Miles Coverdale (manos74) wrote,
Miles Coverdale

There is a rather popular worldview in the United States, particularly among a certain subset of the overall culture, that asserts that everything in life is an individual choice. To put it another way, any and all actions one person takes are the sole result of choices that person made wholly and solely on his or her own.

The problem with this worldview--and it seems to be a problem that's taken far less seriously than it ought--is twofold. First, it puts accountability--notice I do not use the world "responsibility"--on that one individual for his or her choices. And second, seeing the world through such a lens can often result in the following train of logic:

Person One (let's call him, say, Leon) does something that Person Two (let's call him Allen) does not like. Allen's conversation with himself deep in his mind goes something like this: "I don't like what Leon did--it hurt me/made me uncomfortable/offended me/etc. What Leon did was his own choice. Thus, since his actions were his own choice and said actions hurt me in some way, Leon must have deliberately chosen to hurt me. And for that, I will make him pay."

Some of you might argue that this logical train is faulty from the start; it's too difficult to buy the argument. And anyway, what's wrong about being accountable for one's actions? After all, isn't that the problem of America these days? That we're all a nation of whiners, unwilling to accept the blame for our wrongdoing?

This strikes me as a very (and I'd say overly) Protestant view of the world. First and foremost, it's sort of a presupposition of inherent sin--that whatever we do is wrong by default. To put it another way: "You're not happy because bad things are happening to you. Therefore, you must have done something to bring them on yourself. So suck it up, bitch." It puts the actions of others into a little convenient box, and it saves everyone else the trouble of bothering to understand why people do what they do. ("He chose to do it; I don't need to know why he did it, I just want Justice To Be Done [Justice = Punishment of who I see as guilty, and never mind any of that bleeding-heart fair-trial bullshit].")

And because it takes away the burden of understanding, it also takes away the possibility of compassion. I think that's the real problem in American culture--it's not that we're a nation of morally bankrupt whiners, but it's that we're so able to get people to believe that we are.

...well, that turned out to be rather longer than I expected. I'll get to the interview questions later today, I promise.
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