Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Personal responsibility

The problems that stand before us are grave and gargantuan, and it is reasonable for us to think that they are so. A slow and constant turning of the knobs, over decades, starting from shaky ethical and moral foundations, has led us here. The fact that we have hundreds of millions of people that have expectations of now of what it means to be "developed" and "progressed," also defined under the same ethical and moral foundations, has given our societies tremendous inertia and momentum. Geopolitical strife, nuclear weapons, social justice, ecological degradation, the list is tireless. It is easy for us to accept defeat without even trying to put up a fight. And a vast majority, at times ignorant of the implications of their life's choices, are complicit in accepting defeat.

I received an email from someone who works at the University, dealing with waste and recycling. This person has been working for the University for years, and here are some thoughts...

"What I am always most surprised by, but also not surprised at all at the same time, is how much talk people can be without action. I am by no means the perfect green citizen, but I don't lecture others on how they should do something so that it's easier for me. Example: for years, people would complain to me about yogurt cups not being recyclable at U-M. My response? Make your own or buy it in larger containers. However, no one ever took me seriously on it. I'd get responses like "Yeah right," or "Oh, I guess I could do that," though you could tell that they wouldn't. I hate how people refuse to take responsibility for their own green behavior. It's always that something's not easy enough or convenient enough. Very frustrating."

The pill that is hard to swallow is the following: in general, it is our fault for the way things are. And it must be our responsibility to accept our fault, and do all we can to be models for those who are complicit in easily accepting defeat. In the end, while all of us may not be leaders for masses of people, we can at least know in our heart and soul that we have not contributed to the problem, to the extent that is possible.

Special shoutout to Paul.

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