Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Is responsibility possible?

The problem is apathy, the wilful ignorance and denial of responsibility that encourage nothing to be done. How this is to be seen and dealt with in people remains a problem – Bobocop said that the wilfulness of the ignorance is to be deplored; a view now changed in light of News is Good’s exposition of the power relationship, keeping the vast majority of people stupid and apathetic for the material gain of the few. Yet there is enough of Bobocop’s ‘Christian women’ to firmly place responsibility at the doors of those who are apathetic.

News is Good writes:

“So I prefer this belief. A useful belief, a helpful belief, a nourishing belief. That people are made stupid for the prime reason that this is how we can keep the status quo going. That people are made stupid entirely because stupid people don't buck the trend. That people don't have to be like this, although changing it won't half be difficult.”

Which in itself is fine. It is held however in a dichotomy with Bobocop’s earlier post, and is shown here to be an alternate to it – a useful alternative, it is stated, and not a ‘balloon of rising incandescent gas’. Yet I must press for arguments here, as there seems to me that the politics of control are not inconsistent with personal responsibility. The former seeks an explanation for how our mindsets have come about, and the latter seeks to blame those that have the given mindset. All things being equal, perhaps to cut that blame of being apathetic away in view of the circumstances out of which apathy arises would be the most fair decision (whose uses are as immediate as identifying the obviously political nature of those circumstances). However, all things are far from equal.

We are shown, indeed by the very content offered on this blog, that our instructions for life as inherited from our family, peers, education, and wider society, allow us (and yes, direct us) toward the pit of oblivion. We are shown by biological science the plasticity of the human mind, as we are shown by history the ability of the human being to become other than what it can psychology, politically, and philosophically be described as. It would not be controversial to state that we criticise, refute and destroy because we are able to refine, abandon and rebuild. I feel it is necessary to say this because there is no simple exposition of a political situation that can easily be said to account for the undercutting of human endeavour and will to change, where it is responsible and capable. News is Good’s political explanation is appealing, and in my view correct, yet to conclude that it undercuts responsibility would not require heavy support, it would require a complex of wholly other arguments. I am not suggesting that it is indefensible – indeed I have and do question our ability to be properly responsible, but this idea still requires us to adopt a defensible position toward it.

The question that we are tackling is in what sense it is appropriate to deal with a specific problem; this question remains unanswered. It is not obvious that those who live subject to political control are thereby not responsible for the state of their minds, and likewise it is not clear how those who are greedily crawling around in the intellectual gutter deserve to be blamed. I do wish to offer, though, a defence on the now undefended position of personal responsibility.

My argument is a pragmatic one, in essence. If News is Good favoured one idea because of the easily identifiable buttons that need to be pushed, then I hold this one on account of our difficulty in pushing them. It may be easier to talk apathetic persons into care and action that it would be to actually exercise an effective political influence. And political influence is barred not only by politicians and businessmen, but also by those whom we ultimately wish to affect - apathy toward politics is at somewhat of a high, I’m sure we will agree, and perhaps the only way political action can help is if we do indeed ‘go educational’ (in itself a mean feat), effectively leaving the existing apathetic to die out. This may indeed be the only way, but, alternatively, perhaps there is a case to be made for the ability of people to feel responsible.

What comes to mind is the training of feelings of responsibility through regulative discourses, which seems to be the only way to invoke feeling in others these days. Regulation is something like suffering, something akin perhaps to oppression, and this idea is difficult to accept – but if it is indeed the only viable method then it must be taken. Aristotle’s Ethics considers training to be a vital precursor to education, as it sets the disposition of the person as ready to receive it. Similarly for the use of discourses, what is good for the goose may in this case be good for the gander.

It remains to be seen how responsibility-encouraging discourses differ from political change (as politics is usually the process by which discourses are adopted and abandoned), but that they can be initiated from outside of politics (i.e. philosophically and socially, leading only then and inevitably to adjustments in politics) could prove fruitful.

However it is not at all clear at this stage how such ‘regulative discourses’ could live up to their names – as regulative discourses, as I understand them, are either directly and specifically linked either to the identities people agree to confer upon each other, or otherwise to morals (which are almost always an accompaniment to these identities). Some moral system, some way of laying praise and blame upon people will be called for if this ‘discourse’ argument is to actually have any content. Coker’s laying of blame on the Christian women seems a plausible example to follow, but please keep in mind though that should this fall short there are surely other arguments that show how personal responsibility might be possible – it isn’t the case that people are not (and cannot be held to be, which may very well be different concerns) responsible for their predicament.


Blogger bhikka said...

: 0 )

11:44 PM  
Blogger Claypot said...

The majority of the world at large is apathetic towards the plight of those living in terrible conditions.

A lot of people have chosen to be apathetic, cocooning themselves in retail therapy and 100 tv channels.

Those who actually 'control' the world are hellbent on dumbing everyone down.

A lot of people who are ignorant and uneducated accept this dumbing down without question.

(Actually so too do the educated ones.)

However, some uneducated people cry out for learning and change.

To see the world from a humanitarian viewpoint takes a person with morals, ethics and a sense of justice. Where do these feelings come from, and why doesn't everybody have them?

If those who have chosen to be apathetic contain some ethics, can they be coaxed out of their comfortable armchairs to join the fight?

Can you 'educate' and encourage the ignorant ones who have already been dumbed down?

If the powerholders are the true corrupters, how can we get rid of them?

Who decides how people's lives should be lived? If a populace elects a dumbass, should we point out their mistake, or let them stew in a pot of shit of their own making?

And finally, as devil's advocate - are we even right to be humanitarian? Should it not be 'survival of the fittest'? Clearly a lot of people think this way. Who is right and who is wrong, and can you justify how you think?

8:26 AM  

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