The Many Roles of Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.”–Uncle Ben, Spider Man

While I agree with Uncle Ben on this one, I think responsibility comes to us all, no matter what our circumstances may be. We grow up being taught we need to be accountable for our actions. A central part to much of what surrounds the political debate today revolves around who is to blame. Some would argue we as individuals must take responsibility for our place in the world to preserve our freedom. While others, believe it is the role of the government to spread out the burden amongst the largest amount of people possible so no one individual suffers unnecessarily. Even if we ignore both the realm of policy and the advice of our parents, we are still faced with responsibility when it comes to the notion of whether we are the captains of our fate, or merely pawns in a grand game of chess. However one approaches the concept of responsibility, it is important to consider what it truly means in context.

Our first brush with responsibility is probably the most important one. We start our lives from a very selfish place, focused solely on satisfying the basic needs of existence. At some point we need to be taught the world does not revolve around us and one is liable for their actions. Its no longer okay to take our friend’s toy simply because we want it. If we decide to pursue such a theft we must suffer the consequences. It is in this formative stage we learn the necessity, and hopefully, the value of owning up to our choices. If we do not we will probably get worked up about the unfairness of life and end up like this guy.

Then there is the political debate. The emphasis on one’s personal onus is most notable when it comes to the issues of taxes and social safety nets. There are many who think we should have little to no taxes and allow those responsible enough to succeed unlimited freedom and everyone else to languish in poverty. The problem with this debate is it assumes the only factor in determining where one falls on the economic and social ladders is their level of accountability. When in reality, there are many factors at stake, including: happenstance, actions by the powerful to keep the those without where they are and opportunity. Does this mean responsibility should not play a role in the public debate on policy? Hardly. What it does mean, is instead of merely focusing on our own individual burdens, we should expand our view to include society as a whole. It is the policy makers recognizing this who truly fulfill the duties they were elected to carry out.

Perhaps the single most complicated application of responsibility is in the realm of our fate. Many a philosopher and prophet have attempted to explain our role in the universe. With most assertions falling somewhere between complete control of our destiny (Han Solo) to a faith in a higher power guiding everything we do (Obi-Wan Kenobi). No matter where you fall on this cosmic debate, it is important to remember we should not use our beliefs to excuse our behaviors. Ultimately, we are the one’s in charge ofour actions. Whether preordained or not, the freedom to choose is a fact of life. By recognizing this, it is possible to coexist with each other no matter how we answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

While sometimes the irresponsible path seems easier and more appealing, it is important we do not succumb to this temptation. Whether it be at the basic level we learned as children, in our political rhetoric, or the attempts at understanding our place in the world, we must recognize and accept the consequences of life. Only then can we hope to be the best versions of ourselves. As the great Winston Churchill once said, “the price of greatness is responsibility.”


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