Many must believe it’s about rights not responsibilities

The terminology of today can boggle the mind. Everything has to have a label. Everything that happens has to be someone’s fault, and people can blame a “condition” or a “behavior” on a “disorder.” Everyone has “rights.” Nobody wants “responsibility” and “rude” behavior is acceptable.

What is wrong with that picture?

How did we get to this place, this “culture of victimization” labeled “uniquely American”?

How interesting ideas become when you go back twenty years or so and read about what was happening then and the forecast for the future from that long ago perspective!

In 1989 through 1991, John Taylor wrote about victimization as it was and where the experts saw things going in “Don’t Blame Me!: The New Culture of Victimization.” He wrote that lung cancer victims who smoked for decades ignoring the warnings from the U.S. Surgeon General and American Cancer Society took no blame on themselves and sued tobacco companies for damages. And when the mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry was caught smoking crack, it was not his fault. These people did not think they were responsible for their own actions, even when they were wrong.

Why do people seek victim status? Why do they desire that state of being, which Taylor defined as “a collective form of paranoia”?

“Victimization takes the place of what used to be thought of as acts of God,” Taylor wrote in the article which appeared in New York magazine in 1991. At that time, Irving Horowitz, a sociology professor at Rutgers and the editor of the journal “Society” said, “Everyone is a victim these days; no one accepts any responsibility for anything.”

In the same article, black essayist Shelby Steele said victim status not only conferred the moral superiority of innocence. It enabled people to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior.

Why would they take responsibility for their actions when experts like Derrida, Foucault, Freud, Lacan and Marx argued that “humans are the victims of unconscious urges or class oppression of patriarchal social systems or the structures of language”?

People don’t seem to grasp the idea that “Each right poses a moral claim on someone else.”

What did your parents teach you when you were growing up? Were you expected to be responsible for yourself? The things you said, the things you did? What were your consequences? What affects did responsibility have on you?

Taylor writes, “The assumption that bad behavior represents a personality disorder or emotional problem is but one aspect of what has been called the medicalization of morality.” For instance, someone with chronic fatigue syndrome may actually be depressed or unhappy.

When you were growing up, what “labels” were commonly spoken of? Did your mother ever say to you, “If you don’t straighten your face I’ll give you something to pout about. Pity party over. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start again”?

“By revising notions of personal responsibility, our disease conceptions undercut moral and legal standards.” The article goes on to advise, “Disease notionslegitimize, reinforce and excuse the behaviors in question convincing people, contrary to all evidence, that their behavior is not their own.”

What does this all mean? Society today seems to be all about rights but little responsibility. What are the “right things” to do? Why? Are you responsible? What does “responsibility” mean to you? Do you consider your consequences before you act? Are the consequences things you are willing to live with if you have to?

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues.

For more information contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.