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Whose responsibility is it?
By Dr. Robert Owens
God makes all of us to be round pegs in round holes. In a free society if we end up a round peg in a square hole…..that's on us.
There is no feeling worse than believing we have squandered our talents, wasted our life, and made no difference in our short time upon the world stage. If we live in a society that chooses what, where, and how we do things it is easy to feel as if the opportunity to become who we were created to be was stolen. However in a free society where we can choose for ourselves the responsibility for those choices as well as the freedom belongs to us.
Freedom does not merely mean that each individual bears the responsibility and the burden of choosing their path. In a free society it also means that each individual will also receive either the praise or the blame that results from those choices. Freedom and responsibility cannot be separated if either is to have a realistic bearing upon the individual. If you cannot choose you are not responsible. If you can you are. A society cannot call itself free unless individuals ultimately occupy the positions and bear the consequences resulting from their own actions. For that society to remain stable the individuals need to recognize that their positions and the concurrent consequences are the result of their own choices and actions.
A free society can only offer the opportunity to choose, and in a society of free agents this can only provide the chance for success. The outcome always depends on the accidental interactions between circumstances and others. Someone who has taken their destiny into their own hands while cognoscente of what they cannot control will concentrate their attention on what they can as if these are the only aspects of the endeavor which matter. Circumstances and chance will either be advantageous or limiting. Only the individual will know whether they have made the most advantageous use of either their talents or their circumstances therefore the responsibility for their actions resides with them.
In America today the knowledge of and the belief in this link between freedom and responsibility has become as rare as the honest man Diogenes spent a life time looking for. Today victimhood has been raised to an art form. It is inspired and rewarded by a complex system of laws and social conventions that offers praise for the helpless pawn and reviles the individual who succeeds. Driven by the apathy and antagonism it elicits from those who accept the arguments that "You can't fight city hall" and "It wasn't my fault" even the word responsibility disappears from the vocabulary of motivation from the pulpit to the hustings.
The I'm OK you're OK culture that accepts infanticide, suicide, and much else of what was once known as vice as not only morally acceptable but as civil rights flees from moralizing. This throw-away culture elects people of the lowest morals and of the most glaring narcissism: media rock stars who rule instead of lead and who trample upon the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for. This is not only accepted it is voted for since if our leaders are morally bankrupt it is all right for us to do whatever feels good. If our leaders are attempting to weld the shackles of a totalitarian gulag in every sphere of life we truly are deprived of choice and are mere victims.
If you attempt to tell people that they are responsible for their choices and their conditions it will often provoke outright hostility. These people have been taught that society has made them what they are. It has determined their position in life and it is nothing but external circumstances that decide whether they succeed or fail. They have rejected all responsibility because they fear it and in consequence they have rejected freedom.
In a large part this is a development that is not purely either religious or political in nature. The rise of science and of the attempt to apply it to our understanding of humanity leads to several conclusions which are incompatible with freedom.
The first of these misapplied axioms is that everything is governed by iron-clad laws. While this may apply to thermodynamics it does not relate in the same fashion to free agents in a free society. Thoughts are infinite and new thoughts can always inspire new choices. The second axiom erroneously used to understand human action is the idea of universal determinism. The idea that all things are the inevitable consequence of prior action directed by inherently immutable outside forces precludes spontaneity and freedom of choice. In such a system human will becomes an illusion and reality a maze with always only one way out.
Of course based on reality as experienced by everyone it has to be admitted that except on rare occasions the outcomes of human action could not be predicted and the results of particular circumstances interacting with particular individuals could not be foreseen. However from genetics to economics from sociology to politics the belief that everything is determined by laws eliminates the space for a belief in freedom of the will and the responsibility which its operation engenders.
Those who accept the determinist position assert that it is genetics shaped by education tempered by society that constructs and controls all of us. We are all the product of both nature and nurture and we exist within a grid designed, created, and controlled by society. Whatever we are and whatever we become it isn't our fault and it isn't our choice or our effort. This position was summed up brilliantly in the statement, "You didn't build that." If you accomplished something you didn't do it on your own just as if you fail it isn't because of you, you're merely a victim and as such society owes you support.
Divorced from morality and excluded from personal experience by education and an ever more regimented society responsibility has become a legal concept. There are intricate webs of laws used to determine liability in the case of negatives while the "You didn't build that" mentality erodes the concept of responsibility for success. Once the link between choice and responsibility has been severed one of the major motivators for excellence has been silenced. For the greatest significance of this fundamental concept is that a feeling of responsibility for one's own choices is its role in guiding the decisions and actions for free people.
If nothing is ever your fault, if nothing is ever your achievement what does it matter what you choose or what you do? If we are to be free we must bear the responsibility of that freedom or else we will search our whole life to learn whose responsibility is it.
Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens