, what kinds of societies have you read about recently? What did they admire in their people? What traits or ideals did they shun? And what was the leader like, if ever talked about at all? Are they selfish? Kind? Strong? Ruthless? Merciful?

And let me know what you think, and if you want to see more of these kinds of posts!

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