On Monday I used a phrase that I think really fits with what has gone on over the past few months. It is applicable only because it seems like things have/are actually changing. No, not everyone is or will be part of this change, but for whatever reason we’re finally seeing sweeping changes, not just a couple of adjustments here and there that while helpful and important, weren’t necessarily sufficient enough to get the ball rolling on change in these areas. The phrase? Responsibility transformation.
I think most of us are aware that we’re responsible to feed ourselves, earn a living, take care of children or other dependents we may have, and keep our living space at least reasonably clean. Most of us also feel a responsibility to recycle, plant a garden, support nonprofits, or help our neighbors/community. The issues rise when not all of us act on the feelings of responsibility we have towards ourselves and each other. We’re not truly able to claim or fulfill responsibility unless we act.
Theodore Roosevelt said “Much has been given to us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as be seen as a people with such responsibilities.”
I’ve had discussions with people about some of the differences between the Spanish Flu epidemic in the early 1900’s (which killed 50 million people in 2 years), and what we’ve so far experienced with this virus. One of the biggest differences for a portion of the world now versus then is how advanced communications are. In the early 1900’s it took a long time (days/weeks/months) for news to travel, but now news travels in seconds if you have access to the technology. Unfortunately there are many around the world who don’t yet have that access, and we have yet to see how devastating the virus may be if/when it gets there.
So what about all the other transformations that are taking place, for example with regards to women being treated with respect, employment rights for the LGBTQ community that were won this week at the Supreme Court and the transformations that are taking place with regard to how people regard race and what is and isn’t within the scope of actions of a police officer? Why are these transformations only gaining traction in recent years and months if we’ve had this communication technology around for many years?
Yes, I do believe that there’s a tipping point to some extent, that enough people have finally gotten upset with things that they’re taking action and causing the big actions to happen. But I think the virus has a big part in this because it showed us we have a choice of either caring for the others that we share this world with or being careless about their health (and possibly ours) which could mean life or death. So maybe because the awareness of the importance of caring for each other has been so high, it’s finally creating the breakthrough for learning to treat each other with more respect and care regardless of the color of our skin or faith we have or sexual orientation we are or any other things that make us different.
So let’s talk about the responsibility transformation we could hopefully go through here. I think we need to be better about balancing our responsibilities. About balancing remembering history with living in the present and future (museums exist for a reason). About balancing making smart choices with your bank account with spending a little extra/effort to support businesses belonging to people of all different backgrounds (everyone is trying to earn a living). About balancing safety for all people regardless of color of their skin or illness they have or the job they’ve chosen/we’ve asked them to do (99.999% of people want to go home or be alive at the end of the day). About balancing our needs with the needs of others who can’t help themselves or need a little extra help for a season (almost everyone needs help at some point in time in their life).
Honestly I think things will be at least a little easier if we stop the fighting and racism and inequality and start working together. That doesn’t mean that everyone has the same amount in their bank account or lives in mansions or eats fancy meals every night (or whatever other qualifier you want to use), but it means that everyone has a fair shot at having a life that they’re proud of and supports them and they’re in turn able to support others. What are you learning as we go through this transformation?