Saturday, November 19, 2005

Responsibility and Blame

There has been some discussion on various websites - including mine - about responsibility and blame.

[Update Feb, 15 2010: Haloscan has abandoned me, so the links to comments on past posts no longer work.]

On the one hand we have loonies who hold that advocating the taking of responsibility for your own safety is tantamount to blaming the victim. If you are responsible and something happens then it is your fault. So it is best to advocate reliance on the state for protection - so no individual gets blamed.

On the other hand we have the loonies who maintain that you can defend yourself against any attack, if only you prepare yourself enough. You can build defenses against any attack, so you should get to work now.

Of course both extremes are wrong.

Making a plan for your security can be as simple as buying some pepper spray, or as complicated as studying the martial arts. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I am a firm believer in the power of firearms to provide personal defense. Others have other ideas and that is fine.

I also understand that just because I have a plan for my personal defense, I do not have a guarantee for my personal safety. Having a plan does, however, change the odds in my favor. Just as wearing a seatbelt does not guarantee that you will be uninjured in an automobile accident, having a firearm, learning the martial arts or carrying pepper spray will not make you invincible. Yet we wear seatbelts. We do all kinds of things that only make sense because they "change the odds." (Exercise, eat right, lock your doors, etc.) And we encourage people to refrain from things, like smoking, that tilt the odds against them. None of these strategies works every time. Non-smokers do get lung cancer; they don't get it as often as do smokers.

Why don't we encourage people to defend themselves if it changes the odds? I believe the answer is mostly political.
“You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”
--John Dewey (1859-1952), reformer
of the American public school system
People who take some responsibility for their own safety are almost by definition not willing to turn their whole lives over to the state. Socialism demands that you turn your life over to the state. If not your whole life, then a very large portion of it.

While the state can play its part in ensuring our safety, like sending violent offenders to jail, there are limits to how much protection the state can provide. To often I read articles about women who have restraining orders against stalkers, call 911 - or don't even have a chance to call 911 - and still end up dead. The state can only do so much.

There are things that the states are doing which are clearly working - even if they are not working perfectly. Crime in the US is at 30 or 40 year lows. Some of this is due to improved policing methods, some to mandatory minimum sentences and I believe some is due to laws like Concealed Carry and Oklahoma's "Make My Day" law. Other things are not working so well. Police need to be able to quickly respond - the response times will never be zero even when the victim can call before the crime occurs. Criminals need to be sent to jail for long enough to impress on them the severity of their actions - with the hope that they will not repeat their crimes. None of this will work in every situation.

Taking personal responsibility for your safety and the safety of your family is not asking victims to take responsibility for the actions of criminals. Criminals are responsible for their own actions, and need to be held accountable for those actions when found guilty. Taking responsibility for your safety is no more than recognizing that you are not helpless, you can take some action, and any action you take will influence the outcome of a criminal encounter. Look at it another way; if I am wearing a seatbelt and am still injured in a car crash, is it my fault that I am injured? (Assuming of course that said crash was not my fault.) If my plans and my preparations fail to protect me from all hazards that only proves that I am human.

Taking responsibility for your own safety does not guarantee safety; just as turning your safety over to the state will not guarantee your safety. No solution is perfect. Nothing in this world is perfect. But being a responsible adult does imply that you take responsibility for those things that you can control.

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