As a libertarian, personal responsibility is a foundational philosophy. Owning your decisions and their impacts on others is crucial for freedom. It’s also an impossible standard at which we fail daily.
Humans are selfish and fallible creatures, prone to rationalization and justification. We tell ourselves stories about our innate goodness in order to shield ourselves from the pain of our sins. We believe our own lies first.
This has been particularly apparent to me, once again, during the pandemic, as I’ve watched family members make choices over and over again that show how much they need me to forgive their sins. As if I was their own personal Jesus and not their daughter or sister. Ready to tell them that leisure travel is fine because well they are probably being safe and oh sure winter is just so hard. Mental health is just such a struggle isn’t it?
I’m no messiah. I am not here to take your sins and wash them away. I’m just as much a sinner as you. And I’m certainly not the best person to ask forgiveness of when it comes to the health of others. I’m the personification of how your decisions actually affect real people.
You know our little stories about how “the sick and elderly should stay home and keep themselves safe because…list of rational reasons.” We’ve turned it into an entire political stance. We’ve built it into a moral edifice. When it’s just a lie we need to feel better about our sins to survive.
And so I stay at home. I don’t interact with other people. I see my husband and my doctors. Because I know I’m responsible for my own life and my own health and nobody else will be. I’m not asking others to be responsible for me that haven’t actively chosen this as their life path (with thanks to my husband and mother who did).
But I am asking my other family members be emotionally truthful with me. I’m asking them to admit to themselves and to me that their pleasures are more important to them my quality of life. That by taking a trip to a far away beach that they perceive as safe for them, they add to the aggregate set of decisions on a collective level that forces me to stay at home. That those decisions will keep me at home alone cut off from normal activities for longer. Basic life.
If you engage in those choices, admit the truth to yourself. And admit it to me. That your enjoyment of life is more important than me living mine safely. To not do so is to lie to yourself and to me. I can accept your choice. I cannot accept your lie.
I’m shouldering the sum total of all the bad decisions and little sins of everyone else who either can’t or won’t take responsibility for the impact that their own choices add up to at the societal level. It makes me angry, I’m a libertarian not an ubermenschen. I don’t want to carry responsibility for everyone else. If I was I’d probably have different politics. I’m only responsible for myself. So stop asking me to accept responsibility for yours.