Wikipedia, which is what passes for a library in Apipucos, tells me that both St. Paul and Shakespeare are looking back to Aesop’s The Belly and the Members (no doubt available on Project Gutenberg, or Perseus for it in Greek). It seems there has been a reversal of polarity: individualism was the language of rebellio, solidarity was the supposed virtue of the status quo. Two thousand years ago, nobody thought of equality — the cry of the oppressed was just for more for them.
Now clearly, equality as such cannot be a practical aim, because it could only be attained by interference that would preclude other essential freedoms; it needs to be translated into a Kantian regulatory ideal of fairness if it is to make political sense, perhaps along the lines of Rawls. To put it another way, we shouldn’t lose sight of the raw greed and narrow self-interest behind claims that owe their sole legitimacy to a larger perspective of social solidarity. Nose and face both must get their due.
An argument for the primacy of society over the individual that is made with increasing conviction is that a fair and relatively equal society has ‘happier’ individual members, even if they are not as rich. (Scandinavian countries are often cited as examples.) Of course this begs the question of what ‘happiness’ is and why we should value it, but, leaving that aside, it occurs to me to wonder whether ‘green’ politics is really a logical extension of this idea, where ‘planet’ is to ‘society’ as ‘society’ is to ‘individual’ in the traditional left. (Perhaps even a right-wing green politics is possible, where ‘society’ is bypassed, but I have difficulty imagining such a thing.)
Of course that’s a merely practical argument, like opposing the death penalty because the innocent are sometimes convicted. Most opponents of the death penalty would spare the guilty too, and proponents of solidarity tend to believe that man is essentially not an atom (or, with Houellebecq, an “elementary particle”). A state that takes its citizens’ lives is brutal, and naked individualism betrays an impoverished view of human nature. Again, green politics has become a practical question about mitigating climate change. It used to mean beards, sandals and lentils.