Friday, May 4, 2012

Free will isn't a free pass

free will, accountability, tanning mom,
When the scale tips, who's responsible?

I need to get something taken care of right away: thanks CML, for inspiring this idea!! 

Now, to business. Free will versus accountability for one's actions. That's our topic of discussion, by which I mean it's the topic about which I've chosen to write and which you will choose to read...or not. 

This week a woman was arrested for allegedly taking her small daughter with her to a tanning booth/room/area/coliseum type area. I have no clue. Specs weren't given on the floor plan of the salon. But the point is that the woman looks awful; not from a personal opinion standpoint (though from my personal opinion standpoint: she looks awful) but from a health and wellness standpoint. She has ruined her skin. 

We know, without doubt, that tanning beds CAUSE melanoma. And we know, without doubt, that melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. So this woman has chosen, of her free will as an adult, to tan her skin to the point of unhealthy, and stands a statistically high chance of developing an aggressive and fatal (if not caught early) form of cancer directly due to her actions. 

See this through. Is she taking active measures to carry extra cancer coverage with her insurance? Is she self-funding a medical savings account to cover the un-reimbursed portion of her treatments? Who will pick up the cost of her cancer treatment for the action she willingly and knowingly took, which was entirely elective and without any obligation as determined by any rational entity.

In short: she CHOOSES to be overly "tan" and we will most likely foot the bill down the line when she develops cancer because of it. Even if she has great insurance, her cancer will be another cog in the system, which causes rates across the board to go up. And my hard earned salary will go down just a little bit more next year as my health care coverage rates go up.

Here's another example. Let's say we know a man who is deeply conservative. He resents any intrusion into his personal life. His paychecks are a bi-weekly exercise in barely controlled rage against big government. He believes his money should remain under his own purveyorship and should be divided where he sees fit. WONDERFUL. Except we've got one teensy problem. This man is an alcoholic. That's no fault of his; alcoholism is a disease and I get that. 

What's at issue is that when this man gets pulled over for a DUI, protecting me and my children from being killed by him as he wields the biggest weapon we all routinely use (hint: our cars...), it will be tax dollars that have paid the highway patrol's salary. It will be tax dollars that fund the jail where he'll sober up. And it'll be tax dollars that fund the court system which will process him. I wonder if this hypothetical, conservative, alcoholic has put away enough money to cover his costs to exercise his right to buy alcohol any time he wants? Where is the accountability for his free will? 

Is the accountability portion attached to free will? I think it must be the other side of the same coin...but we tend to bastardize the concept of accountability into meaning that we owe nothing; that we owe nobody. We call poor people unaccountable because we perceive their government help as a hand out. We call them unaccountable because we feel they owe US for what they've received, but we rarely look at our own actions and wonder what we're doing for which WE are accountable. 

If I feed my sons sugar cereal and orange juice for breakfast, who is accountable for the speed freaks I send to school 20 minutes later? I assure you, their teachers would find ME accountable.  If I text and drive (even when the text is a very important one saying I'm going to be 5 minutes late) and swerve into a parked car, who is accountable for that? If I am an adult woman who attends a party and is offered meth, and I say "Okay! I'm on vacation this week, why not have a little fun?" and then I am a train wreck of addiction based on my free will to choose to try, who is accountable for making me well? Me? Society? Addiction counselors? A spouse? 

It seems we have all sorts of notions about who is owed what, and we never say that we, ourselves, owe anything. We do not tend to hold ourselves accountable for things which might be hurtful to our own interests or the interests of others, despite pursuing those same interests. Most people tend to believe that they are the ones owed something, and that it is OTHERS who are living in oblivion, ignorantly unaccountable. 

So-called liberals are characterized as being owed a free ride. So-called conservatives are characterized as being owed zero responsibility for anyone other than themselves. Both notions are complete falsehoods. We owe society our best effort all the time. We owe each other the best self-education we can find as adults. We owe our children and our peers a loving heart and compassionate empathy. We owe each other accountability for the energy we bring, for the lessons we impart and for the actions we take in every minute of every day.

It's part of being human and it might be might be more than you thought it would be. But that's what it is, and no matter how you've previously thought of your accountability, of what you owe, who you owe and why you owe it? Trust this, if nothing else: we owe plenty.

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