responsibility and leadership
Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility. - Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
We live in an age where everyone is trying to side step responsibility and find someone else to blame for the problems we face. Perhaps it has always been so and our social media platforms have just made these things more visible and given many a bit of a podium to whine from. And yes, sometimes there is someone specific to blame, but more often than not, the bigger problems in our world don't start with the last person we point our fingers at. The bulk of our problems are due to events that cascade down through years, decades, and sometimes generations, to reach us in the present.
Just take our rape culture, for example, and the pinnacle it has reached. How long ago did this start? It doesn't mean the rapist is not to blame, but it also doesn't mean that we don't have a collective job to do if we want to fix this problem.
Global Warming - Plastic Pollution - Racism - Sexism - and yes, our current pandemic...
We love pointing fingers, and we are so good at justifying and denying or simply ignoring our part in the problem, and why we do or don't do something.
We blame. We whine. We get angry. And then we wait for someone to save us or someone to fix the problem or someone to tell us what to do. Which usually only leads us to more problems in the future, and to which we never connect the dots.
It's visible in micro-examples in our daily lives:
Everyone waits for someone else to pick up the trash / clean up our mess and take it where we can't see it or the effect of it, and then we all gasp and shout at the plastic in the ocean (but we'll happily go shopping the next day and never once connect our excessive mindsets with the problem);
Everyone keeps on buying more and more stuff to fill up their houses and then we whine because things are mass-produced and not made to last;
Everyone deplores the state of our earth, and yet no one is willing to adjust their lifestyle.
- Just look at the horrible state of our ocean! Someone has got to do something about that! - isn't it funny how the caveat 'and that someone is me' is never added to those sentences...?
We have to stop pointing fingers and waiting on others to tell us what to do and how to live. We already know what is required from us, we're just so addicted to our lifestyles and so resistant to change!
This doesn't mean we can't have nice things. It simply means we have to rethink our excess (whether food, clothing, shoes, books, etc.) and our desire to have multitudes of things in all colours produced with no concern for the environment or people and which we usually discard before it is even used up. It means we have to rethink the way we package and market things. It means we have to rethink the ways in which we demand to have everything we want right now. It means we have to rethink the toxicity of our culture that has many people working for next to nothing, many more crippled by debt, and none of them considered to matter when it comes to the bottom line.
It means we need to start thinking about our part in all of the above.
It means we need to start thinking.
If we are going to change our world radically, then we are going to have to take radical responsibility and commit to being accountable for the way we show up and the effect we have on the world and those around us; it means that we begin to understand that it is not just me doing these things, but that there are 7billion people in the world, and if everyone did what I do, what does that look like?
It looks a lot like the mess we are in, I suppose.
I know this sounds like a lot of work and changes; it sounds like more than any one of us would want to take on alone, but the truth is it starts small, and you wouldn't do it alone. There are others. There will be more.
You don't need to go out and build houses or feed the poor, unless of course you can and want to; you can simply start looking around you for the things you can do every day.
It starts with chopping wood and fetching water, picking up trash, making less of it, and setting true examples of the world we would like to live in.
It starts with being honest with ourselves and awareness of the example we carry into the world.
It starts with creating meaning for yourself instead of asking others to create it for you: how do you want to feel?; how do you want your choices to ripple out?; what are your values? - and then living the answers to these questions.
If we really want change, we have to be willing to make the choices that we are waiting on everyone else to make.
Leaders go first.
Somebody has to do something.
Someone has to start.
It might as well be you/me.