One of the most important things in life is maintaining a sense of individuality. It’s important to not only feel different from others, but also to be different. One can establish individuality throughout a series of choices, actions, and thoughts that best pertain to that specific individual. Without diversity, society would be stagnant. There would be no new innovations or new ways of thinking if everyone always thought and acted in the same ways. However, it is crucial to have certain limitations on the way in which people can exercise their sense of individuality in order to keep everyone safe and protected.
In Mill’s On Liberty, he argues that an individual should be allowed to do whatever he wants as long as it doesn’t harm the people around him. He breaks down actions into four distinct categories: self-regarding virtue, other-regarding virtue, self-regarding vice, and other-regarding vice. Mill explains that all the categories are fine for individuals to use except for other-regarding vice. Examples of other-regarding vices are things like stealing and killing. Essentially, what Mill is saying is that you an individual can do whatever he or she wants as long as it doesn’t harm another individual in any way. Mill also contends that
there are certain acceptable ways to go about responding to someone that you disapprove of. Mill states that you can argue with the person and tell them that you disagree with them, but you can’t act violently towards the person or force the government to punish them.
With the recent decision in the Ferguson case, I think Mill would have an interesting take on the way people should act in accordance to the verdict. The case was highly controversial and covered heavily by several media outlets due to the concepts it covered such as police brutality and the racial setting of current day America. When the verdict was released that the police officer would not be charged, communities across
America erupted in shock which quickly led to feelings of rage and betrayal. This tension resulted in several violent protests and demonstrations across the nation but especially in the community who was directly connected with the case, Ferguson, MO. The way people chose to respond to the verdict deeply contradicts Mill’s argument of how to deal with things you personally disagree with. Mill believes that it’s more important to voice disapproval than show it through forms of violence against property or other people. Although there were peaceful protests to show disapproval with our country’s judicial system, I found it shocking how many people were condoning and encouraging violent acts due to the verdict. I strongly agree with Mill in regards to this situation because I don’t believe that forms of mass violence will lead to equality, justice, or a change of verdict.
It is necessary to express yourself and maintain your sense of individuality. However, it is important to consider how different people should express themselves. Is it through violent acts or simply voicing disapproval? And, when do your actions cross the line of only impacting your life and safety to threatening the lives of others? It’s possible to express yourself without harming the lives or property of others, and that is the best way to sustain a healthy sense of individuality.