Personal responsibility is the willingness to accept both the benefits and consequences of our actions. It was once a major part of individual ethics. It seems to have fallen into disrepute.
When we do something or when something occurs because we didn’t do anything, the current trend is to look for someone else to blame. It is a matter of creative fault-finding.
It begins in early childhood with “The dog ate my homework.” It escalates to “Everyone does it,” to “The devil made me do it.” Then it easily becomes the fault of the government, the unfairness of life, or — my personal favorite — the fault of parents.
While my father had to work to pay the bills and provide for his family, he should have stayed home and spent all his time nurturing me. I would have turned out better.
Don’t muddy the ethical water by asserting that long held tenant that most screw ups happen because we don’t consider the after-effects before we act. Even if we do consider the consequences, we believe that someone else will own them.
We can always find a good reason not to admit our limits.
This is seen in the wholesale use of cell phones while driving. The law should be for other people who are not as good at multitasking as we are. Besides, as important people, we need to answer every call or text that comes in, no matter what the traffic around us might be like.
While every delinquent child has at least one lousy parent to blame, there may come a time when we adults — as orphans — will need to be more imaginative to shirk accountability. We will find a way.
We have even devised a plan to get crazy people off the hook. If we do something wrong when out of our minds, we plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Closer to the truth is that we may have been guilty by reason of insanity. The way we describe it means that even if it was our fault, it is not our fault after all.
Last year, the sheriff who pulled my wife and I over near Siskiyou Summit asked me if I had seen the speed limit sign. I had not. I was sure that either it did not exist or had been blocked by a truck.
Besides, everyone goes faster than the posted limit. This bust was made in a blatant speed trap. We knew that law enforcement was only there to help Jackson County balance its budget.
It could not be that I was in a big hurry and had allowed my inattention to make the car exceed both the speed limit and reason. Then again, if there was any error, it was due to the weather or the phase of the moon.
Looking back, having paid the fine, I realize that I was only driving like my father used to. He was speeding then.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.