Today, a major computer network problem disabled most of the mechanical engineering department, and wiped out huge parts (and for at least one person, the entirety) of dozens of people's work--data, computer codes, everything. The problem affected our lab server, too. We store most everything we work on in our lab on this server, and we even back it up after that. We knew that the IT guys were probably being flooded by people shouting and screaming and complaining to and at them the entire day. However, the circumstances of the entire situation, which we talked about and debated endlessly today, were such that our lab group did not find it burdensome on the IT guys for them to get our lab server up and running by the "end of the day". Honestly, though, there shouldn't have been an "end of the day" for them today, for, it is their duty and responsibility to fix things that go wrong, and the expectations are such that when something major like this does go wrong, that, well, work turns into responsibility. Responsibility seems to arise more fundamentally because it seems like someone in the IT department caused the problem. It was sad to hear then that when my lab mate went downstairs at 5:05 pm to see if the computer was fixed, he found the IT office empty and the door locked. Everyone had left, like workers punching their time cards.
It got Mohammad and I talking about motivation and responsibility. As individuals, the only responsibilities we are made to think of are paying taxes, bringing home a paycheck, and promptly spending more than that paycheck using our credit cards. (We are indeed encouraged to do so.) But apart from that, we are faced with few responsibilities. We see no responsibility to our neighbourhoods and communities, no responsibility to our watersheds, no responsibility or obligation to participate in this so-called democracy. We let things happen as they may, each person fending for themselves.
In my entire education, it is only in India that I was talked to about individual responsibility. I wonder how much citizenship and individual responsibility is being talked about in schools in America. Indeed, in our university education system, individual responsibility and citizenship are never mentioned. We are always taught about collectives. We study microeconomics and economies of scale. Depending on your major, you may talk about issues of large scale oppressive systems. Yet, we never study home economics, or responsibility to our neighbours. We are treated as grains of sand, and told that our individual actions and decisions don't matter. But when aggregated over, we suddenly end up with supply and demand curves that dictate large-scale and local policies that affect our individual lives. How do we, as individuals, conduct ourselves responsibly in the world? And how does that responsibility unfold in situations when we've made mistakes?
And so, to come back to the IT guys today who left without reparations after a major fault of their own causing, I wonder, do they lack motivation? I can imagine that someone that has spent the bulk of their life doing something that hasn't satisfied them, or has left much to be desired, has lost motivation. And when you see millions of people drudging away their lives in jobs that leave massive voids in people's happiness and spirituality, expecting responsibility in the workspace can seem utopian. How does the loss of motivation in our lives, stemming from the practical slavery we are put through for our lives, affect the responsibility we feel towards the world and ourselves?