Thursday, July 5, 2012

Counting Sheep

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. he has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him a spinal cord would surely suffice. — Albert Einstein
"Why did you take apart my room!?!"

She stands there, attempting to look contrite. My dear niece, and also the biggest pain in the—

"It was his idea," she says with accusing finger, pointing to her cousin, my dear nephew, an even bigger pain in the—

"I. DON'T. CARE. You have a mind. You knew it was wrong. I don't care whose idea it was!"

I never understood the "herd" excuse as justification for bad behavior. 

I know that I am not immune. Someone makes a comment and I laugh, because everyone else is guffawing even though it isn't very nice. But if accused, I couldn't say, "Everyone else was laughing so . . . " So . . . what? It makes it okay?
My niece has always sought her cousin's company, and went along with his schemes to gain non-existent favor. Choosing to exercise bechira for "evil" is still bechira. It isn't an exemption to free will.

Every time I open the newspaper there are articles claiming how we are not responsible for our own behavior. All of our responses can be filed away under "not-my-fault" whether it be due to major cognitive issues to the fact that I didn't have lunch yet.

I was stunned to read in a Jewish periodical a first-person of a young couple that got into serious debt. After mindlessly spending and ending up thousands in the hole, he buys (yes, another purchase!) a finance book that has this amazing concept: Individual responsibility. Wow! Never heard of it before!

Dear God! 

We were the people that invented "individual responsibility"! How did we come to this, not even cognizant that the more money I spend will mean the less money I have?

Psychopathy, it seems can be diagnosed in childhood. However, according to long-term studies, that is not a life-sentence. 
 . . . Those studies revealed two things. The first was that nearly every psychopathic adult was deeply antisocial as a child. The second was that almost 50 percent of children who scored high on measures of antisocial qualities did not go on to become psychopathic adults. Early test scores, in other words, were necessary but not sufficient in predicting who ultimately became a violent criminal . . . That gap is what gives researchers hope. If a genetic predisposition to psychopathy is a risk factor, the logic goes, that risk might be mitigated by environmental influences — the same way that diet can be used to lower an inherited risk for heart disease. 
This should not be a surprising concept to us. We know of the strength of the human mind and will. We can overcome the unpleasantness within ourselves. And if we don't, we aren't getting a free pass.  


MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

We live in a society where we are shielded from the consequences of most of our stupid actions.
We have governments that compete to see who can run more of our lives so we don't have to.
So is it any wonder people just follow the herd?

Sparrow said...

I think that there have been herd-followers for most of human history. Exceptions became prophets, artists or jesters.

Princess Lea said...

MGI: Not really a good excuse.

Sparrow: Not so. People lived more exhausting, busy existences and didn't really have time to obsess about other people. I'm not talking about big, cosmic schemes here. I'm talking about our individual little lives.

Sparrow said...

I think people usually were obsessed with other people. Why would the Torah bother about lashon hara if people weren't talking about others?
Aside from that, look at some Greek philosophy, or even stuff like Beowulf and the Mabinogion. Does it really make a difference if you call it genes or wyrd or fate?

Princess Lea said...

People who herd don't even bother to talk; they just do what everyone else is doing.

Greek philosophy discussed the power of the individual; but Greek dramas emphasized the inability to escape one's fate. That is not how we roll.

How did we get into the tales of heroes? Those were the (invented) elite of their times, and were not concerned about "the people." Nor are we discussing destiny. Other cultures may place more emphasis on that, but we don't: We are the authors of our own futures.

My point here was individual responsibility. Not of the leaders, but of the unglamorous many.