Perfectly Clear

Isn’t that what the Prez sez? Let me be perfectly clear.

Well, I’ll leave the perfection to He Who Must Not Be Doubted, and just try to be a little clearer.

I did not mean to imply, in the last post’s discussion of the Richmond rape, that anyone who advances the notion of concentrating responsibility in the individual is: a) necessarily a better person for doing so; b) always ready, willing and able to meet any given responsibility; or c) completely immune to the seductions (conscious, half-conscious, unconscious) of “diffused responsibility” that may occur in a group situation.

Far from it.

Am I, personally, 100% confident that, put in that Richmond mob, I would have come through with flying colors? Uhhh… yeah, of course, I hope to hell I would’ve –at the freakin’ least– managed to punch in 911. And I’d like to think I could do more than that. But completely totally positive? Hmmm.

There’ve been moments in life when I’ve stepped up, sure. But there have also been enough times that I didn’t, not really. Benefit of the doubt, call it fifty-fifty, and file my whole biography under “Human, All Too Human.”

Which is the point actually.

Frankly, I’m more than a little skeptical of most people who express unalloyed confidence in their own courage… and their capacity to stand alone against the mob. In our own minds, sure, we’re all Gary Cooper. See, there we are on the streets of  Hadleyville. And that’s us at the Nuremberg rally, the ones with the big hand-lettered “Hitler Bites” sign. And seared into my memory (thank you, John Kerry) is the time that Rosa Parks and I … well, you get the idea.

The sad actual fact, however, is that most of the time most people are members of the great big mob. That’s how come mobs get great and big.

Stranded in the Grand Hall of Personal Responsibility, our eyes are constantly darting around looking for a way out –backdoors, sidedoors, trapdoors, any doors. And the doors might be attractively labeled Sharing the Load or Diffused Responsibility or Compassionate This or Progressive That or, most simply, It’s Somebody Else’s Fault… but they’re all doors, aren’t they?  Doors to escape individual responsibility.

That’s why you need to keep some of them –at the very least– pretty well-guarded. Others, you probably need to permanently brick up.

Which is to say that sometimes, faced with difficult choices, we –all of us– need to leave ourselves no way out.


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