October 19, 2005

Our Responsibility

I often find my self pondering exactly what has gone wrong with our society - why are there so many lawsuits, injustices, people who seem to have just lost their freaking minds? I think I've found a piece, however small, of the puzzle:

By MICHAEL COREN for the Toronto Sun

"When British police arrested a highly dangerous terrorist suspect last month, they acted with professionalism and, considering the circumstances, extreme courtesy. "Mohammed," they shouted, "Take your clothes off! Come out with your hands on your head and you will be all right." He argued with them for some time, demanding to know why he should strip down to his underpants. When he was told the obvious -- that he was thought to be a potential suicide bomber -- he still argued and refused to move. Eventually the police had to bring the man out by force and he was taken away. But his first response to the police was so deliciously relevant. He shouted it from the balcony. "I have rights," he screamed. "I have rights."

There we have it. Rights. Even for a man who is suspected of trying to murder innocent people and create panic and terror.

The mass of our social difficulties, the majority of our seemingly insoluble problems, arise from the fact that in the Western world we have engineered a rights-based society rather than a responsibility-based one.

The social contract between the governed and the government, between authority and citizenry, has become degraded and unbalanced. Instead of asking what our duty or responsibility might be in any given situation, we demand to know what are our privileges and rights.

At its most obvious there is the usual list of standard demands: the right to marry whomever you want, the right to be ordained a priest when you don't qualify, the right to claim welfare even if it isn't deserved, the right to have sex with anyone and everyone, the right to die, the right to be wrong. The list goes on: The right to swear, the right to defy righteous authority, the right to be publicly uncouth, the right to insult a cop, the right to hide behind any excuse to escape punishment, the right to never fail, never lose, never have one's self-esteem challenged, the right to be wrong.

Recently our Supreme Court was called upon to judge a man who on the Internet had been selling instructional guides on how to make bombs, break into houses and commit credit card fraud. The judges decided that he had the "right" to do this because they did not assume he had the "responsibility" to read the contents of the material before he marketed it.

Nor is this fetish of rights-worship in any way consistent. A 14-year-old girl, for example, has the right to be given the contraceptive pill by her family doctor, but that same doctor has no right to inform the parents of the girl.

The concept of responsibility is entirely removed from the equation. Individual rights, even for a child, supercede the role of family and medical responsibility. The same applies to self-defense. We've all heard stories of people like the corner store owner who grew tired of repeated burglaries at his business, who fights back against the criminals with, say, a baseball bat.

In such cases, chances are it's the owners who will be charged. Too often, the rights of thieves outweigh the rights -- and responsibilities -- of citizens to protect their own property and livelihoods.

Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was supposed to liberate the people of this great nation. What was not noticed was that Canadians were already free. Today, the Charter appears a mere symptom of a deeper dysfunction.

To paraphrase former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, ask not what are your rights in Canada but what are your responsibilities to Canada."


I was taught the value of responsibility as I grew up. I had to work for my money, and earn the things I got, and I was held responsible from my actions. Accountabililty was a prominent part of the equation and it made me a better person.

This is an issue that I intend to continue to explore and that I will keep in mind when raising my child. He, too, will learn the value of earning what you receive, accountability for his actions and the merits of responsiblity. This I have control over.

So much of it is in how we raise our children. The tough lessons are the ones that build character - you can't cushion them from these or they won't be prepared to live a responsible and realistic life in the real world...and a cruel world it is. They need to be given the tools to handle it. It won't be easy, but it has to happen.

What I don't know is how does society as a whole learn from what's gone wrong and change directions to make it right? How do we set the fire - the catalyst for change? Do we really have to do it one person at a time?

"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy

We didn't listen. We, as citizens of the United States and the World, need to "ask" now, before the cloud of "rights" chokes us into oblivion.


  1. I've come to see this in the US a long time ago. To put it simply, people are confusing rights with priviledges. For example, it is a priviledge to have a driver's license and operate a vehicle. A priviledge that can be recinded if you abuse it. It is not a right. Not everyone should have a drivers license.

    The problem is that once a priviledge is granted, it becomes assumed it is a right.

    And as you also mentioned, personal responsibility is gone. Nothing is ever anyone's fault. Whatever happened to saying "I fucked up and will take the consequences of my actions." Or better yet, stepping forward and taking action, then be willing to suffer the repurcussions of those actions open eyed.

    As a former Naval Officer, I was taught you can delegate authority but not responsibility. I've lived my life not being afraid to take resonsibility for both my own actions and the actions of those that I am responsible for. And I've seldom been burned.

  2. OOOO, that was a great article!!

    Hiya sweetie! Sorry I haven't been by in a few days, but I'm now caught up. Sorry you were feeling miserable, hope you're feeling better today!!

    Lotsa hugs and smooches, babe!!


  3. First of all, I'm really glad you're feeling better, Celti!

    A provocative article, for sure, and I might say that I agree with it... but only to a point. There are some couched insinuations that I completely disagree with.

    The extreme examples cited of course beggar belief, and elicit a fairly predictable reaction from a reader. There is clearly a lot wrong with society that angers people, and it rings true for Canada, for the USA, and for the UK.

    The danger is that some of the views alluded to in this piece could be interpreted as bigoted, homophobic, authoritarian, and religiously pious - like, was this written by a right-wing Christian I wonder?

    Rights brought up include:
    "The right to marry whomever you want"
    Well, absolutely.

    "The right to be ordained a priest when you don't qualify"
    Who qualifies? Who doesn't?

    "The right to claim welfare even if it isn't deserved"
    Sure, if it's not "deserved," then people shouldn't claim "welfare." But this smacks of the traditional right-wing attitude towards anyone on benefits: they're all just loafers.

    "The right to have sex with anyone and everyone"
    Absolutely, though I agree that this absolutely must be done responsibly - otherwise, to me at least, it could be tantamount to manslaughter by negligence. But in principle, people can have sex with whomever they please.

    "The right to defy righteous authority"
    Huh? What? Righteous? Authority is always up for question. Always.

    "the right to be publicly uncouth, the right to insult a cop, the right to hide behind any excuse to escape punishment, the right to never fail, never lose, never have one's self-esteem challenged, the right to be wrong."
    Interesting that this bunch comes at the end, as it is bound to get people thinking about loutish yob youths, playing on fears, an insidious way of associating all of these things with the same anxious reaction.

    Yes, responsibility in society is a problem. But society forces people to live in a certain way, demands a certain way of living from people, and actually imposes more restrictions than provides freedoms. Many of these restrictions are absolutely necessary, but some are far more dubious. In the end, society's governments have a responsibility to provide an environment where people can learn, grow, love, and be human. Most people then will choose to live responsibly.

  4. i have to agree with with spirit that it should be a responsibility of government to create the freedom for people to take responsibility for their actions. though i can't speak for canada or the uk, we sadly live in a country where government fails to take any responsibility for its actions, while eroding the rights of its citizenry. not much of an example.

    toronto sun? looked more like a piece from fox news to me.

  5. Too many frivolous lawsuits...too little common sense.

  6. See, that's ironic because in instances such as this, I always blame Canada....

  7. Vince - well said. A person wouldn't be often burned when behaving in that manner, so why can't more people do it?

    Se7en - hey hon, I know you're in a big mess. Glad you're getting some "fun" time in. hugs & smooches back!

    Owl - thanks. You made some very interesting points! That's why I posted this - hoping others would share their views. The main point really stood out to me - the rights based society vs. responsiblity based. Of course most of us interpret the views in accord with our own beliefs, I can see your point about how they could be interpreted. I saw it as the author stating some of the views as being good and others as being jacked. To respond individually:

    "The right to marry whomever you want" - a right we should ALL have.

    "The right to be ordained a priest when you don't qualify"
    - that one made me pause, too - examples?

    "The right to claim welfare even if it isn't deserved" - this is a big problem. I saw it as "some deserve it, some don't"

    "The right to have sex with anyone and everyone" - didn't really see how this one fit in without elaborating.

    "The right to defy righteous authority" - Righteous tripped me up. Does he mean authority that is justified in it's actions?

    "the right to be publicly uncouth, the right to insult a cop, the right to hide behind any excuse to escape punishment, the right to never fail, never lose, never have one's self-esteem challenged, the right to be wrong." - this brought up the thoughts of raising children and how they are taught (or not, in these cases) responsibility and accountability.

    Very good point about the govt. responsibility and society's response! You and I need the opportunity to talk - to actually have a conversation. I think it would be very, very interesting. IM me some time. ...and thanks for sharing your views!

    Inanna - a lot to ponder here.

    Cali - yes, I do too. Fox news - eek! To be taken with several grains of salt!

    Mike - indeed.

    JP - ha ha ha! Now I hear the song. lol

  8. Ummmmm...where is your HNT pic??? I've been by looking for your nekkid-ness and nothing here. Hmmph.

    Hope you're feeling better. *hugs*