Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some more thoughts on responsibility

The notion of responsibility seems to go hand in hand with the notion of proxies, which I have written about previously. As this culture, this society has moved forward in time, we have continually given up responsibility and given proxies to others - we rely on others to make sure our water is safe to drink and that our food is safe to eat. Much of this responsibility has been delegated to large government, which has in turn relied on industry to maintain minimal standards of conscience and morality. In the end, our individual responsibilities have been boiled down to being "consumers" and "contributors to the economy."  Consequently, all of our daily activities, our actual being and the physical world have been interpreted within this ethereal economic framework. (Did you know that your life is worth around $8,000,000? I understand where such a number comes from, but I would never buy it.) These responsibilities are extremely passive - the basic premise of micro and macroeconomic theory is that we as individuals are unable to affect change. We are unable to act, even if it is in our best interests to act.

At the same time, the delegated responsibility (and the outcomes of this delegation) has diffused in many ways. When it comes down to actually taking action, we are unsure of where to apply pressure - is it better to get government to pass policy? Or do we get those CEOs fired? And as opposed to Fick's Fist Law of Diffusion, the influence of our behaviour -spatially and temporally - has only increased over time, even though you would think that a diffuse delegation of responsibility would lessen our influences. The point is, we need to assume responsibility, to take it back. We can no longer rely on "elected officials" to take care of what matters most in the world - the environment and everything that it represents. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, even good government is no excuse for us not to practice self-government.

In the penultimate chapter of Derrick Jensen's book, What We Leave Behind, Jensen quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said "...action comes from a readiness for responsibility." Most all of us know that action needs to be taken, here and now. We cannot wait. And we will only be driven to action if we are willing to assume responsibility for what this action represents - taking down of this ecologically and mentally destructive culture. If we are willing to take responsibility, action will flow.

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