Self-hood is self-centeredness. Yet there is no center in a group in the sense in which it exists in a person. There may be a central power, a king, a president, a dictator. He may be able to impose his will on the group. But it is not the group which decides if he decides, though the group may follow. Therefore it is neither adequate to speak of a we-self nor useful to employ the terms collective anxiety and collective courage.
When describing the three periods of anxiety, we pointed out that masses of people were overtaken by a special type of anxiety because many of them experienced the same anxiety-producing situation and because outbreaks of anxiety are always contagious. There is no collective anxiety save an anxiety which has overtaken many or all members of a group and has been intensified or changed by becoming universal. The same is true of what is wrongly called collective courage. There is no entity “we-self” as the subject of courage. There are selves who participate in a group and whose character is partly determined by this participation. The assumed we- self is a common quality of ego-selves within a group. The courage to be as a part is like all forms of courage, a quality of individual selves.
A collectivist society is one in which the existence and life of the individual are determined by the existence and institutions of the group. In collectivist societies the courage of the individual is the courage to be as a part. Looking at so-called primitive societies one finds typical forms of anxiety and typical institutions in which courage expresses itself. The individual members of the group develop equal anxieties and fears. And they use the same methods of developing courage and fortitude which are prescribed by traditions and institutions. This courage is the courage which every member of the group is supposed to have. In many tribes the courage to take pain upon oneself is the test of full membership in the group, and the courage to take death upon oneself is a lasting test in the life of most groups. The courage of him who stands these tests is the courage to be as a part. He affirms himself through the group in which he participates. The potential anxiety of losing himself in the group is not actualized, because the identification with the group is complete.
Nonbeing in the form of the threat of loss of self in the group has not yet appeared. Self-affirmation within a group includes the courage to accept guilt and its consequences as public guilt, whether one is oneself responsible or whether somebody else is. It is a problem of the group which has to be expiated for the sake of the group, and the methods of punishment and satisfaction requested by the group are accepted by the individual. Individual guilt consciousness exists only as the consciousness of a deviation from the institutions and rules of the collective. Truth and meaning are embodied in the traditions and symbols of the group, and there is no autonomous asking and doubt. But even in a primitive collective, as in every human community, there are outstanding members, the bearers of the traditions and leaders of the future. They must have sufficient distance in order to judge and to change. They must take responsibility and ask questions. This unavoidably produces individual doubt and personal guilt. Nevertheless, the predominant pattern is the courage to be as a part in all members of the primitive group.