I also could have titled this "The Hypocrisy of Personal Responsibility". A few years ago I met a couple of right wingers in a certain setting. To protect the identities of these people I will no use their names or give clues to how we met. I was surprised to find out their views later. One was incredibly shocking to me. For the rest of this article I will be using the word "you" as a reference to this person as if I was speaking to him or her.
Here is a link to what one of those people emailed me about their political views and specifically about Personal Responsibility.
After thinking about it I realized the main thinking flaw in the thought process, which was RIGID thinking. No shared responsibility, no cooperation, no meeting half way, no talk on probabilities, no consideration of environment or internal or external conditions, most of the time the thinking was Black and White, All-Or-Nothing, i.e. inflexible and missing shades of gray.
"The basic underlying principle I have is that people are responsible for their own actions and choices". Well that's a good start but pretty simple minded. You mean to say our "choices" are completely independent of our external and "internal" conditions like genetic code and physiology and brain wiring and learned experience and environment a person grew up in?
"Rich or poor you are the only one responsible for your choices". What if your choices are bad and worse? Are people responsible for getting out of their economic slavery? You do not take into account how important your CONDITIONS are, and use the word "choice" in a very simple manipulative way. You had a tough life and were ABLE to work hard and make good choices. That's impressive and it's also something to be proud of. However it doesn't make you more deserving as a person.
"Nobody owes anyone anything". Well whatever. Who says? So then we should have no laws to enforce? You don't seem to realize how dependent you are on other people. It's not about "owing" it's about what works and doesn't, what helps the most people the most ways with the least cost. What is the best optimal practical way to run society.
"There are different kinds of people and some are better than others". People have different abilities, conditions and properties of course but no one is better or more deserving then another. See Why No One is Better then Anyone Else .
"The 4th kid chose to drink and do drugs". You mean to say this person simply said to himself, yeah I'd like to be hooked on drugs? No consideration of genetic pre-disposition causal factors or peer pressure, or dealing with not completely getting what he needed from his parents emotionally? And if this person had all this his or her brothers conditions you would of been able to choose "above" that? No, some very important conditions were different.
"Selfishly causing fear and pain for years. He died last year at the age of 49". Well too bad for him huh? I guess he deserved it. It's too bad he wasn't as good a person as you were.
"I worked hard, went to collage and have a good job. I have had more success than my older siblings. I have a higher standard of living than any of my siblings". No brag just fact ah. I knew you were better! And less lazy and more responsible too (as a person) I'm sure. No chance there were different conditions with how you were taught or what you and he believed and your environments. Did your parents treat everyone EXACTLY the same?
You believe that everyone is basically responsible for everything in their lives and should NOT be helped in any way. If that were true then we should have no government. And you know damn well you would suffer without government. What about the idea of shared responsibility?
"It is due to the choices each of us have made." I see and he just wanted to make bad choices (his choice) and you just wanted good choices. He was inferior and you were better.
"Nothing was handed to me". Apparently you were given some ability to make better choices, which you got for free. After all you didn't earn THAT and don't count that (which you got for free).
"I chose to have a better life". Well of course you did and everyone else just simply chose to make bad choices and suffer and/or die. You were ABLE to choose a better life, they didn't have the conditions for it.
There is a seed of truth to the fact some individuals who psychologically are brought up to not act in their best interest and feel sorry for themselves and become passive "victims" need to learn a more empowering way of thinking. But this is purely a psychological problem. REBT should be taught in schools to prevent irrational thinking. Learning to think rational is at least as important as English. This methodology cannot be used as an excuse to hurt people by saying feelings are completely up to the individual. Maybe you can be happy if your sick and poor but it's irrelevant. Quality of life still matters, circumstances still matter.
However how people affect society (societal responsibility or social responsibility) is part of "personal responsibility". That subset of "personal responsibility" (social responsibility) is what right winger authoritarian followers carefully carve out (filter out) of their responsibility list to avoid being held accountable.
"I deserve what I have because I earned it, I didn't win it, it wasn't handed to me, I wasn't lucky. I earned it. I made the choices I needed and I worked very hard. I shouldn't be forced to pay more in taxes to give money to the poor who chose not to better themselves and take the easy way". The easy way! How ignorant can you be? You were ABLE to make good choices. You deserve to get specific things for doing specific things but you are not more deserving as a person. But on the contrary if you won't allow the rich and giant corporations to pay their fair share of taxes then maybe you should be paying for that revenue lost instead.
However because you are only partially responsible for the massive global injustice and suffering the right wing causes and because you are being aggressively lied to and do not directly cause the suffering (indirectly yes). I will just say your lucky you are getting off Scott free with your sociopathy. You are partly responsible for the wars, emergency rooms, tax breaks for the rich and the corporate welfare which is sucking the life out of our country. Of course we can never prove you were at fault for any specific thing your leaders do. Your part of a collective that hurts people and there is no overtime or enough charity that you or your collective have to give to make up for that. Although your collective should.
The sick and poor are sick and poor primarily because of unfortunate circumstances with their genetic code and upbringing and then you make it worse for them and you try to reduce their safety nets and not give them what they need. Again your not taking RESPONSIBILITY for how you affect them even though you DO affect them indirectly.
They will most likely do much better with liberal more socialistic policies I think you know that and are afraid of that. People will more likely better themselves when they are healthy and have health care then with your draconian policies. Your family had it tough and you were the one who was able to rise above it. But the fact is the reason the rest of your family didn't do as well is has to do with the hardship they experienced and the lack of help they got. But you are under an illusion that you (being a better person) just "will powered" your way out of it without stopping to think of how mental and physical and environmental conditions for you were different then for them. Very dangerous this narrow thinking and the manipulation of the word "choice" is!
"My tax dollars should go to provide basic services a community needs. Fire protection, police, education, government, military". Education is the key. Not enough tax dollars go to education. Without your health care and your health (mental and physical), education is not going to help much. Normally I would agree with your statement but with this extreme thinking you have I want to ask Why? I thought no one owes anybody anything? I thought government was bad? Won't we have to tax people to get these things? Why do you think you have a right to tax anybody for anything? Why shouldn't you provide for these things independently of government or do you need help from other people? It's a simple choice and people should just be completely independent of any help from others right? Or would you be powerless and suffer without these basic programs? Maybe these are the minimum that YOU need but others might need more because they didn't get some essential psychological or physical or other important invisible intangible needs met that you did. Don't say everyone needs these things as if you care about others. If you cared about others you would not want to cut off government after your needs were met when others needs are still unfulfilled. If you were a person who acts RESPONSABLY you would not vote for people who distribute wealth to only the top few and not allow for even a small reasonable percentage of money to go from the rich and large corporations to used to create programs (not cash) for the sick and poor. If you cared about people you would also want there to be more government money spent on medical research and development for remedies and cures for physical and mental problems and spend much more money on improving the quality of life for all people! The country has the money but it's all trapped (I could also say stolen by in a way) by the top few. We could have a great society and minimize suffering and disability and invest in the middle class but you won't have any part of that! Shame on you!
Maybe you are mad because you could of used some help back then and think it's not fair for others to get something "for free" which you didn't... but actually you did get that important combination of conditions to get unstuck. Maybe you want others to toil and suffer like they did. How very sad and pathetic if this is true.
"Our current system rewards the poor choice makers". Yeah I agree, like George Bush! He and Cheney should be in jail. Eric Holder is not doing his job! But I digress.
You refuse to acknowledge that we all need things and we need other people to provide these things. And refuse to truthfully admit that you want government up to a certain point ... which selfishly and immorally filters out essential needs for those less fortunate (who obviously would choose out of their adversity/trapped-ness/pain if they had the sufficient conditions). And by the way your life has to be getting tougher as well. Even though you are relatively insulated, you wages have stagnated, and your cost of living has continued to increase. I have to assume either you are ignorant of that or insulated from that or even worse don't care because nothing is more important then getting in the way of helping the needy.
You use the phrase "Personal Responsibility" as a shield, red-ha ring, diversion to crap on society with your sociopathy without having to TAKE any RESPONIBILITY. You sure can dish out RESPONSIBILITY though.
These right wing authoritarian followers are using "Personal Responsibility", weather they know it or not as a diversion tool probably designed and created by their corporate masters, to keep our eyes off of what powerful are doing to our society. Right Wingers (like this person) use "Personal Responsibility" to justify being inhumane and uncompassionate. They end up with the illusion that it's OK to blame the victims and believe they bear no responsibility whatsoever. It's amazing how angry and self-righteous they act about the whole thing. Unfortunately you have been manipulated from day one and didn't learn the correct lesson after you escaped your adversity.
So that is why I say I could of titled this "The Hypocrisy of Personal Responsibility". While they vote for war mongers and fear mongers and liars and criminals who only want to help the powerful at the expense of everyone else they preach that the disadvantaged deserve to be where they are and suffer, and should take complete 100% total personal responsibility for their situation. A situation which if the person knew how to avoid or how to get out of, they obviously would. If a person is given what they basically need they will me likely behave better and be more productive. These right wing authoritarian followers like this person are ignorant of how unlikely it is to get out of a powerless situation because they drew the wrong conclusion. They are ignorant of all the incredible complicated multi-faceted difficulties people can have (especially mental illness combined with the physical). It always takes power to create more power and if you don't have enough to begin with then you will get stuck in a powerless catch 22.
One of the most important and basic ways to prevent this "stuckness" would be offering everyone affordable health care. The positive ripple effect would be dramatic (not to mention the money saved for healthier happier more productive, less sick people). Then education could help enormously, but only after health is achieved.
We can't have people tailor government by picking and choosing what they want because the laws have to apply to everybody and because of the variety of different needs people have. But we can optimize government to be efficient and create prosperity for all the people (instead of a select few). The powerful few at the top are trying to sell the people lies to push their power abuse agenda. First lie, government is bad, no, GOVERNMENT is GOOD and in fact GOVERNMENT is GREAT! Tax increases are always bad, NO, they are good because they generate revenue which increases the FLOW of money where as tax cuts especially for the rich do no good whatsoever. But I digress again.
What if this person didn't have enough money to go to school and an impairment that made difficult to learn? Any number of adversities can keep a person down and the fact that there are a few people who overcome incredible adversities (usually they are simple and extreme but not multifaceted and complicated) doesn't mean everyone else should. When someone on TV says "if I can do it, so can you", that's a lie. No your conditions are different! The fact is if you look with a microscope those people had something extra with their mind or belief systems or physical health or enough simplicity (they only have one isolated extreme problem instead of a complex nest) something that allowed them to overcome their adversity while if everyone else had "that" invisible condition they most likely would of succeeded also.
It matters what kind of probable outcomes you set up with laws and rules. It matters immensely whether you provide everyone with basic needs or just let it be survival of the luckiest. We know logically and factually that if we use our wealth to re-invest in the people that our society flourishes and, on the other side of that, if we allow the abundance of prosperity to be sucked up to top few, that the society will move toward despotism. Wealth distribution goes to quality of life, and in some cases quantity. What is more important then that?
You can say "it's a free country" to justify your draconian rules, but is it? Freedom is not an absolute. The poor are not "free" They supposedly live in a "free" country but are they really free? No, true freedom requires power which requires health and money. Freedom is relative. We live in a society and so we effect each other so their is no ABSOLUTE freedom.
This is also true with the word RESPONSIBILITY. Response-Ability. The ability to respond. It is also not an absolute and varies based on the knowledge, power and control the individual has,... particularly when it comes to affecting other people.
No one ever wants to make bad choices, no one ever wants to be sick and poor and disadvantaged and powerless either. People make bad choices of course but what does that have to do with anything? Of course they do, we are imperfect human beings! If we give people safety nets they often can rebound and be given a second chance. But the person I am writing this article around probably doesn't want to see others get a second chance. They like their draconian rules. They vote for power abuser sociopaths who set up conditions that will increase the probability that the unfortunate will continue to be trapped and stuck and not have the "minimum" for those who started off much less fortunate. Not to mention the extinction of the middle class. They vote for power abusers that are redistributing the money/wealth to the top few and leave the rest of us a tiny (getting even tinier) thin slice of the wealth pie to fight over for the rest of us.
I happen to believe it's fear that drives them. Insecurity over empowering others, fear of change, fear of losing power by giving others power, fear of the truth, fear of leaving their secure tunnel vision reality that their authoritarian leaders provide for them.
I say to this person, quit manipulating the word "choice" which hurts others and quit listening to your right wing authoritarian leaders. Take what they say and ask yourself, could the opposite be true? And finally, for Pete or God or the countries sake... learn the Golden Rule.
Born in Berwyn Ill, lived in Westmont Ill (a suburb of Chicago) for 12 years then we moved to Silverdale, WA and then to Bremerton Wa. Played Tennis from 16 to middle 20's. Worked as a computer programmer from 1985 - 2009, currently moving on to (more...)
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.