Social Responsibility

by talkbackty on Dec 14, 2011

"Stop referring to yourselves as consumers. Consumers are different than citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities & duties to their fellow human beings." -James Howard Kunstler

The United States has mastered the avoidance of social responsibility. In a move of stunning hypocrisy we are a nation of religious men and women who donate more money to charity than any other nation on earth, yet there is very little regard for our own neighbors. We have expanded so fast and so vast that our sense of humanity has become skewed in the process.

You can see this in our architecture. In place of town squares and community centers we have cookie cutter houses and mega-Walmarts that take up entire city blocks. Locations have become defined not by what we do there, but by what we get there. I get gas at the gas station, I get food at the grocery store, I get a movie at a Best Buy and then I return to my home that is three-sizes too big where I can separate myself from the rest of humanity.
The workers all live in the houses behind this store.
This changes how we think, how we act and the way we interact with other people. Humans stop becoming unique and start becoming automatons that provide you with services. Things don't happen to you but to "them." You are not at fault, "they" are. You are not responsible. It disengages us from humanity.

I had a professor at University that repeatedly said many problems would be solved if people understood the history of Pledge of Allegiance and the Oath of Allegiance. He believed that instead of reciting the Pledge at schools or government meetings, everyone should be taught and recite the Oath of Allegiance.

Americans are familiar with the Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Many countries have similar pledges as well. Something short, concise and repeatable. The history behind the pledge is that it was written in 1892 and advertised by a marketer in hopes of selling more American flags. It's a gimmick. A slogan. It's the same as "Got Milk" or "Just do it." An argument can be made that it has evolved to be more than that. I suppose. But let's look at the simple truth: It doesn't mean anything. It is a collection of words that neither make any promises or require anything of the speaker. It is meaningless.

Immigrants are familiar with the Oath of Allegiance, sometimes referred to as the Oath of Citizenship. Every immigrant who wishes to become a naturalized citizen must recite this Oath:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

The Oath is almost the exact opposite of the Pledge. Long, wordy and filled with things the speaker must do. In fact, there are five things that can not change in the Oath of Allegiance. (Wording can be adjusted, but these things must stay the same).

1. Swear allegiance to the United States Constitution
2. Renounce allegiance to any foreign country to which the immigrant has had previous allegiances
3. Defend the Constitution against enemies "foreign and domestic"
4. Promise to serve in the United States Armed Forces when required by law (either combat or non-combat)
5. Promise to perform civilian duties of "national importance" when required by law
Internal debate: How tall is guy in second row?
 The long and short? When someone recites the Oath of Allegiance they are promising to do certain things. They are making an Oath between themselves and the Nation that they are responsible, and can be held accountable if they do not live up to those responsibility.

This responsibility is key. There are too few today who feel responsible for their own, or others', actions. Perhaps, this is a repercussion of society extending beyond it's biological abilities. As cultures developed they did so in tribes. Rarely more than 100 people, every person had responsibilities and accountability. Even when tribes formed into communities, it was closer to a collection of tribes rather than a different entity entirely. Individuals were still responsible to their tribe first and then allegiance was given to larger and larger groups.

Today, we live in a country of 300 million, in cities of tens or hundreds of thousands. Our neighbors come and go, especially the closer to a metropolis you live. This is the one, and perhaps only, area where small farming communities in the West and Mid-West are more advanced than people along the coasts. They still rely on the individuals around them to survive. Around that necessity develops strong communities and close friendships. They act more like a tribe with a common goal rather than individuals only linked by proximity.

The unfortunate truth is that whether because of technological advances or exponential population growth, all of us have begun to disengage from humanity. Author John Green said,

"I would submit that all human lives are usually lived in a state of functional nihilism. Very few of us believe that life is devoid of all meaning and that all we should do is satisfy our base urges and fulfill our basic desires and try to distract ourselves from pain, or fear, or unpleasantness. But almost all of us act as if we believe that." -John Green

Each and every one of us has tremendous ability to effect our surroundings positively. We can grow a garden, clean up a park, visit our neighbors, or help the poor, sick, and needy. There are opportunities every day to change our outlook on life. We can become more socially responsible one step at a time. Engage with humanity, take responsibility and live life as if it has meaning.

Because it does.