Monday, September 22, 2008

On collective responsibility

In my blog last week, I talked about “collective responsibility”. Seen from the first person point of view, it refers to feeling myself responsible for what a person that I have a relation to has done, for instance for what a person of my group has done. Collective responsibility can also work in the other direction in the sense that I am held responsible by other persons for an action done by a person that I have a relation to. This can be quite problematic, for am I really responsible for an action done by a person that I don’t know but that happens to be a member of my group? An action that I even reject? Or take this. Often it is so that, for example when I am abroad and I do something good, people praise me, Henk. But when I do something bad, they say “that stupid Dutchman” instead of “that stupid Henk”. Can all the other Dutchmen really be blamed for what I did wrong?


Alexis said...

This is a very good point. I have encountered some of the same behavior in regard to my religious faith. I am a Christian; at the same time, I am very open-minded and not critical of others. However, I am continually coming across people who have been mistreated by Christians--or those saying they are Christians. It has gotten to the point that I hesitate to mention God because I am afraid that I will be stereotyped. Recently I was in a grocery store and a man who works there was speaking to me. I was unaware that he was Jewish and that his relatives had been persecuted by the Nazis. Without thinking of it, I made a mention of God. Well, before I knew it I was in the midst of an extremely contentious situation. It seems that all those who believe in God are somehow to blame for what this man's relatives went through--all because he blames God for allowing such events to happen. I've also heard comments such as "Well, all the Christians I know don't act like Christians. So, what makes me think you are any different?" It doesn't matter how uncritical or non-judgemental I am: aspersions are nonetheless cast upon me because of my faith. I am not the least bit ashamed of my faith, but I do not see why I am to be held accountable for what every other Christian does. I suppose it is
simply the issue of "collective responsibility."

HbdW said...

To Alexis: The point is even stronger, as Hannah Arendt, who defended the division between guilt and (collective) responsibility, was herself a Jew that had to flee for the Nazis.

oldyrek said...

collective responsibility is very visible in case fans of sport football followers for example.Here is great paradox. When everything is fine, and match was great and teh result is 3:0 they say "we win" but if not, if a result is 0:3, they usually say "they loose". Succes is our but failure isn't.
collective responsibility is also attend on some manifestations but here meaning is different. together people feel more stronger than solo, and even one person who scream can bring others to screaming the same phrases even if they not exaclty understand what it means and far-reaching consequences of it. Then people can do some terrify things it's like a panic. Feeling of strength, which gives them common responsibility, is in this case very danger but simultaneously coul be very helped when reasons is justified and methodes of executions correct.