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Responsibility

Posted by on Dec. 10, 2012 at 5:10 AM
  • 50 Replies

More philosophy than a hot topic, but I've seen it come up as a key divisive issue in several posts recently.

Nobody can make you feel anything.  You are responsible for your own reactions to what they do.  So nothing should be considered offensive.

If someone abuses you and you stay, then you are responsible for what happens next.

If you walk alone at night in a shady neighbourhood wearing a short skirt, despite thinking that increases your chances of being raped, then you are the sole one responsible for the consequences of your own actions.

If a 4 year old shoots a 2 year old with a gun left out by a parent, that's the fault of the parent, not the fault of the gun, or a culture that encourages keeping guns at home for self-defence.

If someone has an opportunity to get a higher education by going massively into debt, and doesn't take that opportunity, they are responsible for ending up a truck driver instead of a high paid lawyer, and have no claim on the income of that lawyer, even if lawyers, on average, get a better start and more financial aid from their parents than, on average, the people who ended up as truck drivers.

If someone is raised in a neighbourhood with high crime, high single parenthood, high drugs, low income, poor schools, etc. then they are still, when they reach the age of 18, just as responsible for their actions as any other adult AND THEREFORE none of those factors are in any way to blame for the outcome of that person's life, and they are not worth fixing since they don't cause problems.

If someone is foolish enough to go into a cult, go to a loan shark, get addicted to drugs, take out a mortgage they can't afford to pay back, or anything else that a sensible well informed person wouldn't do, then they are solely responsible for the consequences and government should avoid sticking its nose into people's affairs by trying to ban the sale or promotion of such activities.


What do you think about responsibility?   What is it?   Who should take it, when and for what?  What are the implications of one person taking responsibility for an action, when other people also helped cause it or could have prevented it, or intentionally tried to put the person in a situation with few options?   If someone smarter than you tricks you, do they bear no responsibility?  Should society reward that?

by on Dec. 10, 2012 at 5:10 AM
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JonJon
by Ruby Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 5:46 AM
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Why should I treat your opinion as if it is more valid or more authoratative than mine as far as Americans are concerned, which differs from yours regarding most of the items you listed?

I will be responsible for my actions and won't entertain your usually offensive, low or negative opinions of Americans.

I will ask you a question about which I acknowledge you as an irrefutable expert:  what's the word for a Brit who despises Americans who goes on American sites to prove how inferior we are?  American...ist?


momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:37 AM
4 moms liked this

 I see a lot of the kind of thinking you describe.  Underlying it is the assumption that if good things happen to you, you must be a moral person and deserve them.  Even if the chief good thing that happened to you was to be born in an upscale household and to be lucky enough to have genetics giving you good health and a decent IQ, both matters over which you had no control.  Beneath it all (IMO) is the fear that we may have no ability to control what happens to us in a random universe. 

However, I do believe that most adults have the ability at some point to attempt an objective look at their lives and see how their own behavior contributes to their outcomes.  Sometimes you need help to do this from a therapist or a friend or a book, and changing behavior patterns is never easy or a panacea.  

As for a person taking responsibility for an action caused partly by others, I see that as a social code, the way we expect a good leader to act.  It's a way for one person to absorb shame for the failure of many.  Nobody likes shame, so this kind of action actually generates good feelings towards the leader and minimizes the consequences that should follow the failure.   (Drives me a little crazy and is part of why many of the people who were most responsible for the financial meltdown are still in positions of power and influence.)

andiemomo3
by Andie on Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:49 AM

Good questions . . .

I'm marking my place.  If I don't get in the shower now, I will be late waking the children who will then be rushed and late for school which will make me grumpy and bitchy and them whiney and sad.

Hmmmmm . . . . .

romalove
by Roma on Dec. 10, 2012 at 7:01 AM
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I see a mishmash of responsibilities in the issues you cite.  

We don't always have the ability to control how we feel (or even most of the time).  We feel how we do, and oftentimes have visceral reactions to things.  It's not how we feel that's responsibility but how we behave in reaction to how we feel that we bear responsibility in.

Posting deliberately hurtful things is something we each of us have to own, and that would be our responsibility.  There are "gray" areas though, because we often post things not thinking someone else will get hurt or offended and they do.  And sometimes they feel that way and it's got no bearing in reality.

Many of your examples are complicated.  On the sheer face of it, if you go into a cult or borrow for a house you can't afford, then yes, that's your responsibility.  However, there often are extenuating circumstances, like if you've been abused at home for years you may not have the ability to make rational decisions or see a cult for what it is.  Maybe you bought the house when you could afford it and now you've been laid off. 

There are no simple one size fits all answers to laying responsibility.

lancet98
by Silver Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM
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Quoting Clairwil:

More philosophy than a hot topic, but I've seen it come up as a key divisive issue in several posts recently.

Nobody can make you feel anything.  You are responsible for your own reactions to what they do.  So nothing should be considered offensive.

I don't totally agree with the above.   I think it is true in limited circumstances.   When people have hysterics over minor offences and unintentional slights and simple usual day to day irritations and normal frustrations, I think they should at some point realize that they are having hysterics over very, very little provocation.   They need to understand that their reaction is indeed within their own control.

Like the lady who complained when she got served a hamburger at MacDonalds, yes, there is a point at which one does have to put up with a MacDonald's serving hamburgers.   A lot of whining comes under the heading of ordering a hamburger and complaining when your order turns out to be a haumburger.

On the other hand, when someone is really treated abusively I don't think that is legitimately blamed on the victim.  

 It can, in some circumstances be empowering to someone who is a victim, but I think it needs to be mixed with common sense and some empathy.  Most people, if they are ever going to move past being hurt, need at least  a little empathy.  It's not appropriate to get all lectury with someone when they're in crisis.  

And for some would-be advisors, they have so little sense of timing or empathy that they are better off just S'tingTFU.   The trouble is that most of their 'no one can make you feel bad' ACTUALLY is 'my problems are bigger than yours', and not any real message to move on at all.

But the plain fact is this: people who have troubles are the only ones who can get to the 'only you can make you feel bad'.   They can't be berated into it.   There's a natural evolutioin in grief and getting better and the person really has to do it themselves.   If they're having trouble moving on they may be better off with a counselor rather than some high and mighty lecturer.

As an example a friend was s. abused as a youngster, for years, by her father, and got pelvic inflammatory disease due to being molested and could not have children.   She got a lot of sympathy from people.   And finally after years of just being angry and having outbursts over it, she started to feel that she had to kind of pick herself up and go past the experience, and not let it turn her entire life into a misery.

But people have to get to that point THEMSELVES.   No one can guilt or lecture them into that.   They have to evolve to that.


 

If someone abuses you and you stay, then you are responsible for what happens next.

This one is lame.   It ignores the whole grooming and manipulation process abusers go through.   I watched my friend go through it.   She stayed in an abusive relationship for years.  The guy started out looking like a nice guy, but after a couple years the whole process kicked into high gear, and it got to a point where she was not allowed to look out the car window when they were driving somewhere because she was 'flirting with men'.   She had to keep her head bowed painfully low the whole time they were in the car - if she so much as

And the key is this.   Abusers know who to pick.  And they know how to manipulate people.

It's basically a process of brain washing, psychological manipulation.  

Most people who have dealt with adult abuse victims REALIZE how unbelievably difficult it is to get some of them (note I said some - others have little diffficulty leaving) out of there.  

Additionally, you will hear the same logic used to trash rape victims and victims of child abuse.   The whole suggestion that everyone can just easily and simply jump up and walk away from any sort of abusive behavior is - stupid.   Stupid and naive. 

If you walk alone at night in a shady neighbourhood wearing a short skirt, despite thinking that increases your chances of being raped, then you are the sole one responsible for the consequences of your own actions.

This one is quite easily the prize winner for the stupidest statement of the century.   It isn't even backed up by the law.   I certainly don't endorse it.   I don't care if a woman is butt naked - that doesn't give someone the right to attack her or make her to blame if someone does.

Fact is, what is 'revealng' is no absolute, and varies from one group to another, even just in the USA. 

No, not on board with this one.   Men are still human beings and they are expected, both by society and the law, to not attack and rape any woman who's dressed a bit scantily.   The same goes for unconscious women in a hospital or nursing home, for disabled women who can't fight back, and for women who are considered 'loose'.   Sorry dude, rape is rape.

If a 4 year old shoots a 2 year old with a gun left out by a parent, that's the fault of the parent, not the fault of the gun, or a culture that encourages keeping guns at home for self-defence.

In general, this makes sense to me.   The owner of the gun is both legally and socially responsible for securing it from children, for getting the legally required permits and licencing and training, and for being informed about how children can accidentally gain access to weapons.   If he can spend money on a gun he can also spend money on a gun lock, cabinent with a lock and key or whatever means are necessary in the situation. 

The leader of the household also has some responsibility to inform any gun owner in the household that s/he has certain responsibilities to secure his/her weapon.   And to remove people from the house if they are irresponsible with their weapons.

If someone has an opportunity to get a higher education by going massively into debt, and doesn't take that opportunity, they are responsible for ending up a truck driver instead of a high paid lawyer, and have no claim on the income of that lawyer, even if lawyers, on average, get a better start and more financial aid from their parents than, on average, the people who ended up as truck drivers.

This statement isn't based in fact.   MOST law students get financial aid from sources other than their parents.  In many cases, the financial aid comes from the school itself (through various sources). 

Keep in mind though, that most of that 'free tuition' is given to young people who worked their a**** off getting a 4 year degree BEFORE they went for the law degree, and a LOT of student financial aid programs DO NOT apply to a second degree. 

Sure, some kids come from rich families and their parents foot the entire bill.

So what?   Many of them have extensive financial obligations to their parents because of that.   They'll be expected to work in dad's firm or business, and not always for the going rate - they may be expected to help dad's business rather than follow a more practical career path.   Having wealthy parents can be cool, but it can also come with an awful lot of restrictions and obligations, financial and otherwise.

And up til recently, many of them could expect to get quite a good job on graduation and to pay back their student loans quite quickly.   That's no longer true - law firms like all businesses are tightening their belts, lowering the salary of entry level lawyers and a law degree is no longer that guarantee of success.

However, speaking to the general idea.   An expensive college education isn't possible for some people.   OThers find a way, that's good.   I see no reason to automatically judge someone for not getting an education.  I look at it as an indivdual matter.

Not getting an education MIGHT be a part of a pattern of laziness and poor initiative.   It MIGHT be a sign that the person doesn't have the ability to delay gratification and show up day after day and work hard without having someone leaning over his shoulder every second, but it also might be a sign their dad got injured at work and they had to immediately get a job, or that they had a bad start in grade school or a learning disability and struggled with the subjects.

Too, it just isn't  a part of some people's home life, to be taught they COULD be a lawyer or doctor.  Some people are given the message early on that they are 'stupid' and 'can't do nothin'', or that their family always goes to work in a factory or dad's business, and that's the end of that.

SURE some will break out of that.   So what?   It takes a pretty small mind to judge the others.

If someone is raised in a neighbourhood with high crime, high single parenthood, high drugs, low income, poor schools, etc. then they are still, when they reach the age of 18, just as responsible for their actions as any other adult AND THEREFORE none of those factors are in any way to blame for the outcome of that person's life, and they are not worth fixing since they don't cause problems.

Ok so that's really stupid.  

If someone is foolish enough to go into a cult, go to a loan shark, get addicted to drugs, take out a mortgage they can't afford to pay back, or anything else that a sensible well informed person wouldn't do, then they are solely responsible for the consequences and government should avoid sticking its nose into people's affairs by trying to ban the sale or promotion of such activities.

 Too bad, the government already controls loans, defines some drugs as illegal, and strictly regulates the practice of mortaging homes.

What do you think about responsibility?   What is it?  

It certainly isn't as stupid or simple as most of the examples above.

Responsibility is complex - it just isn't that simple.  Each person bears some responsibility for their actions, but so do the structures and organizations and other individuals in society. 

In many situations, the individual bears the responsibility for a given action not because others aren't involved, but because the only way society can keep going is if the individual is the 'buck stops here' guy in that situation.

So for example, a person drinks, drives and hits and kills someone and flees the scene (maybe not even realizing he hit and killed someone).

He may be drinking due to the pain of a war wound that he got in some heroic act.   He may be drinking to quell the symptoms of a mental illness that has impaired his judgement and reasoning to a point where he does not seek out treatment.   He may come from a long line of alcoholics who have eventually become so addicted to alcohol that they could not quit, and were too impaired in judgement to seek help.  He may have been grieving over the son who just died, or the wife who no longer cares for him.

And I think it is possible to UNDERSTAND how these things happened and to not get all high and mighty and diss the person, and to perhaps, somewhat sadly and regretfully, serve on the jury who sentences the guy to depraved indifference, manslaughter or even murder, without shirking one's own responsibility to uphold the law.

But it may also lead us to forgive, to give second chances, to vote for programs that recognize and diagnose and treat mental illness in a person that's too impaired to seek out help himself, to take away the car keys of that drunk at the party, to call the police when we see a car weaving, so the driver might be stopped BEFORE he gets in an accident, to see a loose dog running and tempt him with a biscuit and catch him and go scold the owner, instead of watching the dog run into the street and get hit and killed.

We are in no way RESPONSIBLE if a dog owner lets his dog loose, or if a drunk guy wants to drive his car home, those are mistakes that individual made.

But our actions, as civilized people, show that we believe ourselves to be part of a greater whole.

So we don't sit back and shrug when another employee gets his fingers in the cash drawer that Joe so forgetfully left unlocked.   And we do call CPS if we hear a child crying in pain from a beating next door, and we do talk to Jim's mom if he seems angry and silent and depressed at school.   We do these things not because they are our 'responsibility' - clearly these things are the fault of someone else.

But if we posess the grace, the dignity and the humanity, we don't see everything as cowboys and Indians, white hats and black hats.   We see ourselves as part of a greater whole.

In other words, only morally undeveloped persons sit back and say, 'it's his fault, not my job', only they start dissecting a situation to prove how their inaction was justified.

Who should take it, when and for what? 

Responsibility has to be judged on a case by case basis.   There just is no one simple answer like you are asking for. 

What are the implications of one person taking responsibility for an action, when other people also helped cause it or could have prevented it, or intentionally tried to put the person in a situation with few options?  

Again, each individual is part of a greater whole, so that responsibility is nowhere near so simple.   It is complex - shared, dovetailing, changing from one situation to another.

As an example, we were walking home one night and we saw a woman driving a car.   She was completely drunk.  All 4 times on the car were completely destroyed, and she was driving on 4 rims, and sparks and even a little flame were coming up off the road.   She stopped and asked us for directions and it was obvious she was completely plastered.

We could have shrugged and walked on home and talked about how 'stupid' she was and how she deserved it if she got arrested.  Sure, she 'deserved whatever she got' if she caused an accident and killed someone.

But the fact was, we had an opportunity to stop an accident and other innocent people from getting killed.   That was before cell phones - we ran to our apartment and called the police, gave a very thorough description of the car and its location.

We never heard what happened, or didn't happen.   But we acted as a part of a greater organization.   We acted for the safety of others.   We did not saunter back home, we ran. 

Sure, stopping the lady could result in just one more traffic citation and her back out on the road.   But maybe not.   I would not take the chance that someone's child would be killed by her in a car accident.

one smarter than you tricks you, do they bear no responsibility? 

I don't know what sort of 'tricking' you have in mind.   Let's say you're at home and some gentlemen come to your door and offer to seal your driveway.  You agree and pay more than the going rate.   The first day it rains, the 'sealer' turns brown and runs off the driveway, leaving your driveway just as it was before treamtent.

Sure.   They committed a crime and they may be prosecuted.  But you also played a part and bear a secondary responsiblity.   You didn't check around and find out that they were going through the neighborhood and had already scammed twelve other families.   You forgot to pay only part of the fee and then check out the job afterwards before paying the rest.   You didn't check them out on Angie's list or with the BBB.   

Maybe you were in a bad state due to the death of a family member, or rushing off to work a third job just to pay the bills.  Or perhaps you have undiagnosed Alzheimers and have become overly trusting and naive about such things.   Well, the money is still gone, and you may never get it back.

It's like the guy who was told by the holy man that we're all one and god is love, so he stands in the street when a charging elephant goes crazy, and gets all trampled and busted to pieces.   Finally he goes back to the holy man and says, 'you're full of ****.   We're not all one and god is not love or I wouldn't have gotten trampled by the elephant'.

'Sure God is love, says the holy man, but why the hell didn't you get out of the way of the elephant?'

Should society reward that?

Society doesn't really reward the trickster.   But it also doesn't really reward the fool.

rfurlongg
by on Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:15 AM
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MomTiara19
by Bronze Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:18 AM
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Yes I do believe we all have a responsibility for our own actions.Yet I also believe we have a responsibility to our fellow man.

I understand your point about being responsible and putting your big girl panties on.I do however feel when we start having no compassion for others.Look away from a person who is being victimized and blame the victim....that is more than irresponsible...it is inhumane.

I believe responsibility also means caring for others not just yourself.

 

 

 

btamilee
by Silver Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:37 AM

I think we all should take personal responsibility.  There is a fine line when it comes to exactly how far one is willing to go to take on someone else's responsibility.  I honestly feel that there are many times when some (not all), tend to lack personal responsibility.  It often seems easier to make excuses, or blame others for our own mistakes or misfortune.  One prime example is the woman who put the hot coffee between her legs while driving her car...then felt it was the responsibility of McDonald's to pay for her burns and pain and suffering when she spilled the hot coffee.  To me....she lacked personal responsibility.  I think in today's society it is often okay to expect others to take on responsibilities that are not necessarily theirs.  I feel that if more people made the choice to be more responsible for their own lives, perhaps....things might improve in this country.

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:49 AM
1 mom liked this
Quoting MomTiara19:

I understand your point about being responsible and putting your big girl panties on.

The quotes and paraphrases in the OP are arguments and attitudes I've seen on CafeMom that touch on this issue, not necessarily positions I myself agree with.

Woodbabe
by Woodie on Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:56 AM
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Without picking it apart, I understand the point you're trying to make. We seem to value 'victimhood status' and unfortunately that takes away from the real victims who are out there. If a person can claim to be a victim, then they abdicate their own responsibility in their decisions and shouldn't be made to feel badly for their lot in life. I'm dealing with this with my own brother right now, who is wearing his 'victim status' like a crown and somehow truly believes that it means I should be supporting him and digging him out of his hole he's fallen in. Sorry...30 years of your own choices can't be fixed by anyone else.

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