There’s something about our postmodern existence that divorces us from any sense of responsibility. Certainly, there are some things that were directly assigned to us that we are responsible for. I was careful to never damage or destroy my school texts as I might theoretically be held responsible for it — but when it comes to damaging a desk or bathroom with graffiti, or watching someone else engage in it, it was an entirely different story. While I never abused property myself I had always thought that, on some level, there is no responsibility I have in the least, no obligation, towards the destruction of property.
I have spent much of my life though, then and now, not only with a sort of ‘indifference’ towards the things around me, but also have cultivated the idea that I am not not responsible. In fact, I have grown up with a feeling not only of no responsibility, but of powerlessness. Certainly great teachers have told me this is not the case since I was a young man — but this is a lesson that takes some age and maturity to fully grasp, and perhaps this is why this is a lesson that we try to impart on youth with such urgency.
I feel, though, that the task of changing the rot within the society seems like a monolithic venture. Whether it is excessive corporate greed or the sorry state of the American government, or the degradation of the environment, or even the moral degradation of ourselves as people, we have a vague fatalistic approach and a series of excuses and justifications for our indifference & inability. We also exist as tired creatures that are so obsessed with doing the tasks we need to do to keep from being destitute. In some sense we are not that different from former peasants who could do little to nothing to improve the state of their society.
It can be depressing to be so isolated from nature, and to be tasked out and treated as just a functionary within a society with a wrong direction. We also never get the ‘leg up’ we need to become influential partly because the only people appointed to be influential are appointed by the operators of the status quo — they want this maintained, and unchanged, and so appoint like minded people. They push us into a direction only beneficial to themselves, and we know it; we have no sense of ownership over our Society, and we have no sense of ownership over our own Fate much of the time.
All of this points us towards cultivated indifference.
We are responsible for nothing because we are just another member of the herd, with no power, and no influence; and when we act and function just as cogs in the machine we are told that this is how you get ahead. You bide your time, you wait; you don’t waste time on things not your responsibility because it is too hard. Your responsibility is just making money and waiting for the day of your influence.
When we pass the homeless man on the street, we understand this is not something we can help with. It is someone else’s job. So is the environemtnal destruction. So is the corruption in the government. So is the trash on television. None of this is us. None of this is our responsibility.
In fact, not even our personal immorality is our responsibility anymore; we feel that these brief indulgences are things that we need to cope with the daily grind.
So all around us, there are rotten structures. We may even be a rotten structure. But because of a combined our of powerlessness and lack of responsibility, we do not even move to change it. I think this can be properly called cultivated indifference.
Perhaps what we have to do to effect better change around us, and better change for our society, is to do something like the following:
– Care about things around us, so that we can cultiavate the will to take responsibility for improving things. Even if it is not our responsibility directly, we should take efforts to make it a part of our general responsibility as human beings.
– Exercise daily to improve our health, both mentally and physically, and make us more alert.
– Learn important things daily.
– Fight the rot in our own life, and then fight it in our community, and then fight it in our society.
The first step is for us to be better people, and the end goal is to simply change the leadership above us that routinely fails.
And if I cannot take away the leadership above me that creates a more terrible place to live, then I will simply resist in by all means at my disposal, and distance myself, and take precautions to let everyone know that I was not a part of the structure which further degraded our society.
I think there has been enough wallowing in exitential helplessness and we should proceed towards a proactive fight against the rot — and if we cannot clear the structures of rot, we must destroy the structures themselves.