Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Personal Responsibility

I read last week about a motorcyclist who had slammed into the back of another vehicle while going 120 mph.  The force of the impact sent the man flying 300 feet, over the car and onto the pavement.  The car then struck him as he lay on the ground, unable to stop in time.  At the time I read this, the motorcyclist had survived this horrible accident.  I don't know if he has since died.

I was reading a forum discussing this terrible accident.  Most people weighed in to say that they felt the motorcyclist was an idiot and got what he deserved.  But there were some who wrote in to defend him, one even going so far as to blatantly argue that the car driver "must" have done something to cause the accident, such as a sudden lane change without signaling.

As I read the arguments of the motorcyclist's apologists, I got very angry.  What has happened to a sense of personal responsibility in this country?  No one seems to want to be responsible for their own actions anymore.  We have an excuse for everything.  We are no longer responsible for our actions because we use drugs, or because we had a bad childhood, or because we're mentally ill, or because someone else drove us to it.  Whatever happened to admitting, "Hey, I made a bad (or wrong) decision"?

What's worse, I think that we have a pathological need to absolve others of their personal responsibilities as well.  Hence, the motorcyclist's apologists.  This gentleman was going twice the legal speed limit on a public freeway during the day time.  He was driving outrageously recklessly.  Regardless of what the other drivers around him did, whether they made any "sudden lane changes" or what have you, the motorcyclist had already put himself in a position where he could not react to the realities of the road in a timely fashion.  The number one rule of driving is that you drive defensively.  How can you drive defensively at 120 mph?  This guy had already taken himself out of the game.

So why are people defending him?  Why are they trying to make his horrific accident somebody else's fault?  Why are some people incapable of saying, "Wow, he made a really bad decision and his misfortune is his own fault"?

I really think that this is what's wrong with this country.  Maybe if we had any interest in being responsible for our own actions, we wouldn't do even half of the stupid stuff that we do. Instead, we blithely go about our days, knowing that we will virtually never have to own up to our mistakes.  How is this serving us well?

Personally, I hope that the misguided motorcyclist survives.  I hope that he is able to admit that he made a mistake.  And I hope that he is able to learn from it.  Most of us aren't lucky enough to have that chance.