America, Blame, Ethics, Memes, methodological individualism, Morality, Responsibility, Turning Point USA, USA
This meme to my left just smacks of good old fashioned common sense, doesn’t it? I mean, who could be against “personal responsibility?” Just reading it makes me want to go take care of something, maybe take responsibility for something wrong even as I fix that very wrong up good, just like a real man oughtta.
Then go fly a flag!
Seriously now. The first problem here isn’t that personal responsibility is a bad thing. Of course not. It’s that the world itself isn’t going to magically fill up with people who live up to that value any time soon.
Neither is Murica!
The idiots at Turning Point USA didn’t really come up with this bit of folk wimpdom, I don’t think, not any more than they came up with the various fake founder quotes bearing their name lately, but I’ve ranted about that before. This meme can’t be debunked with a simple press for evidence, but it comforts the already-comfortable just the same. Like fake quotes from America’s founding fathers, this meme is designed to light up a warm and fuzzy feeling right in that place where folks might keep their inner old codger.
I think just about all of us have had that experience, we’ve all seen some living train wreck crashing through our presence without any sense of personal responsibility. It’d be easy enough to imagine they could do better in life, both for their own sake and for those around them, if only they would just take some responsibility for their actions. Collect enough such stories and I suppose it could become really tempting to think that same prescription would go a long way toward making the world a better place.
But of course we could say the same thing of kindness and compassion.
Of hard work.
Of self restraint.
…you get the idea.
It’s the nature of moral principles. We can often see how neglecting them means unnecessary hardship for ourselves and others. We can also see that people do neglect them on a regular basis. Sadly, that just isn’t going to change any time soon. So any solution predicated on this possibility is a non-solution.
But of course the point of this meme isn’t really to hope against all hope that everyone suddenly learns to cowboy up and resolve every problem from homelessness to the persistent popularity of boy bands. (Dammit anyhow!) No, the point here is to conjure the illusion that this fantasy is an actual solution to real-world problems, and perhaps more importantly, to point a finger, so to speak, at those who may be in the way of that fantasy-solution.
Why are there poor and homeless people? Cause the lazy bastards won’t work! Why do people cheat on tests or taxes? Cause they haven’t taken personal responsibility for meeting their t-challenges. Why is there crime? Why is there corruption in Congress? And why do the Bluetooth devices in my home fight over the signal from my cell phone? You got it! Cause some bastard hasn’t taken responsibility for making it otherwise. The meme conjures these and so many other inferences without stating them outright. It invites us to imagine a brave new world in which everyone tackles their own problems and we all right off into the sunset after enjoying a hearty steak-dinner at the end of every day.
…and really, let’s be honest, that first item above, the one about poverty, is probably the big one for this particular fantasy.
The folks at Turning Point USA do love their commie-bashing, so the poverty theme is right up their alley. At the heart of this folk idiocy is the notion that such problems are, at bottom, simple, just a result of lazy people who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives. We have poor people, so the thinking goes, because of the poor people. It’s their own damned fault! If only they took responsibility for their own welfare, they’d be just fine, but they won’t so it’s their problem, and not ours. We can forget any questions about the underlying social causes of poverty, and we can flat out ignore the existence of the working poor or the known consequences of getting seriously sick in a nation whose government is so wholly devoted to the profits of the insurance industry. No, if people are poor, it is their problem. That is all we need know.
If only the poors would just buck up, America would be the fifties fantasy-land some of us grew up watching on television. And boy-howdy, wouldn’t that just be swell!?! But they don’t, so we can’t and it’s all their fault.
And that’s what’s important; knowing whose fault it is.
Thus, a solution to a problem becomes a means of avoiding it!
…speaking of responsibility, and the utter and complete lack of it.