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Personal Responsibility, the Hard Way

A lot of powder gets blown about personal responsibility. A lot of whining about the world lacking it, or about having to take too much, goes on. Let me share with you a little analogy.

Racer Red was having a baaaaad day. He'd just been laid off, his rent was due, and the interview he just went on was downright insulting. As he sped (literally) toward his home, his mind was on all the wrong the world had done him. So much so, in fact, that he missed the signs of a speed trap until the lights and sirens appeared behind him.

Office Blue was having an average day. He's only been sworn at 20 times in the last three hours, by people caught in his speed trap. He couldn't wait to get off shift, file his tickets, and get his shoes off. As he strode up to Racer Red's car he was a bit apprehensive about what he'd be greeted with.

Blue: "Do you know how fast you were going?"

Red: "Obviously too fast for you."

Blue: "May I see your drivers license and registration, please? The speed limit along this section is 30, and I clocked you at fifty."

Red: "Look, just give me the fucking ticket, so you can go back and fill your quota."

Blue: "Our department doesn't have quotas, however there have been three speed caused accidents along here in the last month, so we're doing a special enforcement."

Red: "Uh, huh, sure. What if I don't sign it?"

Blue: "Then I have to arrest you. Sign here please."

Red hesitated, angrier than he'd ever been. He did not need this shit. The cop, on top of everything else that had vexed him, was just too much. Yet he didn't think the cop should arrest him. Cussing loudly, he signed the ticket.

Blue: "Sir, I think you should take some time and calm down before continuing your drive. Studies have shown that driving while emotionally upset can be hazardous."

Red: "Fuck you and just give me the fucking ticket."

Blue handed him the ticket, frowning. He was close to the end of his shift, and he really didn't need to have transport this jerk downtown. "Drive safely sir, and remember to obey the speed limits please." he said, forcing his voice neutral.

Red drove off in a huff, and Officer Blue walked back to his car, shaking his head.

Is Blue responsible for Red's bad mood to start with? No.

Is Red responsible for letting his attention go to the point he was speeding? Yes.

Is Blue responsible for giving Red a ticket? Yes, he chose to do his job.

Is Blue responsible for Red swearing at him? No, it was Red's mouth to control, regardless of the provocation he suffered.

Was Blue responsible for Red signing the ticket? No, it was Red's choice, although Blue told him the consequences of not doing so.

Was Red responsible for being upset and angry before the ticket? Yes and No. He was not responsible for the behavior of others that he reacted to, but he was responsible for his reaction, it's duration, it's intensity, and how or if he took it out on others.

Is Blue responsible for his reaction to Red's cursing? Yes, and presumably Blue has had training in how to handle people routinely cursing at him in the course of his duties.

Although this is a bit oversimplified, it explains some of where my views lie on the subject of personal responsibility.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2004 08:43 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I'd say they were both responsible for Red getting a ticket--Red was speeding, and not paying attention to signs of a speed trap--but you do define it as a speed trap. If Blue had simply seen Red blow past him and given chase without having laid a trap, it would have been 100% Red's fault. I think I disagree with you about Red's foul mood. I tend to think people are not able to control what emotions they feel. What they can do is try to control what they do as a result.

But what do I know--I am very bad at making ethical generalizations. I'm not even sure I see the applicability here; as usual I'm just seeing a specific story and grey areas in my evaluation of the ethics in it.

Apr. 25th, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
Wow! At least some one gets it!
It is so nice to find that at least one person to whom you spent years attempting to teach personal responsibility and the ethics of choice and consequences of actions really, really gets it ---even though you realize that it is most likely not because of anything you said or did, but rather because of what someone else said in that moment before the one you had worked with chose to say, "Yeah, that makes sense" and take it for their own understanding and ethic.

Granpa Horace would be proud of you. You have definitely made my day and I choose to just smile and enjoy the moment. It will sustain me through the coming week with the rightness of the Universe for one shining moment. Love ya! Hugz
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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