An excellent question.
I believe a person should ideally be responsible for a predicament
only if at least 3 things are true of that action. . .
1) The action taken by that person had a high probability of directly
or indirectly causing that predicament, based on other known
2) The NET IMPACT (final direct or indirect effect) of that action
alone contributed significantly to a predicament, as opposed to merely
having a negligible impact (i. e. compared to a large number of
3) The person had the ability to make a choice NOT to undertake that action
Iff those 3 things are true about a particular action, then IMHO the
person doing it should be held accountable for it, regardless of
whether that person KNEW about the potential direct/indirect effects
of that action (ignorance is no excuse), and regardless of whether
that action, in principle, HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH the ultimate
On 8/27/12, Jon Anderson <[address removed]> wrote:
> 8/22/12 questions and discussion
> 1-when are we not responsible for the sufferings of others?7
> 2-do politiians have an incentive to go to the center?4
> 3-should we pay now or pay later?5
> 4-should one always make necessities into virtues?5
> 5-is living in moderation dead?6
> 6-is crime, like love, a disease of the mind?6
> 7-how much control do we really have?6
> when are we not responsible for the sufferings of others?
> Sean: Obama says if chemical weapons are used in Syria his calculus will
> change for US involvement there. He didn't say how. He said that after that
> point the US would intervene. At least try to protect the Syrian people and
> probably take out the king. So we have a democratic president threatening
> force because of WMD (again!). It's not imaginary, most likely. He didn't
> ask our opinion, it's not a debate. It could be a bluff but it's happened in
> the past. In an election year he probably can't bluff. Are we our
> brothers'/sisters' keepers? There's a consensus that if someone is bombing
> conventionally we stay out but chemical bombs get us involved. I don't know
> if I buy it. Stopping it before the WMD point I would argue the risks are
> worse of getting involved than they are of not. When are we not responsible?
> Discussing this in principle helps us be clear but looking at real
> situations is tougher.
> Eric: on 9/11/01 a box cutter was a weapon of mass destruction! I do feel
> bad for the suffering of the Syrians. I do want to do something about it. In
> order to sleep I numb myself by distraction. We have to look at where the
> suffering is coming from. Am I causing it in any way? It may be true, I am
> greedy, I hoard, I may have more than my neighbor, pollute the air with my
> inefficient truck. What are we as a nation doing to unintentionally cause
> harm? Those doing genocide are seeing their victims as less than human or
> as otherwise deserving suffering. There does need to be a certain amount of
> punishment in the world.
> Sean: before or after the fact?
> Eric: good question! I don't know. Unintended consequences can cause
> Jess: are you saying we become numb to suffering, so that we ironically
> cause it?
> Eric: we become numb by not each of us suffering enough. suffering I have
> caused unintentionally still makes me responsible.
> Sean: I'm still responsible in some way whether it's intentional or not?
> Eric: compromise can solve or at least lessen suffering. How far ought one
> go to solve suffering? At what point is my own suffering at risk? Obama
> should just get a message to the king, say let's sit down and negotiate.
> Danny: is there a concrete definition of suffering? Are we responsible if we
> disagree on the answer?
> Eric: I would once have said that perception is not important. But now I
> want to be more trusting of others' assertions of pain.
> Art: in order to be a civilization, in order to become human we should
> actively destroy cultures that are not humane. We should be ashamed to say
> we're civilized if we don't. We still act herd like. Diffused
> responsibility: more than 10 people in a group will be less likely to help
> than they would as individuals. In Vietnam some of us didn't agree with the
> war and didn't want to go there. This was new for our civilization. It was
> shameful. In general we need to be more proactive, show violent people what
> violence feels like. I was in Vietnam, 1/3 of my fellow soldiers were
> Vietnamese who had their lives at stake and we let them down. Reagan pulling
> our troops in Beirut was bad, one of the worst I think. War is won by hope.
> Our army is not a hope giving army.
> Sean: so there is probably no situation where we are not responsible?
> Art: we're on the brink of extinction.
> Matt: watching TV at night is desensitizing. Parr of the way the media works
> is to do just that. Since 9/11 it has increased this effect, perhaps to
> prepare us for some future war. Corporations control media and they're
> telling us what they want us to think. Money has always been made by someone
> as the result of war (profiteering). "Saving" people from suffering, why?
> We're doing it because there's something we want. Big money comes in to
> profit. This is maybe a far out idea. Obama's comment that it isn't about
> chemical warfare is dishonest. It's far more complicated than that. One sure
> thing, our leadership doesn't care about people's suffering.
> Sean: do we have any responsibility?
> Matt: it's more a collective thing. Grassroots support is needed. I once
> read Howard Zinn's book of US history referring to a robber baron who once
> said he would never fight a war or send his children to war because there
> are less important people for doing that.
> Danny: if perception is solely owned by the individual then no one can make
> us understand each others' suffering. How could one ever feel entitled to
> say they have the power over others' perceptions? Unless one enjoys or
> causes the suffering then one is not responsible for how others
> react/suffer. Suffering is very subjective.
> Jeremy: I have a friend who is always looking for a fight. Being
> compassionate is good but can be taken too far. We must be selective as to
> intervention. It's good to draw lines but we can't fix those lines as
> permanent. Lines must be reassessed. man's freedom is a blessing and a
> Sean: is that a question of what to do or not to do? Presuming I feel
> responsible means I will act. But sometimes we don't act when we feel
> responsible. So is this something a person does to decide what to do?
> Jeremy: yes aggression can be appropriate. From moment to moment one can
> become/un-become responsible. Sometimes we are deliberate in doing harm but
> the rest are matters of degree.
> Sean: is distance from the suffering a factor?
> Jess: isn't everyone doing what they think is right?
> Jeremy: there are acts one can take back, or not. The ones we can't take
> back really require us to think about it. In politics there are a lot of
> King Solomon decisions to make. Can it just be body counts? We have to do
> our best.
> Jess: so the goal is not to reduce suffering but just to reduce death?
> Danny: do you think the Pentagon was not trying to do their best? I think we
> all act out of self-interest.
> Jon: Vietnam stands as a vivid example of unclear motivations, as Matt
> described. Suffering caused by such secret reasons seems especially painful.
> Also, we can't be certain of what suffering is. As Danny asserts, it is
> relative. Lastly, trying not to cause suffering is no guarantee that
> suffering will not occur.
> Mike: I wish we had more time to discuss this! The short answers: there will
> always be profiteers, and the robber barons also improved our nation
> (Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc). But we are not the same country now that once
> was. Syria: both Bush II and Clinton talked about feeling guilt over Bosnia
> Herzegovina. We would like Syria to be peaceful so that we could have a
> peaceful middle east so we can be in charge there! Obama couldn't stand the
> heat if he failed to do what he's doing now. Responsibility: in my line of
> work we were told we could delegate responsibility but not accountability.
> Responsibility for other's suffering should be a two way street. If we
> commit our resources to help, those we help must allow us to take charge.
> Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on
> this mailing list ([address removed])
> This message was sent by Jon Anderson ([address removed]) from The Saint
> Paul Socrates Cafe.
> To learn more about Jon Anderson, visit his/her member profile:
> Meetup, PO Box 4668 #37895 New York, New York[masked] |
> [address removed]