Thursday, 11 August 2011

London's Burning... Part Two

This is really a follow-on from the end of my last post, "London's Burning... What Can We Do", but is also spurred somewhat by a conversation about who is responsible for this mess we are in; the state of the country's economy. This conversation has been going on over on Facebook. It was getting a bit political, so, since this article was already germinating in my mind as I was completing the last one, I thought that I might as well put this out now to clarify my thoughts and convictions on the subject of the responsibility of individuals for their own actions.

I would preface this by saying, that, wherever and under whatever circumstances prevail when we are brought into this world, when we are old enough, reach the age of majority or simply arrive at a point where we are capable of doing so, we must take the first steps that enable us to become responsible for our own lives and become accountable for our actions, so that we can not only fit into our community, but also contribute to it.

In the same way, this means that we are responsible for our own economies, that is our personal finances; making provision for hard times is part of that, rather like a farmer stows hay in the barn to see his cattle through a bleak winter. Whatever the conditions out there, whatever the state of the country's finances, we have the power to resist the temptations of consumerism and to cut our coat according to the cloth we have. Most politicians, whatever their political colour, with a few exceptions have always and will always be guided in varying proportions by three things: their personal ambitions, the party line and corporate sponsorship; listening to the electorate is the last thing on their agenda.

It is within the power of most individuals in the affluent, developed and 'free' world, to live well and securely - far, far better than a majority of the world's population in the third world. The exceptions to this are those who are genuinely incapable of coping, of taking control of their lives, because of the way they are wired, through physical or mental disability or some other predisposition, which does require the support of a caring welfare system; and I have for most of my adult life held a conviction that, however much of our infrastructure is in private hands, we must always be able to provide school education and health systems, that are free to all, funded by National Insurance.

The trouble is, for the capable majority, that we don't exercise our free will to manage our lives; we act like sheep, greedy sheep. We run up a burden of personal debt, in pursuit of materialistic self-improvement, chasing a kind of mock celebrity status or some misguided notion that 'success' is expressed by the size of your house, by the size and specification of the four-wheel drive you park in front of it, by the designer clothes you wear and by how exotic the location of your holiday destination.

But what happens for too many of us is that we end up financially far worse off than we should be. This is all well and good whilst the going's good, whilst the economy is 'flourishing', but when the bubble bursts, as it always will in these conditions, and times get hard like they are right now, all we tend to do is complain that it's the fault of whoever's in power, or somebody else; anybody is to blame but ourselves. This is the crux of it: individual responsibility, taking control of our own lives, by harnessing the power of our own will, given the solidarity of family and community. Perish the thought that one day we are no longer able or permitted to exercise this freedom. And let's not kid ourselves that we have a divine or enduring right to this freedom; we have to earn it by taking responsibility, making ourselves, first and foremost, accountable for our actions. Then and only then will we be qualified to comment and contribute to an improvement in the lot of others.

For those that want to judge me, or anybody for that fact, to categorise me in some neat political pigeonhole, I would say simply this. Never judge, keep an open mind and nurture common sense. Don't be hidebound by a party line; don't be a sheep and be a member of a 'gang', just for the sake of 'belonging'; be a thinker. But, above all ensure that you show respect for your fellow man or woman; do not be anti-social by word or deed; and honour the principle espoused by John Stuart Mill almost two hundred years ago. I have been mindful of his philosophy for all of my adult life... and I'm still trying to hold to it.


  1. "...we must take the first steps that enable us to become responsible for our own lives and become accountable for our actions, so that we can not only fit into our community, but also contribute to it."

    I am in full agreement with your statement above, however, responsibility and accountability for one’s own actions is very much a "learned" response. To behave as a responsible adult, it’s necessary to acquire valuable lessons as we grow up, to understand: life isn’t always fair; there are consequences to our actions; there won’t always be someone to “fix” our mistakes.

    The sense of entitlement brewing under the surface of today’s young adults would indicate they haven’t learned these lessons. They feel entitled to take what they deem is owed to them, with no empathy for the lives they destroy in the process. Of course, empathy is another lesson best learned in youth.

    Those who caused the riots were irresponsible, and they’ll be held accountable for their actions – perhaps for the first time in their lives, yet, they still deserve redemption and our compassion. Is that too much to ask or hope for?

    The alternative is bleak. Angry youth only become angry adults with a predictable cycle of violence.


  2. You've hit upon the very crux of it, Eden. Yes, children do need to be taught how to take responsibility, taught by example how to do this by parents and guardians, with integrity and honesty. But what we have at present is what amounts to almost a 'lost generation' of young people, who have already grown up in an age of mass consumerism, but, as I already said, have not had the benefit of this teaching. They have suffered instead only the effect of "...drug-addicted parents, of no parents, of uncaring homes, of an atmosphere of dereliction and degradation of hope..." all to varying degrees.

    As you have said elsewhere, we cannot afford to fix it with a band-aid, but have we "the courage to cut into an open wound, remove the tumour...".

    Such crucial questions, which I fear will go unanswered.

    Thank you, Eden, so much for taking your valuable time, not only to read, but also to write insightful comment on both these "London's Burning" blog posts. As I am sure you know all too well, it does make the effort of writing on things we feel passionate about so worthwhile, when people who are clearly thinkers, take note and engage with you in the debate, not just with a few throw-away comments, but with obvious sincerity.

  3. Yes,I know the answers won't come overnight. I only hope that solutions look at long term implications. For that, I expect it will take some time.

    I've always believed that anything worth doing is worth taking the time and effort to do it well. It makes me both a perfectionist and a pain in the ass at times. I guess I need to perfect the last part ;)

    You're welcome, sir.


  4. In the eyes of today's youth (spoken like a true 'grumpy old man') anyone who strives to get things right and takes time and some painstaking steps to achieve that, is often considered to be boring and wasting time - impatience led by the desire for a quick fix is where they come from.

    The mindset has to be changed at grass roots level.

  5. Yes, and today is a sad day for Canadians who lost one of its great leaders in Jack Layton, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, who at the age of 61 succumbed to cancer.

    In his lifelong career as a politician, he initiated many of the programs that are taken for granted today: housing for the homeless, food banks, non-smoking laws, and too many to list here.

    Why am I telling you this? Because he had great hopes and joys for the country, and he had vision. He also started out at a grass roots level many years ago, and has been called every name in the book for being too left, commie, too happy, too hippie, whatever...but, after all is said and done, he wasn't an "untouchable" politician, but a man of the people.

    Today Canada mourns him. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, he was a tireless advocate for the citizens of this country. If the Prime Minister had died, there would not be nearly as much an outpouring of grief. That's how much Jack was loved and admired, both by friend and foe alike.

    His letter to Canadians before he died is a true measure of the type of man he was.

    It's THIS type of devotion and commitment that is needed to make change, and that takes blood, sweat, tears, and a thick skin. There is no magic pill.

    That’s why I’ve shed many tears today for Jack. He truly was one of the good guys amongst a sea of rhetoric-spewing non-thinkers.


  6. Rhetoric-spewing non-thinkers! What a great phrase, Eden. I like it so please can I adopt it? I'll give you credit wherever possible.

    Once again I'm with your passion on all of this. Can an honest to goodness politician ever reach a position of influence? And then, if they do, can they avoid, evade and overcome corruption and 'vested' interests?


  7. Yes, you can use the phrase and send me royalties on a semi-annual basis. I trust you. ;)

    Regarding your question, the answer is "yes." Jack Layton did just that. He was a politician who lived among his constituency and cared about the people he represented. It makes it all the more painful that he died just when his party gained opposition status for the first time in its history.

    I think we mentioned somewhere in our conversation that "Life is not fair." Here's another example of it.


  8. Let's hope that the party JL left behind is strong enough not only to hold its ground, but also to gain some more.


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