Friday, August 19, 2011

Responsibility Takes a Direct Hit

Earlier I discussed responsibility, explaining how we lose our freedom by giving up responsibility, by playing the victim (7/4/2011), and how not taking responsibility is an invitation for outside interference (7/25/2011).  Failure of parents to take responsibility in their roles leads to skewed expectations by their children, difficulty in school and more activists wanting to limit our choices at restaurants.  Trial lawyers spend millions advertising to persuade us that when accidents happen, it’s not our fault, and someone else should be made to pay.  To defend themselves, companies spend millions labeling their products with warnings while passing on the cost to us.  The acceptance of victimhood keeps fine, capable people from finding solutions to their problems, wallowing in self-pity while they wait for help from an advocate or agency.

Now we have a strong challenge to the whole concept of responsibility from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).  After a four-year study they conclude that addiction is a problem in the brain, a chronic, primary disease that “must be treated, managed and monitored over a person's lifetime.”  So in many cases we are not really making bad choices or acting irresponsibly; we are sick and need help.

Where are we going to find lifetime help?  Don’t tell me the ASAM doesn’t have a dog in this fight.  (It sounds like a strong case for job security, reminiscent of NASA’s warning years ago about the danger of a growing hole in the ozone layer and how it had to be monitored.  What ever happened to that hole in the ozone?)

How many behaviors can now be excused, written off as the result of a mental disease rather than a choice?  How many people are not really responsible for their behavior and must be treated, not punished?  If I can’t pay my mortgage and my kids don’t have clothes for school, it’s not my fault.  I spent the money on a shopping spree or gambling, or liquor, because of a disease I have.  Is it fair for hospitals to forbid employees to smoke even off-premises during working hours for fear of “third-hand smoke” since they can’t help their addiction?  It’s not being rude at the dinner table; it’s a Blackberry addicted.  Anyway, the kids won’t notice because they’re addicted to their videogames and cellphones.  It’s also not fair to punish all those politicians who are addicted to power and sex or professional athletes who gamble or take drugs, or all those priests…  Where does it end?  We can stop holding everyone accountable for everything they do and send them for treatment, but if they don’t show up for their appointments, who gets the blame?  One thing is certain.  Behavior has consequences and whether we take responsibility for our actions or not, those (personal and societal) consequences will follow.

Oh, and if you don’t agree, don’t blame me – I’m addicted to this sort of skepticism, and I’m getting help for my disease.

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