Some may think there is no need to read about, discuss anything or examine the subject as a matter of interest. Everyone knows what responsibility is, and the unpleasant feelings it evokes. The attempts to avoid responsibility are far more entertaining than the topic itself. To be carefree is the goal, not to be held back, tied down or burdened by whatever it may be or whatever has or needs to be done.
The definition, choosing not only one but three, gives enough food for thought to start with. The good thing is, it is not all bad news. In fact, it can be looked at it in the same way as the famous ‘half glass full, or half glass empty’ approach to life. Unfortunately, no matter how we view it and how we deal with it, it is inevitable that it will demand, and should deservedly so have our attention.
So let us start with the definitions:
Responsibility is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over something. Well, there is no big desire for duty, but having control does not sound so bad, isn’t it?
Responsibility is the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something. There is not much pleasure in these prospects, but we all love to show off, and accountability guarantees our achievements will not go unnoticed. However, nobody ever wants to feel guilty, nor indeed being guilty. Prisons are full of “innocent” criminals.
Responsibility is the state or fact of being answerable or accountable for something within one’s power, control or management. That does not sound depressing at all because there is a great deal of status to be had and that is much desired by any individual. The downside is unfortunately that power tests the best of us and certainly corrupts the tempted but, it is good to know that at least in the democratic constitutions the ones in power have to answer when questions are asked.
Though the majority of people do not strive to be in powerful positions, it is easily overlooked that a person who has taken responsibility for his actions is in control and powerful in his own right. However, responsibility is something that no individual can disregard, discard or neglect as much as they would like and try to do. It is after all a necessity for our personal, communal and, global existence.
It was not an elementary force needed or crucial in the evolutionary beginnings of life. Nature guarded the early life-forms far more reliably than our sense of responsibility could. Our responsibility nevertheless developed from the humble beginnings of strategies expanding to mechanisms and associated functions to improve and secure the chances of survival of the evolving complex life-forms. They gained an ever increasing importance culminating in the significant role it has to fulfil now. Without it, Homo Sapiens’ will not survive no matter how intelligent he may be.
The earliest sign of responsibility as a tool of survival strategy was the care for the offspring so they would have the best chance. One may argue that this is due to instinct. Mind you, instinct is a mechanism and of course it secured the life of the species and its development. Seen as the responsible tool for life’s existence and its survival it is as good as care, conceptualized as biological intelligence, and responsibility is already an inherent part of it. The emergence of intelligence and its functions is evolution and is no surprise indeed. Neither is it an accident or just a lucky incident. It simply is a logical consequence, marked by the way how procreation was managed. No longer just laying eggs and leave them to Mother Nature for nurture. No longer just instinct to carry on life. Responsibility would arise as the prerequisite for the elaborate care for the young as we find it in the parental responsibility of humans. Some raise their young better than others. Instinct is not the primary insurance for appropriate care. To take care however is crucial but only the responsible will do so exquisitely.
The next step for diversifying life was the formation of families, groups, herds, tribes, you name it. It required care for the next akin. Of course it did not come for free. Roles within the group with various degrees of responsibilities would develop to maintain the functioning of the group as a whole.
Many different models of community living developed. One needs only to look at other animal’s strategies to realize how successful they have been in their own right. Though some of these communities are very peaceful creatures any of them have the potential to overrun the other or to take over all habitat. It is due to nature’s regulatory system to maintain a balance. Enemies of the species keep the numbers in check. Humans are of course the most aggressive and having no natural enemy any longer they can go berserk and that is exactly what they do.
Responsibility as sublime as we know it is a product or a function of the mind. It evolved with intelligence in the growing brain. As intellect has not reached its final climax, and there is no doubt it would continue to grow given a suitable environment, neither has responsibility been established as the solid tool of survival that it actually is. To be firmly anchored in the human’s brain it needs to be practiced constantly so the fluid neurological circuitry can be hard wired. Only then will responsibility be an individual’s habitual concept to preserve his and all life.
At present there is ‘unfinished business’ in the boardroom of the executive brain. The human race is at a critical phase. There is no exception for anyone. Every single person has to take responsibility for his action, his life. There is no excuse for saying it cannot be done. It can and it must be done. Even the most simple minded, except the mentally incapable, can be taught to be responsible in as much of capacity he may have. Every “good” (responsible), person has to stand up, speak out and teach the irresponsible ones.
Tolerance is a much misunderstood word. It does not mean to turn a blind eye to abuse, be it children, people, animals or the environment. It does not justify to turn the back on destruction of nature and depletion of earth’s resources. If the “bad”(irresponsible), are allowed to do as they please because nobody limits their activities the bad will spread like the cancer in a human’s body. In fact, planet earth is riddled with cancer. But the culprit is not a virus or any other organism, it is man all by himself. He is the cancer. Cancer does not stop by itself if left to itself. It will claim the life it has befallen.
There is of course no way to get rid of the “bad” once and for all. Neither can humans get rid of disease. We have to live with both, but as good as we try to keep fit to prevent falling sick, as necessary is it to prevent the bad to take control. This is no call for weapons and battle against our neighbors who do not do as they should or do something we don’t approve of. This is not a call for battle of the righteous, but a clarification of what it means to be assertive, not negligent.
It probably is easier to give an example or two to demonstrate the meaning of misguided tolerance and sanctioned avoidance of responsibility:
It happened to me that a man abused and threatened me one day being on the beach. None of the people around me with children in their care would tell the man to mind his language. No matter that they did not know what it was all about, the fact alone that he shouted loudly the f and c words and threatened violence to me who was absolutely ‘well behaved,’ should have been enough to shut him up if it was only for the children’s sake who were not only witness of his vile behavior, but sadly also their parent’s example of “tolerance” or “minding your own business” attitude. These parents taught the young that it is okay to be abusive and violent. This is not tolerance but negligence and irresponsible teaching of the next generation.
Or what does it tell about a public service, government and politicians, who try to retrieve from an employee money that was earned rightfully, under the claim he was overpaid by mistake? That was not the case. The fact was that the administration of that service employed the person without approval of their superior. One would expect that the service was the one to face the consequences not the person who worked diligently, unaware of the service’s blunder.
People tend to delegate responsibilities to others, in particular to governments and organizations. You better don’t. It is neither reasonable nor advisable. The roots for this behavior of course lie in our evolutionary past.
It was in the nature of the herding beast to follow the leader. His position was gained by his strengths but was also constantly challenged by his rivals. Only the strongest was trustworthy, which was effective indeed. But humans are no longer embedded in nature where these conditions apply. Though man is still a beast. This “half being here, half there” is his current struggle. If he cannot make the next evolutionary step, meaning, to reconnect with nature with a far more expanded intelligent mind than the level of a beast, he is doomed to vanish. To integrate responsibility in all his actions and decision making is that step. It is not a leadership business, it is everyone’s business.
Education of course has become a very important tool too. Ignorant people don’t usually have a say in anything important and would not know what to say if asked. To keep folks uneducated suits the rulers, --like lemmings they follow the leader jumping over the cliff into their death if he does. Ignorant humans do so just by order. The ruler does not necessarily join them in their fate.
However, education can also be a much misused tool. Indoctrination and manipulation, both provide an explanation how the critical mind is gagged. And the leash to keep folks compliant is fear. Fear to have no work, no food, and no shelter, essential fears which in fact were in the first place the reasons why herds and social groups would form. It is also a reason why humans still want to have a strong leader. They become anxious if not disoriented as herds would was an incapable leader in charge. Of course, there will always be the meek and the weak who will do better in the safety of the crowd, but the times of reliable leadership are gone. Survival is now a communal effort. May be some people can truly not see what the modern leaders are up to, cutting off the branch their flock sits on that is. Fortunately many have become aware of the detrimental mistakes being made. And hopefully there are enough “good ones” that can bring the balance to scale.
But then again, the odds are that change may never eventuate considering the facts of reality.
One problem is that evolution is a slow process. Why not! There is an eternity out there, no need to rush. In the scale of things the dominance of humans has been a rushed event and its aggressive nature is self-limiting.
Since humans have outsmarted all other creatures they have only themselves left to conquer. This is accomplished as well. Have a look at the arsenal of weapons available. They can wipe out all, and everything else, not only once but many times over. Logical? No, it isn’t! Actually, it is a tragedy that humans have evolutionary speaking come such a long way in such a short time only to self-destruct after all. Just imagine the possibilities if the intelligent mind could expand and prosper instead!
No intelligence of man so far has been utilized to curb his insatiable hunger for dominance, gluttony and territorial claims. He uses his intelligence to expand his power not care which is desperately needed. He would truly be capable of that as well.
There is nothing to say about responsibility? There would be plenty more, but it is enough to emphasize the point that there is no time for complacency. It may always remain a balancing act, sometimes swaying this side then the other as far as responsibility goes or anything else in nature, but if the balance is way out of control, action is a must. May be it is plain curiosity to see how far humans could evolve. May be it is the sheer beauty of creation and the wonders of it that it seems worthwhile to give life on planet earth the care it deserves. However, nature will have after all the final say. In the end all life belongs to her.