On Personal Accountability…

Hello loyal fans. I have been disturbed, of late, by the general lack of what I would call “personal accountability” in our society. What I mean by “personal accountability” is, to some degree, what many would call “responsibility”. I choose not to use the term “responsibility” as I feel this implies some sort of social burden superimposed on people; I see “personal accountability” as something which comes from within. This is not to say that this personal accountability is not an imposed social construct, however “responsibility” seems to mandate external supervision, whereas “personal accountability” is managed from within. There comes a time when every person must “self regulate”, as it were; we, as a society, must learn not to abuse the personal freedoms we are so lucky to live with, lest we risk losing them. If we cannot manage ourselves, someone, or some entity, will inevitably rise and do so.

I think consideration of the nature of man is requisite in this discussion. Throughout the ages philosophers have debated the true nature of man. Thomas Hobbes argued, essentially, that man in inherently selfish and will make decisions to his personal benefit. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing in the 1700s, asserts that man is neither good nor evil by nature; instead, he argues that human malfeasance is a result of society itself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” In essence, it is society which destroys the good in man by robbing him of his individuality and his personal scruples. It is difficult to make a decision as to which theory is more correct, however I would argue that society’s influence over the individual cannot be underestimated. Few people break the mold of social expectations; those who do are cast out. But, I digress…

Why do we find such a dearth of personal accountability in society today? Is it a result of man’s nature? I contend that it is not. Nevertheless, no matter what one believes about the nature of man, it is clear that our society is failing to maintain an acceptable standard for behavior. I encourage you, my readers, to take the time out of your day to simply sit and observe what takes place in the world around you.

Why has it become acceptable for people to throw their trash on the ground when a trash can is a mere five feet away? Is it simply society failing to train good citizens? Can we blame parents? The schools? What happens inside a person that makes them think “gee, it sure would be great to just leave my mess here for someone else to deal with…”? Why is it that these same people then complain about the condition of their surroundings? Is it simply ignorance?

There is a simple lack of personal accountability. That part of the psyche which says “don’t do that…it is bad” seems to simply be shut off in contemporary America. There is a litany of instances of this lack of personal accountability. I look to such examples as the following:

– our failure to maintain our community (whether it be at home, locally, nationally, or globally)

– the deplorable manner in which we treat other humans (even our “friends”)

– the general acceptance of dishonesty within society

– our inability to give credit to others when credit is due

– our social predisposition towards apathy regarding the plight of others

– and I know it sounds plebeian, but simple things like traffic violations (even when nobody is around)

I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to try to improve our condition by working on your own personal accountability. By doing what is right, even when others are not there to ensure you do, you set an example for our society. The simple changes you make in your life can do nothing but inspire change in others as well.

Quote of the Day:

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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Published in: on April 26, 2007 at 10:03 pm  Comments (1)  

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