By Huzaifa Jega
Life is about challenges. It is also about conflict and responsibility. According to the Law of Inertia, a status quo shall be maintained forever until the intervention of an external force. That is, nothing ever happens without a kinetic force interaction of at least two objects.
From a sociological perspective, this law implies that two or more parties are always responsible for an outcome – whether good or evil. Because it takes two to tango, it is imperative, therefore, we learn to accept responsibility as the first step to overcoming some of the direst challenges we face today.
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You may not believe this, you may even not be willing to make the type of moral and intellectual commitments required to understand it – but for anything that is wrong in this world, you are either the problem or part of the problem. Either you or something that so inextricably signifies and represents you both in contemporary and bygone terms can never escape liability for anyone’s wrong.
It all boils down to the deductive analysis of the laws of nature, particularly the Law of Causality, Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect. Germany for instance was the cause of Hitler just as much as the City of Chicago is responsible for the Chicago Tribune. If this were true, then the chain of causality indicted the whole world because the world was itself the cause of Germany; and the world was caused itself by the collective human consciousness, which was in turn built by individual men. Hitler was caused by Germany and Germany was caused by the world – the fault of Hitler was, therefore, the fault of everyone. Everything is exactly the way it is because everything else is exactly the way it is! It is no doubt upsetting to think about it this way, but, Mother Theresa happened to be the embodiment of saintliness only, but only, because Hitler was the personification of evil. The Hitlers of this world, therefore, gave us every Mandela that has walked the earth; and the Ghandis were the cause of every Shekau the world had been cursed with. The only reason there is such a thing as good or right is because there is such a thing as evil or wrong. I know this may sound as an apology or qualification for evil but it is not.
Imagine a pressurised balloon that suddenly pops – the pressure had reached critical mass and it found that one weak spot that is sufficiently weakened by the tautness and tension caused by the collective dynamics of the balloon conceived as a single physical system. The tension and pressure were caused by virtue of the collective force exerted by every air particle point on the internal surface of the balloon, therefore the particles are collectively responsible – for the presence of the pressure – and the eventual incident of system collapse. The air particle that broke the camel’s back was forced to tear a way out only because of the pressure exerted upon it by all the other air particles in the balloon, the proximate and the remote; it thereby took everyone down with it. If that particle was evil, then it was made evil by the pressure of every other air particle and was in principle forced to commit the evil it committed by every one of those particles! That particle was in fact, a victim.
That I can think of, taking responsibility for this metaphysical phenomenon is guided by two basics – the first being is accepting personal responsibility. This means owning up to your own actions or inactions and the consequences thereof but in individual and collective terms. Obviously, until we all accept responsibility for the action and especially failures that result in evil and respond accordingly, we will remain culpable.
The true difference in being responsible and irresponsible shows how well we are leading our lives and societies when the opportunity to make a good or bad choice presents itself. Taking responsibility both personal and indirect is one of the most important factors in defining our true nature. When that responsible moment presents itself, what we do or do not do, is an indication of the type of people we really are.
Refusing to take personal responsibility may work to our advantage on occasion or in the short term. For example, we might get away with the part of the blame that is due to us, or even blaming someone else for our own failures like has become the norm. We might evade facing consequences for our wrong actions or inactions immediately but make no mistake about this – the chickens will always come home to roost.
Finally, the second basic of taking responsibility is accepting indirect responsibility. This involves looking beyond ourselves and taking action to help people or situations in our vicinity that require our intervention. While this component may not necessarily rise to the level of personal responsibility, it does reveal something about our characters and the type of people we are. There are many who will walk right past the person down the street who is down on their luck even when they can effortlessly help.
In time, our failures in taking responsibility for the share of wrong that comes our way whenever someone else does wrong will have costs too existential for mankind to bear. It will always be about something we did or did not do. Playing the ostrich will continue to have devastating effects on our own psyche, peace of mind and of heart.
Eventually, society will itself collapse and evil will win at Megiddo. One particularly disturbing consequence is that we will have a leadership that is as irresponsible as we are – or a leadership that is irresponsible because we are. There is no need to imagine what that will be like. We are living in this very reality.
It takes two to tango. The world and everything in it is a reflection of our own selves, jointly or individually.
Jega, a management consultant, lives in Abuja