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Society and Individual Responsibility
Aug 30, 2002, 1:10a

Society and Individual Responsibility

So this is the deal: society today frowns on giving the individual responsibility. We are governed by a set of rules that limits the ability of any individual to make a choice, because we believe that the individual will make the wrong choice, for either himself, others, or both. For example, take traffic rules. Rules such as stopping at stop signs and not running red lights should be entirely optional. A cop should not have jurisdiction or the responsibility to enforce such rules; they should merely be considered as social "recommendations." "You are recommended to stop here, but you may proceed without stopping at your own risk." Sitting at a red light when no traffic is coming makes one feel like a fool and a cog. Why do we sit there, comfortable in our upholstered seats, staring at a red light waiting for the green when we can obviously see that there is no cross-traffic and that it is safe to cross? Because we are scared that we will get a ticket. Why are we scared that we will get a ticket? Because we are scared of what others may think when they find out that we got a ticket for running a red light. Because we will be ostracized by our peers, and considered an unsafe driver. Because we are scared that it will go on the infamous, anonymous "record" and that we will be scarred for life as if with a scarlet letter. Why do we respect the "record"? Why do we place such value in not even making a single mistake if we can help it?

Because society values its existence as a whole over the existence of individuals. Individuals are valued only so far as how they can contribute to the creation and maintenance of a society, and beyond that, all their individual needs must be satisfied on their own. We choose to restrict the choices that individuals can make because we don't believe that they will make the "right" choice, whatever that may be. As a result, we feel demeaned and stupid, sitting at a red light at 2am, waiting to cross as the city sleeps. In New York they apparently run red lights en masse, even in the presence of cops, but I've never experienced this directly so I don't know for sure. In any case, it is time for individuals to take responsibility for their own actions, and for society to risk losing a few more individuals for the sake of maintaining individual identity. And without individual identity, the individual will no longer wish to be a part of a society that treats him like a suckling child.

How can you expect to have any self-respect if you work everyday in a job where you don't make decisions, but decisions are made for you by a few words in a manual? Where people value not what you believe and say, but what happens to be written? I guess talk is cheap, but who's to say that writing isn't? When employers watch their employees with video cameras, when employers cannot even trust their employees to not steal from a cash register that they are operating, something must be wrong. Either the employee isn't getting paid enough to work, or the job shouldn't exist in the first place. By not showing trust, you're only asking for an even more disgruntled worker to rob you.

And look at the options that an individual has in society today. You have two basic options. Option One: Spend your life in school educating yourself for a job that you don't really want to buy the stuff you don't really need to pass the time until you retire to pass the time until you die. Uh-huh. Tell that to a kid when they're growing up, and they'll call you crazy. And we think the people who opt-out, such as homeless people, constitute society's insane. But wait, there is hope. Option Two: Understanding this sad fate, you instead sue a large corporation, such as McDonald's, for causing your child to be fat or for causing your own heart disease. You threaten to file a class-action lawsuit that will rival the Big Tobacco suit, costing McDonald's billions of dollars if you win or millions in lawyer fees if you don't. But you also give them the option to settle quietly out of court for an undisclosed sum worth several million. Being a financially-focused business, McDonald's will of course choose to settle. In effect, by threatening to sue and destroy McDonald's reputation, you have earned yourself a living that, if well-managed, could last you a lifetime. And you feel little guilt because McDonald's is not your neighbor whom you see everyday but some faceless corporation consisting of thousands of employees that would rather work elsewhere. Even though what you've done amounts to extortion, blackmail. And McDonald's has chosen business over ethics, without missing a beat.

If you're smart, you choose option two. If you're ethical, you choose option one. If you're smart and ethical, you choose a third option, yet to be conceived. But right now, option two seems like the definite way to go. In fact, society recommends it, because of course your child's obesity or your heart disease could not have been in any way under your control as your responsibility, because you, the consumer, are not to be trusted with something as important as RESPONSIBILITY. Who knows, you just might hurt someone.

And thus, we have a cycle of lack of responsibility that is self-perpetuating. Society doesn't think we can take care of ourselves, we begin to believe this, and then we act on it to benefit ourselves. Because we really can take care of ourselves, no matter what restrictions society places on us. Our most recent outlet has been litigation; in fact, if you want to get a safe job today, become a lawyer. Just don't expect to succeed if you actually have morals and care about the cases you fight. Just be a shrewd businessman. And don't feel bad when you do the "wrong" thing, knowing full well that the "right" thing is going to cost you. After all, you can work for the plaintiff for free; just be sure to ask for a 30% cut of whatever McDonald's gives them.

Why do we make a society where doing the "right" thing is expensive? Who designed this damn thing anyway? It's design by committee, and hence the design sucks.

Read comments (3) - Comment

Paul - May 23, 2012, 9:19p
Society makes doing the right thing very dangerous!!!!!!


michael - Nov 7, 2012, 5:20p
everyone should be responsible for what they are doing


*Anonymous* - Apr 21, 2014, 8:28p
Just because this is happening doesn't mean we can't change it. There is no society when everybody is selfish. A society is made because we're supposed to share our ideas. My opinion. NO offense made. *Bow*


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