Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blame and Responsibility

1 comment:

  1. The distinction between responsibility and blame has to be made in any case involved, true.
    What is not that obvious and should me given a deeper thought, whether the distinction between positive and negative responsibility is correct.
    The basic degree of responsibility is responsibility for everything I do. I act at my free choice, I can control my own deeds, therefore, I am responsible for them. There might be times, where I choose to be manipulated into doing something, but it is again my own choice to be manipulated (very bad choice, btw).This initial stage of responsibility can be further viewed, against the background of success or failure, in a different light. In case of success or failure, there is always some body (individual or group) that is responsible for that. In this light, there is truly no difference between positive and negative responsibility.
    The story of blame is completely different, precisely because of the fact that you never say 'he is to be blamed for the success'.
    In general, the problem of blame starts, where there is a situation where someone has to bear the cost of the failure, or, as some put it, is to be punished. Where there is no punishment, there is no blame. Even in case of punishment , the Torah clearly separates if a person acted bemezid, or alternatively, beshogeg, lo mitkaven etc. What is here crucial is the authority, who has to judge the case, to determine the punishment. It cannot be anyone directly or indirectly involved in the case, because of understandable sentiments.
    I would also argue, that especially in the case of divorce, things are more complicated. Usually, divorce is the final stage of already failing relationship, where one of the sides, or both, has no interest in continuing the relationship. Both sides may claim they did anything that they could to improve the relationship, and this can be always negated by the other side. In divorce, as in most other personal stories, there are two versions. In cases, where no body can clearly determine who is to be blamed and is to bear the cost, one or both sides will always be disappointed. The best would be, not to punish in these cases anyone, but unfortunately, our system doesn't allow for such solution. The divorce and the stigma is in itself the punishment.
    Lets examine now the following statement: 'They must violate the demands of those same people who will hold them responsible in the end, as they change from expected approaches to finding something that works.' It is not quite the same as to say 'People who have failed initially in their responsibilities and then again accepted thos responsibilities and succeeded are the ones who best understand the issues involved, and who are most capable of advising others.' While in the second case, I failed in my responsibilities unconsciously, but nevertheless, or maybe because of that, I was able to learn a new lesson about these responsibilities in order to fulfill them even more consciously and truly, the first statement make my fulfilling or not fulfilling the responsibilities dependent on others. The first situation is my personal fight with the authority, and is in fact unrelated to my fulfilling or failing in responsibilities. The second situation is about me and my responsibilities, purely. Indeed, society and authorities have many demands, some of which can be questioned. But the question should be in any case, how I want to handle my responsibilities for my actions regardless any external authority. The first case, i.e. questioning the demands of the authority, can be true in case of officers in the Nazi Germany. They bear full responsibility and are to be blamed for what they had done, precisely because they didn't question the authority. We should read once more Karl Jaspers, I believe... Here I entered already the question of collective guilt and the question of conscience, which is far more complicated than the problem of first and second degree of each one's responsibility for their own action, or success, or failure.