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people-in-shadow1Collective Action


Article from the original Voice of Ethiopia
Volume 2, Number 35
Saturday September 24, 1938

We must choose between collective action and individual action. Human beings are drawn together living in communities for their mutual benefit. They are drawn by an instructive force to live together in groups for their mutual protection. But frequently they fail to avail themselves completely of the benefits of collective action.

Individual Action

There is no system which cannot be shown to possess some advantage over another system which has the same purpose. Individual action has certain advantages over collective action. When government is in the hands of one man or a small group decision can be made more quickly and executed with greater speed than when it depends on collective action.

But the possibilities of effort are far greater. A man’s knowledge and experience are limited, his emotions are at times unreliable. For these reasons error is more likely to occur than if he had the knowledge and experience of many persons to draw upon.

It is of course obvious that in cases of danger there is usually greater safety in numbers.

Collective Action

We admit to begin with that collective action is slower. It must be so necessarily for there is greater deliberation; more people express their views, the element of debate is included and there is some waste of time.

But finally having seen the question at issue from many sides a more reasonable course of action is arrived at. The public is more satisfied because it feels that it has had a hand in the deliberation. The possibility of error is less when a group discusses a question than when it is left to the limited knowledge and information of an individual.

We must understand, of course, that we are speaking of people of average intelligence and experience. In numbers there is strength, on the whole weighing the advantages and disadvantages of collective action and individual action it can be shown that the advantage lies on the side of collective action.

The Conflict

Yet a conflict goes on especially among Black people. We have so far been individualists, every man for himself. Therein lies our great weakness. This spirit of individual action appears even where we have decided on collective action and have formed an organization for the purpose.

Every now and then there is a rebellious individual or a rebellious group who wish to take things into their own hands in defiance of the government that they themselves have assisted in setting up.

This spirit of rebellion must be discouraged. Respect for law and order must more and more be established among our people. Having decided to work together we must continue to do so or we are doomed to failure.

Written by
Warren Harrigan

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