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Individual Responsibility is Vital in an Interdependent Society

Our behavior most assuredly impacts those around us

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Growing up, my mother gave me advice about proceeding in this life. She said, “Don’t engage in behavior that, if everyone else was to do it, would destroy the world.” I knew then what it meant on one level; today, the advice seems profound.

If you smoke while you drive and then throw the butts onto the street, and all other drivers do the same, how long will it be before the streets are impassable or so littered that they disgust others? If you allow junk cars to populate your front lawn, and everyone else follows, how long will it be before your town, and everyone’s town in the entire world, becomes one big junkyard?

Applied today, my mother’s advice tells us that while individual freedoms are worth cherishing and enjoying, they also require our responsibility. We can’t all be free to do exactly what we want all the time, even if the law allows it. We certainly can’t all engage in behavior that damages the environment or diminishes other people’s rights. Consequence are likely, sooner or later.

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Benefits for All?

Misguided groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union seemingly were founded on a noble purpose – to preserve the rights of the individual. What happens when granting rights to individual contributes to the erosion of society? It is a tough question for anyone to answer. The ACLU certainly has no answer.

Supposedly in the name of First Amendment free speech and individual rights, the ACLU and leftists defend individuals and groups who care little about the First Amendment, the Constitution, or other citizens. Such groups keep pushing the envelope of crassness and vulgarity for publicity and profit.

What if everyone started to sport tattoos on their arms, backs, and shoulders, or wears nose rings, eyebrow rings, and nipple rings? Such behavior doesn’t clog our roadways, and such actions are a matter of individual choice, so what harm does it cause to society? Considerable harm.

Does Safety Matter?

Aside from the health aspects of body piercings (the data indicates a large percentage of participants experience serious infection and hepatitis) they pose safety problems to both the individual indulging in the behavior and to others around them.

As a society, do we accept visitors to hospital emergency rooms on Saturday nights whose body piercings have resulted in serious health conditions? Do body piercers have any idea about the longitudinal effects of such behavior on their health, not to mention longevity?

My mother’s simple admonition – what if everybody did it? – needs to be passed on to everyone so that those who might otherwise engage in questionable behavior become more aware of their impact on those around them and society overall.

Broadening the Scope

If you vegetate each evening watching television instead of being out in your community cleaning it up, and everyone does the same, how will your community change? If you spend hours each week focusing on the lives of people who you don’t know and are not likely to meet, i.e. celebrities, and end up relegating their lives to a higher status than that of family, relatives, neighbors, and friends, why would you expect your own life and relationships to be vibrant and rewarding?

The legions of adult children who keep taxing our law enforcement system and appearing before judges don’t understand (and apparently don’t care) how they thwart the overall progress of society. They levy a continual tax on our public institutions and impede the rest of society from moving forward.

Your Personal Choices Impact Others

If you don’t manage your own weight, eat what you want, and avoid exercising, you’re gambling on genetics. Maybe you will live a long, disease-free life. What are the ramifications, however, if everyone in society decides to emulate you? What you do in your own life is largely your business. If most people in society copied you, however, how would they fare? How would society fare? If the answer is “not well,” maybe it’s time to assess what you do and why.

Our behavior most assuredly impacts those around us, particularly children. If we want the world to be a better place, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Gone in an Instant

Our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice

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Many people retain all of their text messages with their various correspondents. My daughter Valerie, for example, has more than one hundred text message correspondents — in other words, a running dialogue for each of the people with whom she sends and receives text. I only maintain two such longitudinal files, and one is with Valerie. With friends, relatives, clients, and acquaintances, I save the text streams for a few days or weeks, but then clear them out.

One evening, my sister Nancy texted me, and I texted her back. We went back and forth for a while. So, my message roster now included both Valerie Davidson and Nancy Davidson. After a while, I decided to clear the Nancy Davidson file, and you know what’s coming. I hit the wrong “Davidson,” file, and in an instant, more than a thousand texts between my daughter and myself were gone.

These texts included photos she had sent that I hadn’t yet downloaded, the picture of her new ring,  emojis that we passed back and forth, and everything else that transpired between us.

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Our Texting History, Vanished

I was beyond crestfallen. I felt as if I had lost something near and dear to me. It was devastating. I sat down in the big chair in my office and contemplated the possibilities. I contacted my computer guru and asked him if a deleted text message file was retrievable. He said with my Android system there was no such capability, only on iPhones. I called my sister and explained what I had done. She commiserated.

Then I sat down again, for a long time, and I thought about a friend who had lost her 23-year-old daughter and only child, seven months earlier…

I called my daughter, and I gave her the news. She didn’t seem concerned. I explained to her that she was the only one with whom I had maintained the longitudinal text trail. She told me that she maintains the text trail with everybody. “It’s not like you’re going to run out of room.” I asked her if she knew of any way that it could be retrieved. She didn’t know, either. We parted company.

Eureka! If she never deletes text message histories, then she has everything that’s transpired between us. I called her back, and she said she did have them all. So, on another day, when we figure out how to transfer what she has back to me, or least downloaded them into some text file, barring her losing her phone or accidentally hitting the delete button like I did, our texting history will be intact on my device.

A Fresh Start

I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. The greater question now is, what kind of technology and what kind of lives do we lead when a longitudinal history can be wiped out by mistake in single second?

It is not comforting to know that critical files can be gone in a flash, but this is a condition of our era. For thousands of years, people simply spoke to each other with no way of recording anything, or even knowing it would one day be possible. Relationships right up to the 1960’s were based on real time conversations in person or on the phone. Answering machines existed in the early 1960’s but were not widely available until the mid 1980’s.

As technology became more and more powerful, as we all know, everyone has the capability today to save and store virtually every encounter that they have with anyone else in the world. Still, it is disquieting to know that our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice.

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Family

I’ll Be Home for Thanksgiving

Where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that vastly predates our birth

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Years ago, when my mother was still alive and I routinely flew up to Connecticut from Washington DC for Thanksgiving, I had a profound realization during one of my flights. My father had passed away years ago, but my mother carried on the tradition of having the kids assemble at her house for turkey and all the fixings.

My plane ride that morning was actually on Thanksgiving Day, which stood out when I made the reservation as the best and least expensive flight. Surprisingly the cabin was not crowded, I guess because nearly everyone else who travels for the holiday departs a day or two before Thanksgiving. In any case, departing the ‘morning of’ can be a welcome change.

Ruminating in the Clouds

During the flight I became pensive. “I’m flying back to Hartford, Connecticut. Why?” Because that is where my parents settled, after a courtship that started when they first met in New London years back. My mother was from Springfield, Massachusetts and my father was from Hartford, Connecticut. As a family, after living in Hartford for a few years, we moved to Bloomfield, Connecticut.

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On Thanksgiving, among others times, I would land at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, be greeted by my mother, and then make the drive 15 to 18 minutes back to Bloomfield.

What if, I surmised, after meeting in New London, Connecticut my parents settled in, say, Providence, Rhode Island, or Cincinnati, Ohio? What if I’d been born to other parents? (Yes, I understand the intricacies of following that line of thinking.) What if my family was from Decatur, Illinois, or Paducah, Kentucky, or any one of 100s of other places? If so, on this particular morning, I’d be flying to one of those locations. That got me to thinking about the fragility and randomness of life.

A Chain of Events

To whom we are born, where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that predates our birth not just by years or decades, but by centuries and more. I was thankful to be flying back to Connecticut to see my mother, brother, and sister and at the same time realized that everyone on the flight, more or less, shared fairly similar circumstances.

We were all flying to Bradley International Airport, but for a quirk of fate, or happenstance, any of us could’ve been flying to Altoona, or Annapolis, or Austin.

Unlike most flights that I take, on that particular journey, at that time in the morning, I felt a kinship with everyone on board. I was thankful for my life, thankful for my family, and thankful for the opportunity and ability to travel to where I choose. What an experience, what a world, what an existence.

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