Who's responsible for this?!

November 16th, 2018

What is any particular being responsible for? The greater difficulty of this question results from a fundamental misunderstanding of what responsibility means in the first place. Typically it's confused with guilt, inasmuch as a question as to irresponsibility is likely to arise only when shit has somewhere met a fan, and a culprit or scapegoat is sought. But being responsible doesn't necessarily mean having fucked something up. Rather, it is the state --quite without qualitative consideration-- of being he who answers.

For himself, for a sequence of events, for other people, for acts of god, whatever it may be. A person can be responsible for anything, so long as they can answer for that thing, which means delivering rationale capable of fully satisfying any and every reasonable question about said thing. The old trope of someone being told they're "not responsible for the entire world" speaks then not to the emotional pressure of feeling guilty or having urges to help others, but to the factual impossibility of being actually answerable for every other human being, to all the other human beings.

It follows that being responsible, then, isn't something that can be jotted into a schedule just-so; there's no seat-of-the-pants way to be answerable as the state itself is defined by constancy. Yes, and forethought, but forethought without follow-through of internalization and continual perception and reaction is exactly the substance of so many protestations against irresponsibility by the well-intentioned. Setting aside some time for a thing is eminently not the same as overseeing it. Just ask the last couple of generations of kids that spent their childhoods attending "family time" and who otherwise lack any actual family worth the mention.

It also follows that responsibility isn't something that can be levied on someone; the onus to be responsible, yes, but in actual fact only an agent may be responsible, and only by actually being so. There's absolutely no space for subjectivity or interpretation; one is responsible or not, and whether they were told or begged to be so or whether nobody even knew is entirely incidental.

Responsibility is a state, and I'm hard-pressed for an example of someone who could demonstrably turn it on and off, switching as convenient. Sure, some selection is required in the bag; one must pick who and what they'll answer for. Maybe one's even stuck with the responsibility for something they'd rather never consider again. This is also part and parcel of the concept, however. Dropping something when it becomes unpleasant, when one's ability seems to falter, letting it slip one's mind, even, are tantamount to irresponsibility. That's not even a bad thing, in itself, either! Remember: there's no qualitative aspect involved, here. It's just a state. Sometimes being irresponsible is the right thing.

In any case, though, constancy is an absolute requirement. "I'll take the responsibility" may never be something said after the fact, but only before it. A lack of understanding as to whether it could happen again, as to whether the doohickeys involved were green or red or fat or old, necessarily denotes irresponsibility, no matter whether one tried, or how hard, or how great they are, or anything else.

At least, that's how I feel about it.

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