Accepting Responsibility

A Mild Rant

I was skimming some news articles and started noticing a pattern to various actual and proposed legislation in the US and in British Columbia, Canada. All these suggested or current rules seem aimed at preventing people from having to plan ahead and then from taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions or inactions. Some deal with biological consequences, others focus on social and legal consequences. But it seems as if a certain section of political society has made their platform “You Shall Never Be Responsible.”

The pattern had never really appeared so clearly to me before. Granted, it is likely coincidence, and a combination of me boggling at some of the activists’ purported fears, and seeing so many things piled up at the same time. We are at the point in many state legislative sessions where people are actively fighting to get bills on the list for consideration, so politicians are going to the media to gain support for their various proposals. Plus I read the Canadian news, and a few things stand out under the heading of, “That’s not going to end well for anyone.”

Without going into specifics, it seems as if this spate of regulations and legislation is aimed at blocking consequences. “You did not plan ahead. You refuse to accept the need to mitigate possible unwanted results of your action. So we will do everything we can to ensure that you never have to plan ahead or take responsibility.” In some cases, it is society/government that is protected from accountability. “We don’t want to believe that an activity could harm both those involved and greater society, and we don’t want the icky task of sorting out the criminal from the clinical, so we’ll wave our hands and make everything legal, then sing happy songs together.” Those who venture to suggest that requiring people to consider consequences and take steps in advance are excoriated as cruel, heartless, anti-personal freedom, and modern-day Puritans or (worse!) fuddy-duddys.

I fully understand that there are times when the best of plans are undercut by forces outside of a person’s control. The Fickle Finger of Fate goes “Flick!” Hard cases make bad law, especially when threats or violence are used to push people into terrible positions. That’s not what I’m looking at. I’m looking at enabling poor decisions and immaturity. “It’s OK! Do what you want, you won’t get in trouble for it, and if you make others miserable and drive them out of business, that’s their problem, not yours.” It’s a version of the soft bigotry of low expectations, as Thomas Sowell phrased it, applied to larger groups of people than ever before.

People have always tried to avoid responsibility for bad consequences. You don’t have to believe in the Judeo-Christian creation story to see the value of it as a way to explain human nature. “It’s Eve’s fault!” “The serpent made me do it!” “What do you mean, where’s Abel? Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Those were individual acts and excuses. Now we have political careers and “caring” professions that rest their careers on shielding people from feeling the consequences of their actions. Not that it will help. People still end up emotionally damaged, physically damaged, and dead. More and more bystanders are dragged into the problem, forced to work around the results, or being berated and harangued as people vent displaced regret and pain.

We need adults, not perpetually sheltered people. Some years ago I recall the jaw-dropped shock of a reporter and an activist when one of the town’s permanent homeless said, “I’m homeless because I’m an alcoholic, and as long as I’m a drunk I’ll be on the streets.” It was sort of refreshing. The guy knew that he was the problem, and he preferred booze to everything the activist was offering. You have to respect the honesty, if not the life choices. In his own way he was far more adult than some of the solons seeking for new ways to protect people from the Revenge of the Copy-book Headings.

Some of society’s problems don’t have easy solutions. There’s no wand “The People” can wave to instantly deal with the self-indulgent, with the will-try-anything-that-might-help, with the perpetually immature. I fear that as things get rougher, those truly in need of help will be “dealt with” along with those who prey on them. Actions have consequences. Being an adult means accepting that.


13 thoughts on “Accepting Responsibility

    • You’d bet wrong.

      Look at all the penalties and uncertainty they’re trying to heap on those who attempted to plan.

      The object is to turn us all into clients.
      The humiliation of those unwilling, is just a bonus feature.

  1. I have a co-worker (so to speak) with a Diagnosis. He has yet to fully comprehend (despite being told MANY, MANY times) that “A diagnosis is NOT a License to @55hole.” It’s to the point I wonder if he is trying to get fired…. more time for video games if not at work… but I might just be Old Fashioned and Suspicious (both senses).

    • At a certain point, after having been told multiple times by multiple people, “Do not do X, no matter if you do not read body language or have other perception difficulties,” the individual’s Disability Card expires. Either they learn, or they become a persona non grata.

      Had a fellow grad student who had some serious social difficulties. Some of us sat down and role-played interviews and so on. Another grad student helped the Problem Person find clothes that worked and were professional but matched PP’s style. A group of us all went to a “how to do a business meal” class put on by a different part of the college (we all needed the refresher, and PP needed the basics).

  2. Accepting responsibility is hard and the current trend that no one is responsible is continuing the ruination of our society. We will never go back to the way it was 50 years ago but I do hope we (well society) can turn this around. Personal responsibility is really the bedrock of civilization isn’t it?

  3. The company where my son works is having problems getting workers for the plant: they need adults who can arrive on time, learn the job and pay attention during their shift. Many new workers quit because the expectations are “ridiculous”. I worry about our future.

    • To be fair, a lot of younger people’s family and friends have expectations that are ridiculous.

      For example, people who do not just text someone once in a few hours, expecting to hit their break, but continuously throughout the day, expecting instant replies.

      Also people who give a continuous text play-by-play of a child’s activities throughout the day. I mean, if the kid is deathly ill, that’s different. But one would normally assume that a kid is alive, well, and wherever he is supposed to be. So why are you texting about it?

      So if one is supposed to constantly receiving and responding to messages, obviously one cannot pay full attention to one’s job.

      Videogames are another one. There are many phone games that will notify one of chat in the game world by one’s teammates, and of activities in the game world that continue all day and all night. So one is expected to keep clicking clicking clicking all day, or else one is a slacker who is disappointing one’s friends.

      Which is ridiculous, of course, because one is disappointing one’s bosses and coworkers instead. And the job makes money, while the games often drain money. But the games are designed to demand attention, more than real life.

    • “Where all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins…”

      I wonder how many civilizations died this way?

      And whether we can teach =The Gods of the Copybook Headings= in high school. One in literature, once in civics, once in ethics/religion, once in history (“the Fuller life”). Yes, some will reject it, but they’ll have to do so deliberately, not blindly and unthinkingly, as CSLewis aptly described it.

      • I don’t know of any that had enough surplus to try it before. Some of the things like the Oneida Colony and New Harmony failed, but those were small scale.

  4. I can only wonder what is going to happen when all the ‘old farts’ are gone from industry, transportation, and other infrastructure jobs… I’m kinda glad I won’t be around to see that. Even my daughters (in their 40s) are NOT happy with what is going on around them. Of course they both have worked for years and DO show up to work, on time, and sober. And give a full measure of effort for the dollars they earn.

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