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Stories for when the needs of the one, outweighed the needs of the many

Introduction

Individualism is a dirty word today amongst the educated elite, as it’s supposedly all about the team. Or is it? Another term for individualism is egoism, the idea of putting the needs of the one before the needs of the many. Contrary to popular mythology this doesn’t entail selfishness, but simply the concept that helping the individual does more to help the collective or the team. It’s one thought process. Later we’ll cover the benefits of the other thought process, but for now, let’s showcase some concrete examples of how the needs of the one can change the lives of many.

egoism

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What the Los 33, trapped chilean miners must have felt in 2010, AI generated

Los 33, Copper and gold mine Chile

On August 5, 2010, 33 miners were 700 meters underground extracting copper for the San Jose copper and gold mine, when a 700,000-ton fragment of diorite, a hard and durable rock used in construction fell and blocked their only way out.  The mining company knew that the miners were trapped, but had no idea they were alive, or their exact location. So the company drilled narrow exploratory blow holes to locate them. On August 22, 2010, 17 days later, the exploratory drilling was successful, as the miners saw the drill bit and attached a paper note to it that said ‘Estamos bien en el refugio los 33’ (We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us).  Now that the mining company knew where the miners were, it still took them another 52 days to drill a hole wide enough to get them out in a slow and time-consuming manner that wouldn’t kill them. On October 13, 2010, 69 days after the miners were first trapped, camera crews from around the world gave us live coverage as the hole was finally wide and deep enough to pull the miners up, one by one, in a show of triumph and delight that had an entire globe jumping up for joy as these miners were rescued.

For all of the mishaps that led to this, give the Chilean government, the mine owners, and their competition credit. They all pooled their resources and sacrificed to save these workers. That’s one aspect of the story, but not the reason this entry is here.

In the initial days after the collapse, the trapped miners decided to distribute any remaining food equally, prioritizing fairness over individual strength.  This meant that each miner would receive two spoonfuls of tuna, and half a glass of milk, every 48 hours. A truly small amount indeed, as it boggles the mind how they maintained that amount and social order for 17 days. Once it was discovered that they were alive, everyone got different support based on how they handled the first 17 days. In other words, priority was given to each individuals personal needs, hence the needs of the one. It is this prioritization of the one that allowed the survivors to make it through days 18 to 69.  Keep in mind being trapped underground this length of time and surviving is unprecedented. The rescuers and survivors chose the path of helping the one so that all of them survived, with not one miner dying. That’s truly remarkable. In 2023, all but two of the miners received around 1.4 million USD from the Chilean government as compensation for the lack of government oversight that led to the disaster, with the other two refusing to take part in the lawsuit. 

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Hawa Abdi Hope Village as envisioned by AI

We often see in Hollywood movies a prevalent theme – The U.S. military’s unwavering resolve to not forsake any of its men, come hell or high water. Just think about blockbuster films such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Albeit, recent happenings in Afghanistan challenge this premise, we’ll table that topic for another day. Right now, let’s shift our gaze away from the U.S., to acknowledge the universal resonance of this ethos. We turn to Somalia, the backdrop for the 2001 blockbuster, ‘Black Hawk Down’ another movie where the needs of the one indeed surpassed the needs of the many. It’s in Somalia during this same conflict that we find the one whose needs outweigh those of the many.

This person is Dr. Hawa Abdi. So respected in her own country that when militia groups arrested and jailed her from inside her hospital, on her property, in 2010, she was released immediately. The militia group arrested the doctor, stating that women couldn’t run hospitals. Her daughters with help from the media got their mother on media outlets to plead her case, getting her released with the support of the public. Not content for a simple release, Dr. Abdi even got the militia group to publicly apologize. That’s how much respect this woman garnered among all Somali factions, as she was deemed untouchable by all creeds. That’s the ultimate power and respect any single person could ever hope to achieve.

Dr. Abdi or ‘Mama Hawa’ as she was affectionately known, chose to pursue medicine when her mother passed away during childbirth. After getting her medical degree in Ukraine, she came back to Somalia as the first-ever woman obstetrician. Later, she added a law degree to her credentials from Somali National University in Mogadishu, where she then served as a Medicine Assistant Professor. Later, she turned her house into a small children’s medical center in the 1990s.  When civil war broke out her private property then became a safe refuge for her employees, then her family, and then her employee’s family, and eventually 90,000 people fleeing the war called her private land home. At this point, her new city adopted the name of Hawa Abdi Hope Village. These 90,000 people had three doctors attending to them, her and her two daughters. At the age of 73, she was laid to rest in 2020.

Dr. Hawa Abdi, Mama Hawa, Hawa Abdi Hope Village

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dodge caravan in front of house-AI enhanced

Let’s move to the world of big business, where the one is the business, and the many are the employees. Lee Iacocca was the celebrity CEO of the automotive world in the 80s and early 90s much like Elon Musk is today. He was everywhere, in every news feed and many commercials for his Chrysler automobiles. Chrysler was going to go bankrupt in the early 80s and sell its name off for spare parts. Undeterred Lee did the unthinkable and convinced his unionized employees to put the company first and accept significant wage cuts to guarantee the government loans that saved the company. After the bailouts, Chrysler released its grandest innovation, the world’s first true minivan that drove like a car (The Dodge Caravan) and the inexpensive K-Car.  Both were priced to meet the needs of the average family that scooped them up, leaving the competition in the dust in terms of profits and sales.  On the upper end of the scale, he helped develop the Dodge Viper, America’s best muscle car at the time. Alas 20 years later, after their charismatic leader left, the company needed another bailout in 2006 as they lost his magic touch. Nevertheless, this is a case of the one (the company), outweighing the needs of the employees.

Chrysler, Lee Iacocca

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tesla model 3 plaid-AI envisioned

If we covered Lee Iacocca, then why not cover his contemporary, Elon Musk? In 2009, Tesla was going nowhere, with not one major investor believing in it when Elon was a first-year CEO. He spent all of his fortune on Tesla to revive it, thus revolutionizing our world and getting everyone on board with driving an electric car. He did this because he wasn’t even sure he could pull off the miracle of keeping Tesla alive so he refused to ask others for money until one day he had to ask for USD 50 million from Daimler, having exhausted his personal wealth. His never-say-die attitude rubbed off on his employees, as many would claim working tirelessly without being coaxed simply because they absorbed their CEO’s energy. Not many people can hack Elon’s lifestyle, but in the end, everyone did it for long enough to make Tesla a household name. Some couldn’t handle the working hours anymore and left to build electric vehicles elsewhere and many stayed. But even those that left are generally awestruck by the man. That’s because as a team, through their hard work, they all changed the world by saving the one, Tesla.

Tesla

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Yale Law (Dr. Hawa Abdi), Automotive Hall of Fame (Lee Iacocca), Harvard Business Review (Los 33), Mining.com (Los 33), The Guardian (Los 33), Business Insider (Elon Musk)

All images are AI-generated using Fotor and are not meant to describe the subject matter they portray factually, but figuratively.

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