That model of the individual is comic, in a way, but also lethal. The goal is to overcome the formative and dependent stages of life to emerge, separate, and individuate — and then you become this self-standing individual. That’s a translation from German. They say selbstständig, implying that you stand on your own. But who actually stands on their own? We are all, if we stand, supported by any number of things. Even coming to see you today — the pavement allowed me to move, and so did my shoes, my orthotics, and the long hours spent by my physical therapist. His labor is in my walk, as it were. I wouldn’t have been able to get here without any of those wonderful technologies and supporting relations.
Acknowledging dependency as a condition of who any of us happens to be is difficult enough. But the larger task is to affirm social and ecological interdependence, which is regularly misrecognized as well. If we were to rethink ourselves as social creatures who are fundamentally dependent upon one another — and there’s no shame, no humiliation, no “feminization” in that — I think that we would treat each other differently, because our very conception of self would not be defined by individual self-interest.