on personal responsibility 9-25-08
September 25, 2008
I have not always been an advocate of personal responsibility. When I was a child, I often lied to avoid punishment. I even cheated to get rewards that I did not really earn.
As an adult, I have blamed the woman in my life, my co-workers or employers, my parents, and of course politicians. In fact, I basically have blamed not only anyone but everyone… in order to stay helpless, like as a victim.
By the way, when I say I blamed everyone, I do not just mean that I blamed everyone else. I blamed everyone- including me.
I felt guilty and intimidated (scared!). Being a victim is not heroic. Being a victim goes along with secrecy and shame.
Sure, my body has been injured, including from punishments. However, “victim” is an identification that I can make. Being injured is distinct from identifying myself as a victim.
I have injured myself, if only accidentally. Other people have injured me, including accidentally. I have also injured other people, and not always accidentally.
Those are historical facts that are uncontroversial. The identification of “victim” can be controversial.
Since I am a bit of a word lover, but I do not know the origin of the word victim, let’s see what I can find online:
1497, “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power,” from L. victima “person or animal killed as a sacrifice.” Perhaps distantly connected to O.E. wig “idol,” Goth. weihs “holy,” Ger. weihen “consecrate” (cf. Weihnachten “Christmas“) on notion of “a consecrated animal.”
Well, I really did not know any of that already. Clearly, though, to make something a “victim” is a process of identifying (or consecrating) something. Even before the killing of a victim, the victim is identified as the victim. The act of killing is not what makes a victim into a victim, but the labeling of the victim as the victim. That is primary and the act of killing the victim is secondary- an effect of the identifying of the one to be killed.
So, back to my own history, I have identified myself as the victim of various other specific people as well as of various other phenomenon, from hurricanes to taxation. I identified myself as helpless. I identified other people as responsible. That is true as what happened.
Now, I give up that identification. I give up identifying myself as ever having been a victim at all. I did identify myself that way, but I have already stopped. Now, I identify myself as responsible.\
In fact, I give up the entire process of identifying victims. I give up identifying anyone as a victim.
Other people can identify themselves or others as victims still- like that is very possible and even probable that various people may go on identifying themselves and others as victims. However, I am responsible for that too.
If someone else wants to identify themselves as responsible or not responsible, that is totally up to them, yet I accept responsibility for whether anyone else identifies anyone including themselves as “the victim.” I accept personal responsibility for whether or not other people accept or deny personal responsibility.
There is no desperation in my responsibility. Victims may be desperate, but if I have been being desperate, that was when I was not being responsible. Victims are, by definition, not responsible.
Desperation is, by definition, trying to get someone else whom I identify as responsible to save me from being a victim.
Maybe I could give a real example of that. Oh, how about going to court for the court officers to vindicate me? I could give lots more background, but I will just note that I have gone into court proceedings to argue my position in order to have my arguments approved by the court officers.
Incidentally, I have experienced the result of the court officer declining to approve of my argument.
My position was that if I could get the approval of the responsible authority, then I would no longer be a victim. In other words, I went in as the victim. I went in with the presumption that I was not responsible and someone else was.
Now, I could go into court with a different perspective. I could go in as the one responsible. I could go as the one responsible for the outcome of the court proceeding, and for the experience of the other parties to the proceeding, and basically for everything that happens. That is the difference between desperation and responsibility.
I may fail, but when I identify myself as responsible, then I either fail or I succeed. If I identify myself as a victim, as not responsible, then I am desperate for the court to agree with me. If the court does not agree with me, I may say that “the court failed.” Maybe the court failed to be just. Maybe the court was corrupt. Maybe the court victimized me as well.
Then again, all of those conclusions are only possible if I first identify myself as “the victim,” and I choose now that, while I may have once identified myself as “the victim,” I have already been identifying myself as responsible and that is what I am continuing to do.
By the way, right now, I am totally responsible for whether or not I ever identified myself as “the victim.” Identifying myself as “the victim” is true as what happened.
There were injuries. There were taxes. There were hurricanes. All of that is also true as what happened.
I am responsible now for all of those injuries and taxes and even hurricanes. I am responsible because I accept that I inherit the effects of all of what has happened. I am responding to what happened.
I could desperately react, and, if I have ever done that, I am responsible for having done that.
Desperation reactions are also true as what happened. The consequences of the desperation reactions are true as what happened. In one case, the court officer did not approve of my argument. I was not vindicated by the court officer. But that is not very interesting to me now.
What is interesting to me is that I did not vindicate myself. I did not even think of it how I am thinking of it now. I did not claim “I am responsible.” I did not demonstrate responsibility.
I went to court as the victim and the court officer formally recognized and recorded my self-identification as “the victim” as true as what happened. Maybe the court officer did not identify me as the victim. Maybe the court officer accepted responsibility for the fact that I had already identified myself as the victim.
Wow, wouldn’t that be challenging for a court officer if everyone in the court was arguing that they alone were the real victim, and then the court officer was responsible for identifying and recording, for everyone involved, who has identified themselves as how much of a victim? That really puts a different spin on “losing in court.”
Who does the court officer recognize as self-identified as the least responsible victim? “No, I am the most victimized! Pick me me me me!”
Who does the court officer recognize as self-identified as the most responsible victim? “Hey, but I was a victim, too! Don’t you get that?” Yeah, maybe the court officer did get it.
Wouldn’t it be interesting though to have an entirely different conversation? “I am no longer the victim. I am totally responsible. I’m sorry for everyone who is sorry about any of this- even about all of what is true as what happened. I wonder: what can I do to help?”
I get to be responsible for whether or not people are desperate. I get to be responsible for whether or not people identify themselves as “the victim.”
So, I did not begin writing this with the idea of writing about victimhood or about courts. That came up inside of my commitment to write about personal responsibility, as well as about political false confidence.
There is such a thing as confidence. For instance, I can be confident that I am the victim.
There is also such a thing as false confidence. I have had false confidence in myself, such as when I thought that I could go into a court proceeding and argue my way to vindication, but failed. I have also had false confidence in other people, such as when I trusted someone else to do certain specific things and even not do certain other things, but they failed to fulfill my trust in them. I am responsible for my false confidence in them- for the results of my trusting them how I did. In fact, the phrase “false confidence” may be something of the language of a victim.
False confidence is just as real as any other confidence. It might be more accurate to use a term like “desperate confidence.” Maybe the result will eventually be appealing and maybe, even after an eventual phase of favorable results, the end results will still not be especially appealing. However, the future results would be unknown in the instant. What is easy enough for anyone to identify- in the moment- is the presence or absence of desperation. That may be the same issue as the presence or absence of responsibility.
So, I’ll return to the phrase “political false confidence.” I use that term in particular in reference to various political initiatives that may be interesting to people who are reacting to certain recent economic news with surprise.
“Here is a rescue plan to fix an economic situation in September 2008. Here is another rescue plan to fix a massive failure in national security in September 2001. Here is the latest rescue plan to end all rescue plans, which we promise will fix _______, _________, plus all the complications resulting from all of the prior rescue plans, or at least all of the bad ones.”
Some people had confidence in politicians a few years ago and some still do. Some people had confidence in housing markets a few years ago and some still do. Some people had confidence in insurance giants (like AIG) and other financial institutions a few years ago and some still do. Some people had confidence in the stock values of US high tech companies in 2000 and some still do (and of course many of the current prices are lower now by over 50%).
The issue now is really “desperate confidence.” People that are desperate really may not see any option… but to remain confident in the same things that they logically can identify as having recently been unworthy of their blind confidence.
Desperation is not about logic, or not that kind of logic. The logic of desperation is “who [that is not me] is responsible?” Whoever the desperate one identifies as “responsible” is the one in whom they logically must be confident.
Confidence results from an identification of who is responsible. If one identifies politicians as responsible, one is naturally desperate for being rescued by politicians, because they are the ones that one is confident could be responsible for their rescue. If they are responsible for “everything,” and one is desperate for rescue by someone, then of course one would be desperate for rescue by them in particular! The logic of desperation hinges on “who do I identify as responsible?”
The logic of confidence also hinges on “who do I identify as responsible?” However, confidence, unlike desperation, may imply some degree of personal responsibility.
So, it is true that George W. Bush and certain other politicians have talked a lot about confidence lately. They want to take actions that increase the confidence of the people in certain ways. They do not talk about prudence or responsibility or competence much, but only confidence.
The talk about “the economy,” but they do not talk much about “economy,” such as choices that are economical or efficient or prudent. Their language is about confidence, not competence. Their language is about reaction and desperation rescue, not personal responsibility and foresight and integrity.
Certain markets and systems have been recently exposed as lacking integrity or stability. “Be confident in them anyway,” say some. “We promise to fix everything if you will just increase your confidence in these systems which we admit lack integrity and stability, but we are appealing to your desperation, perhaps because we are desperate too.”
“Please keep identifying us as the responsible ones, because that is the only way that we can keep our operation going. Do not even think about personal responsibility. We have everything under control. Just give us more responsibility. In fact, that has been the source of all of your worries- you have not given us all of the responsibility yet! Okay, repeat after me: ‘I am the most victimized. Pick me me me me.’ Now, you say that…. No, do not say ‘pick you.’ When you say it, just repeat the exact same words that I said: ‘pick me.’ Go ahead….”
“Yes! That’s wonderful. Now just sign here. And put your initials here and here and here. Perfect: you have just rescued your country now from certain catastrophe, so congratulations!”
“What? Where am I going now? Oh, I am leaving the country now. My job is done and it’s quite a mess here. Gullible people. Desperation everywhere. Confidence without any integrity. No personal responsibility at all. The people here are all victims. Just ask them!”
Published on: Jun 11, 2010
J.R. Hunn is an independent Cash Flow Consultant. In early 2003, he began publishing warnings about an emerging global credit crisis and an eventual decline in US Real Estate. In 2004 and 2005, he focused his publications on the future of rising oil prices, also pinpointing the top of the US Housing Sector (which has since fallen nearly 70%). In 2006, he produced triple-digit gains gains by trading the waves of metals. In 2007, he repeated his warnings about US Real Estate, reporting the 15% decline in Phoenix, AZ median list prices (which are down 37% as of 9/2008). In 2008, he issued warnings about a final spike in prices of metals and oil, and the sequence of events that are predictable following that, including certain predictable political “antics.” So far during 2008, oil has dropped nearly 40% and silver over 50%.
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