What Is to Live with Individuality but not Individualism?

By Bernardo Mella Troncoso, Talloires Network Student Ambassador

The Talloires Network asked 7 students and I to do one thing: say to the world what we have to say. I think that if I could use just one phrase I would quote what Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, said a long time ago: “the problem with our time is that men don’t want to be useful but important”. Well, I would add women to the equation too.

It’s tempting to write about how I had to work during my childhood, since I was 12 to these days. During that entire time, I saw much inequality and little respect to people’s rights, even in a country like Chile that’s characterized as one of the most developed and competitive nations in Latin America. The details about the tough moments in my life won’t be mentioned now, because of the space I have for writing. What I want to say, that can speak to you the reader, is about the fruits that those experiences have brought to me. By “fruits” I mean, for example, the active position I have taken in societal issues, which is stimulated by empathy and love for people, and also a lack of labels with respect to what I’m able to do and what I’m not.

Last December, during the Talloires Network Leaders Conference 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, I had the chance to share with others about my experience as a volunteer on the Hippotheraphy Program at my university and also as an entrepreneur in one of the projects that are part of the Youth Economic Participation Initiative. I do all of this while I study geology at my university. Most people get surprised when they find out about all the things I do, and they question me about the relationship among all og them. They used to ask me “Why?” when the only thing I ask myself is “Why not?” before any opportunity to help people while improving my own life. I have to say that before a student of geology, I’m a human being I thank God for having realized that.

I know that not everyone sees things like I do, and that’s beautiful, because it’s the essence of diversity. At the same time, diversity is the base for the individuality that every one of us has. When we have the enough self-confidence to show it, it gets mixed with the individualities of others to form part of the puzzle of collaboration that Social Responsibility and Civic Engagement needs so much., We can’t create changes in society and the world if we are separated each other, and lack the will to understand, accept and love each other., Individualism will never help us do these things.

That is why I invite you to be yourself, to stimulate those unique characteristics that make you different from others. Then, you’ll be able to do and teach us what only you could.