Thursday, October 08, 2009

Why Are Individuals Not Held Responsible?

I read an interesting article in the LA Times about a study that reveals that banning fast food stores in areas of high obesity, isn’t the solution. In fact these areas already have fewer stores per capita.

It made me wonder why when I’m in meetings about crime or public health or education or poverty, I constantly hear agencies, non-profits and government fingered as responsible...but there is one pivotal group that is an invisible “white elephant” in the room...individuals and families.

We hear what law enforcement and the judicial system should do, what public schools should do, what social services and drug treatment should do, but not how individuals and families can be accountable.

I’m not some far out nut. I’m a progressive so I know and understand that government is designed to provide many things that aren’t practical to do as individuals, families or private businesses.

But is it just me or when children and young adults are truants or get in trouble with the law, does it seem that people quickly finger the judicial system? When some groups score lower on end of grade and end of course tests, teachers and administrators are quickly fingered. When kids and young adults grow obese or drug and alcohol dependent, quick service establishments, bottlers or convenience stores are fingered.

The fact is all of the institutions must obviously be part of the solution…and they can and appear to be trying to do a better job.

What’s missing in the discussion is personal and family or parental responsibility. That’s really where the buck stops. That is part of the foundation of any free society.

Why aren’t individuals and parents being held at least as accountable as agencies and non-profits? Instead of finger pointing or playing the victim…let’s ask, if not insist, that the individuals and families also be responsible for the solution.

All the money, all of the agencies, all of the safety nets in the world can only make a difference if individuals and families play their part.

1 comment:

Jay Zenner said...

I picked up a strong deterministic streak somewhere along the line that haunts my hope that there is really free will.

How can we insist that people take responsibility for their actions when everybody is merely the result of past influences?

The only answer is to labor as hard as we can paddling upstream to become more of a cause then an effect.

Yes, we need to insist that individuals and families take responsibility but can only make it happen by predicting consequences and then allowing them to happen.

It is very difficult to change behavior when something like obesity or truancy becomes the norm and the consequences are seen as inevitable.

Yet, we have seen that this is possible. Smoking is declining without making it totally illegal.
Obama's acendency may dispel the notion that being smart isn't cool. Durham has had a revival because a small core (some of whose portraits now grace the civic center) convinced others that it could happen.