Matt Pearl

Personal responsibility has been the drum I have beaten fairly often lately in my writings, and I’m not done illustrating our individual obligation to account for our own actions.

It’s a hard-hitting subject, and a necessary one for us to discuss in our society today. As I have (hopefully) clearly stated, I am not a big believer that people change in their essential natures over the years and generations. The troubles that plagued humanity 1,000 years ago are still present in our lives: we just possess more sophisticated technology and deadlier weapons with which we prove our depravity.

Maybe that sounds hopeless to you. I certainly don’t mean to sound as if I find our race irredeemable, but history has shown that we – particularly we Americans – show little interest in reforming our ways until a major crisis forces us to take positive action. We indulge our greed and vanity, the same as any group of people who have ever been afforded the chance to do so upon this earth and continue to do so until a major conflict or ravaging disease strikes. Then, when all else fails, we bond together, forget our squabbles and begin to care about others with greater energy than we care about ourselves.

And in those brief moments, we are a great people. But when the fighting is over or the infirmary is empty, we go right back to thinking about ourselves, and we rekindle our bickering with those who oppose our ideas.

Everyone wants a great America, but we all seem to disagree on how such a mythical perfect society should be ordered, structured and administered. We want to hear the right politician give the right answer. We want others to take responsibility for fixing our land.

But person al responsibility thrives when the individual must stand for what is right – even if he or she must stand alone. Waiting for others to solve our problems, after all, is the opposite of acting with personal accountability.

I suppose it’s just the way we are: we begin caring more about our neighbors when our collective way of life is being threatened. For once, though, I’d love to see us act more responsibly, wouldn’t you?

I mentioned before that we want to hear the right politician offering us the right answer. But what if the wrong politician – meaning one of those horrible folks from across the aisle – offers the right solution? How many of us who follow politics are excited to give someone from the other party credit for a good idea?

Human perspective is a tough puzzle to solve and attempting to see the world through someone else’s eyes is just nigh on impossible. We can adamantly oppose an idea spoken by someone with a different political alignment from our own and hate the idea: but a couple of years later when our party endorses a similia notion, we embrace it wholeheartedly. 

One of the more difficult elements of personal accountability is that holding myself responsible means I must also be self-critical at times. When I am wrong, I have to admit my error to myself; lying to oneself – and believing such a lie – is the fast track to hypocrisy and stubborn foolishness. If a person cannot be honest with himself, why should anyone else expect the truth from him?

It’s an age filled with politicians deflecting blame, applying the hateful doctrine of spewing negativity about political foes – never mind whether criticisms and allegations are true or false – and standing back to see what sticks. There will be a price to pay for it all, and I fear that the liars and false accusers of this world won’t be the ones who write the check: instead it will be those of us who believed their lies and dug our heels into our political agendas.

When we believe the words of anyone who uses blame to justify his words and actions, taking the credit for success and deflecting all failure upon political opponents, we are not listening to the voice of personal accountability. We are hearing the cries of a declining empire.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.


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