Tag Archives: responsibility

Going through life backwards

2 Dec

Sometimes I feel like I’m going through life backwards, in relationships, responsibility, and goals. In my head I imagine “normal” as something like a pyramid. The normal narrative goes something like this: Before a boy grows up to be a man, he starts off fairly irresponsible, inconsiderate of others. He shirks responsibility, seriousness, his studies, and jumps has many relationships with various women. As the boy gets older, he learns to be more responsible, taking on duties and jobs in which others depend upon him, his tastes start to narrow as he figures out who he is, and he settles down with a partner.

That’s how I image the typical story goes. Someone is considered “immature” if they aren’t where they’re supposed to be at a given age along this path. If someone is where they’re supposed to be at a given age, you would say “they’re acting their age.”

Well I feel that I’m going along this path backwards in a way. As a teenager I never rebelled, I was extremely responsible for my age, I limited my relationships to serious ones, I never did anything overly dangerous or illegal, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life. Among my friends I was always the responsible one, and always happy to take on more responsibility. I never drank, I was always prepared for any situation, I almost always knew what to do, and I always cleaned up the mess.

Now that I’m older I’m sick of it.

Lately I’ve really been stressing out about a few things I really don’t want to do. I stopped to take stock of those things that were making me miserable and they were all responsibilities I had to other people. I don’t want any more responsibilities, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of having other people depend on me, I’m tired of being held down by those responsibilities. I’m fully aware that people are going to give me a ton of shit for saying this because “responsibility is good” is practically axiomatic in our society, but fuck em.

Look, I realize that many people have responsibilities that they did not enter into freely. For example, a family member gets sick or dies and suddenly you’re the only one around to look after the children. I get that. I’m not talking about those types of responsibilities.  I’m talking about responsibilities the way a free market capitalist would talk about employment: voluntarily entering into an obligation in return for some benefit. Why else do we voluntarily take on more responsibilities and obligations if not because we believe it will somehow be worth it? Maybe what makes it worth it is a pay increase, or a higher/more reputable standing in society. Whatever it is, I don’t want it.

I know that at this point in my life, almost 25, that I should be honing in on what I want to do for a career, I should start looking for someone to settle down with and have a family, and I should be striving to take on more responsibilities. However, all I want to do is cut all my chains and fly away. Perhaps I’m living life backwards.

Responsibility

14 Feb

Ever since I got a full time job and my own apartment, I have been thinking a lot about responsibility. I don’t mean the usual crap that your parents tell you about responsibility when you get a pet, I mean like how scary it is to have it and why so many people of avoid it.

At my job I am responsible for a lot of things, mainly innovations and troubleshooting. My biggest fear is that I will somehow forget to do something and it will hurt the business. The really scary part is that I work with the admin program and our server, which is like the beating heart of the business. I have to tripple check before I touch a button that could accidentally delete a medical record and get us sued.

It is my job to know everything about everything. When I suggest we try a new program or messages of doing something, I have to know every aspect of what I am suggesting and how it might affect the business. It is a lot of pressure. There are times in the day when I am stuck. I can’t do my job all by myself, sometimes I have to work with other people and their computers. Unfortunately sometimes they are not cooperative.

When my boss asks why something is not done I feel bad saying it is because I am waiting on someone else. I feel like that is an excuse, a way of shrugging off responsibility. When I read the book Atlas Shrugged, a constant theme was people avoiding responsibility. They always had an excuse for why something wasn’t done. I really do not want to be like that but there are times when I really can’t do something because of someone else. What are you supposed to do in those situations? What are you supposed to do when something is honestly not your fault? Is responsibility taking the blame even though you there was nothing you could do?

I get the feeling responsibility of something that can only hurt you. When you are responsible for something and it goes well no one says anything because that is what was supposed to happen; however, if something goes wrong your screwed. This is why people try to avoid responsibility. But if everyone avoids responsibility nothing gets done, just like in Atlas Shrugged.

I guess in those situations I usually just take the blame even though there was nothing I could possibly do. My job requires that I go into uncharted territory, I don’t have all the answers and I admit that. I try my best, yet sometimes some things still go wrong. I can be working very hard and something I never considered will screw me.

It is really frustrating to know you’re doing your best and yet to still have unexpected things go wrong. I love my job and the people I work with but sometimes the responsibility can be very scary. If I fuck up it is not only my livelihood that is at risk but the livelihood of others as well…

What does atheism have to offer?

29 Jan

Earlier this evening I met up with a group of fellow atheists for a round circle discussion. While there I got to meet the hosts of the A Matter of Doubt podcast and one of them asked a very simple question that honestly stumped me for a bit:

What does atheism have to offer?

That question really made me stop and think, and at first I couldn’t really come up with any serious answers other than “Well, we have the best comedians.”

But really, what does atheism have to offer? Well there’s a lot it doesn’t have to offer:

A reward after you die, the ability to see lost loved ones, a large community safety net, a constant feeling of belonging, etc. Instead atheism, at least on its face, appears to offer a first class ticket to be socially ostracized with no happily ever after. That’s a tough sell!

But after thinking a bit more on the matter, and discussing it with the other people in the group, there is one very important thing that atheism does not offer: certainty.

And you know what? That is perfectly fine for me. “I don’t know” are three very humble yet powerful words. Unfortunately uncertainty scares people. One of the greatest draws for religion is the false sense of certainty is asserts, backed up by nothing but the tenacity of the belief. If I can only will it hard enough, it will be so. I feel a big part of growing up and achieving maturity is gaining the understanding that “I don’t know” is a good phrase, that it is ok to utter it.

As we discussed this question further, I realized there was something that atheism offers that religion does not.

Responsibility

(Now depending on the person, if they shy away from responsibility or not, it could be yet another mark against atheism)

With atheism comes the realization that you are responsible for your own actions. You have no excuses for misdeeds, and no salvation from consequences. You cannot blame things on the work of the devil, and you cannot be forgiven by proxy from a god. There are no bailouts or handouts. There are some theists who would say that atheism is a free ticket to do all the horrible, wicked things you want, when in reality it is exactly the opposite. With atheism you can’t commit evil and then wash your hands of responsibility by asking an invisible man for forgiveness.

Which brings me to the next thing atheism offers:

Freedom

With this great responsibility comes great freedom. You are not born evil. You are not somehow sinful and broken. Your life is not planned out for you, it is not a test that you must pass. You are you’re own person, responsible for your own actions, and free to make your life what you want it. If you ask an atheist who used to be religious, chances are they’ll tell you that when they left religion they felt a great sense of relief. I know I did. Suddenly you no longer have heaven and hell looming over you, no supernatural puppet masters, no self-loathing. You are free, you are in control.

Social Responsibility

5 Mar

So recently I read an article by Milton Friedman, written in 1970, titled “The social responsibility of business is to increase profits”. The article addresses the idea that businesses have an obligation to act socially responsibly.  I found the article really interesting and had some thoughts on it. (I will try to represent Friedman accurately and not cut up quotes out of context. The full article was published in The New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, you can find it here)

“The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit, but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers.”

“Presumably the individuals who are to be responsible are businessmen, which means individual proprietors or corporate executives…In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.”

(He then makes an exception for corporations that run hospitals or charitable organizations)

“What does it mean to say that the corporate executive has a “social responsibility” in his capacity as a businessman? If this statement is not pure rhetoric, it must mean that he is to act in some way that is not in the interest of his employers. For example, that he is to refrain from increasing the price of the product in order to contribute to the social objective of preventing inflation, even though a price increase would be in the best interests of the corporation. Or that he is to make expenditures on reducing pollution beyond the amount that is in the best interests of the corporation or that is required by law in order to contribute to the social objective of improving the environment.”

“In each of these cases, the corporate executive would be spending someone else’s money for a general social interest. Insofar as his actions in accord with his “social responsibility” reduce returns to stockholders, he is spending their money. Insofar as his actions raise the price to customers, he is spending the customers’ money. Insofar as his actions lower the wages of some employees, he is spending their money…But if he does this, he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds shall be spent, on the other.

(He then goes on to say that this is taxation without representation without any checks and balances, that he “is to be simultaneously legislator, executive, and jurist.”)

“Many a reader who has followed the argument this far may be tempted to remonstrate that it is all well and good to speak of Government’s having the responsibility to impose taxes and determine expenditures for such “social” purposes as controlling pollution or training the hard-core unemployed, but that the problems are too urgent to wait on the slow course of political processes, that the exercise of social responsibility by businessmen is a quicker and surer way to solve pressing social problems.”

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can begin discussing it. I agree that a business exists to make money, and that is its primary responsibility. I also agree with Friedman’s assertion that it is not business’s place to try and cure social ills, that’s government’s place. In the preface to the article in my book US. Secretary of labor in 1996 Robert Reich says “If we want companies to do things which do not necessarily improve the returns to shareholders but which are beneficial for the economy and society as a whole…we have to give businesses and economic reason to do so.”

I think Reich has it right. Take the environment for example. It would be wrong to meddle in businesses and force them to acting way X, but it would be fine to give them economic incentives to act way X, say tax breaks for switching over to less polluting procedures.

One point that I disagree with Friedman on is the idea that the executive is “taxing” either the shareholders, customers, or workers, and that this is taxation without representation. He points out later in the article that a free market society is created by relationships and contracts people voluntarily enter into. The shareholders can fire the CEO if they do not like how he is conducting a business, or they can sell their share and invest elsewhere. The customers can take their money elsewhere, and the workers can leave and seek employment elsewhere. All are forms of voting on this “taxation”.

Yet what I find most interesting is that business will increase prices on the customer as much as possible, and lower wages for the worker as much as possible, regardless if they are acting “socially responsible” or not. They are after all trying to make money.

Lastly, Friedman talks about how it is business’ only responsibility to make money as long as they operate within the laws of society.  The reason I support government regulation on some matters is that in a completely free-market system, profit is the only thing that matters. It is more important than people and the environment. There are no mechanisms to protect either. If there we no repercussions keeping a company from dumping toxic waste in a lake they would do it, because it’s cheaper than processing the waste. Yet we as a society recognize that we don’t want businesses dumping waste in our lakes, and so we elect a government that then creates the laws Friedman says businesses must play by.

Sexist Dodge Charger Superbowl Ad

11 Feb

I’m pretty sure by now almost everyone has seen this ad by Dodge aired during the 2010 superbowl:

Ok, so lets recap on the things that men are supposed to be surrendering to do in exchange for driving the car they want:

I will walk the dog, I will eat fruit as part of my breakfast, I will shave and clean the sink after I shave, I will be at work by 8 am

[Ok, these things are just basic responsibility issues. You’re supposed to be an adult. What? Without your wife nagging you to be a mature, responsible person you would not walk the dog, you would not try to eat right, you would not clean up your mess, and you would not get to work on time? Way to go.]

I will sit through 2 hour meetings

[Ok, that’s just part of your job, how are women responsible for this? You’re in control of your own life, don’t like your job? Quit and get a new one, but don’t try and blame others for your unhappiness]

I will say “yes” when you want me to say “yes”

I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say “no”

[Somebody has honestly and trust issues in their relationship…]

I will take your call

[That’s just being courteous. You wouldn’t be courteous without nagging? If she’s calling too much, then use a little thing called communication and talk to her about it for a change.]

I will listen to your opinion of my friends

I will listen to your friends’ opinions of my friends

[Again, communication! Any maybe you should start evaluating why you’re in a relationship with this person if they don’t like who you associate with]

I will be civil to your mother

[I guess courtesy is just something men do because they’re forced to by women, for without women they would all manners and social skills /sarcasm]

I will put the seat down

[Oh heavens! I can’t just only ever think of myself!?!? I have to consider that other people might live in the house too?!?! Gah! I can’t take this courtesy thing!!!]

I will separate the recycling

[Yeah, real men don’t give a shit about the environment or recycling!]

I will carry your lip balm

[Really? How often do women ask men to carry a small tube of lip balm? And if she does happen to not have any pockets or a purse, what’s the big deal? It’s not like she’s asking you to carry a pink umbrella.]

I will watch your vampire TV shows with you

[Ok, seriously, communication. I bet she does things with you that she’s not overly fond of. Relationships are about compromise. Try and find something you like to do together or get out of the relationship. It’s not all just about you.]

I will take my socks off before getting into bed

[Really? This is an issue in your relationship? Talk to her about it! Make her see that’s it’s not a big deal. If wearing socks to bed is a deal breaker, then there are more important things wrong in your relationship]

I will put my underwear in the basket

[As opposed to what? leaving them on the floor for other people to pick up? You’re an adult, take responsibility for your own mess.]

As you can see, this entire commercial is about men shifting the blame for being stuck in an unhappy relationship, a boring job, and having to be responsible onto women. “I’m too lazy and immature to take control of my life, so I’m going to blame women for trapping me…” Is this seriously what Dodge is telling us men are? No thank you.

Christians and premarital sex

10 Feb

Why is it so important to wait to marriage? Well, back when the bible was being written (and up until recently) there was no way to tell for sure if a child was yours. Women were property, their main value derived from their ability to have children. They were property used by men to beget more men. Marriage was primarily a financial transaction where the husband buys a wife from the wife’s father. The father then walks his daughter down the aisle and “gives” his daughter to the other man. It’s all about property. Thus it was important to the men that their “property” not be previously “used”.

The theology behind it was just whipped up out of early church father’s utter disdain for woman and the human body. St. Augustine for example hated women and sex, and from this hate centuries of boys and girls were brought up to be ashamed of their bodies and desires. Your body and desires are perfectly natural and there is nothing wrong or dirty about them. Believing they are can lead to all types of sick disorders and self-loathing.

Besides these side effects, waiting to marriage can have some disastrous consequences. There are plenty of young evangelical men and women who are now rushing into marriage way to early, and for the wrong reasons. They’ve been told their entire lives that they can’t give in to their strongest urges until they’re married, and so these young adults are diving into marriage in their late teens, early twenties, just so they can have sex. They might not have ever dated anyone else seriously, and they aren’t fully ready to support themselves. Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce, and these kids just aren’t set up well enough on their own two feet to be in a marriage.

Here are the divorce rates among Christians, Jews, and Atheists:

Religion % have been divorced
Jews 30%
Born-again Christians 27%
Other Christians 24%
Atheists, Agnostics 21%

(I wouldn’t be surprised if  Born-again is so high up there because the kids rush into marriage just to have sex)

It’s important to experiment in life to see what works for you. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t experience all life has to offer before you die.  I have a housemate that is engaged to a woman he’s never had sex with. The woman does not want to have sex before marriage, and so he’s going to wait 5-6 years (supposedly, if they last that long) to marry her and then have sex. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. What if he marries this person and they don’t have good sexual chemistry? Then he’s shafted for life! And don’t try and say “Well, the other qualities that makes him love her should overpower the lack of sexual chemistry”. That’s naive and unrealistic. Sex matters. You can have a great personality, but if the sex just isn’t good, the marriage/relationship is not going to work.

Telling kids to wait until marriage also increases the chance of teen pregnancy. In September 2009, a study came out showing a link between how religious a state is, and the teen pregnancy rate. Here is an indisputable FACT of life that will not change no matter what any religious book will ever say: Teens will have sex. This has been true for all  time, and will continue to be true forever. Telling teens to not have sex until they are married does nothing to keep them from having sex. Abstinence only does not work. Instead they will just not use birth control and will get pregnant, which raises the number of abortions. (Hint, want to stop abortions? Teach safe sex)

When it comes down to it, sex is all about responsibility. Some people are more responsible than others at different ages. I was very responsible when I was a teenager, many of my friends were not. Now that I’m an adult, I’m even more responsible, yet I know people my age and older who aren’t. It depends on the person. Some people are emotionally mature enough to handle sexual activity in their teens, some are not. If they are ready for sex, they must be responsible enough to also use protection consistently. Diseases are out there and they do not magically disappear when you get married.

If some people feel they are not ready for sex and want to wait until marriage, that’s fine, it’s their body, they can make that choice, but don’t then go and try to tell me I should do the same, that my body is sinful and dirty, that
I should be ashamed just like them. Marriage is an outdated patriarchal institution when it comes to managing sex.

Alcohol

30 Aug

Alcohol; I have no interest in it. I’ve never been drunk in my life, and I really don’t see the appeal of being drunk. When I told my friend that I was helping my girlfriend throw an alcohol free party he replied “I don’t see why people say they can have fun without alcohol. It makes you able to have more fun! Trying to have fun at a party without alcohol is like trying to start a fire with flint and steel. Why use flint and steel when they’ve invented the lighter?” To which I quickly replied: “Yes, but how many people have accidentally burned down their house with flint and steel?”

I’m in my senior year at Lynchburg College. Last year I had a house with 5 other guys, and the place was party central. After watching last year unfold, I can safely say that nothing good came out of  the drinking that took place in my house. We had people mixing their medication with their drinks, people throwing up, relationship drama, and had to call 9-11 on several occasions.

When you drink your ability to make good judgments goes down, that’s a fact. It’s like people here get drunk so they can fuck each other and make bad decisions and blame it on the alcohol. If they really regretted making bad decisions while drunk, they would stop drinking. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the appeal of not being in control. I want to be able to control my actions and be able to make good decisions. I guess it’s called responsibility.

I’ve always been the responsible one. Last year I would drive crying drunk girls home, I would clean up if something happened, I would make sure the house didn’t burn down. I also had to talk to the emergency services whenever there was a problem because I was the only person not inebriated.  Eventually I got really fucking sick and tired of having to clean up after the irresponsible.

The first weekend back a “Liberty” “University” student came over to our apartment to party. “Liberty” “University” students often come over to my college campus to drink and party because their evangelical christian school bans all parties and alcohol. This student, a 19 year old girl, drank way too much and mixed her medication. Next thing we know she’s passed out on my friend’s bed in a giant pool of vomit, not responding. My housemates had to call 9-11….again…. I came out of my room to socialize only to find an emergency happening in my apartment.