A Treatise On Personal Responsibility genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

Personal Responsibility

We live in a world that is all too often based upon deniability and a disregard for accountability. We’ve become adept at and accustomed to doublespeak in our spiral towards the mediocrity that accompanies the perception that obfuscation trumps objectivity. Those traits that serve to elevate ego over egalitarianism have become the opiate that fuels our exodus away from integrity and towards inventive and invective hyperbole.

So what leads me to this postulation? I’ve long believed that we humans have divided the reality of our identities into two disparate worlds that grow more distant and distinct each and every day. It’s the quiet and docile student that cannot assimilate his anger and animosity before unleashing the murderous monster that is germinating within. It’s the daughter that cuts herself in the closet because she cannot reconcile the reality of her evolving feelings with the demands to quickly and efficiently comprehend their meaning in a world that requires children to grow up, mature, and achieve before they have the skills to cope with all of the associated complexities.

There are also far less innocuous examples. It’s the football player that suddenly transitions from underprivileged and at risk inner city statistic to elite status in the NFL complete with celebrity and boo-coo cash…fully unprepared to understand and integrate the night and day dichotomy. It’s the lottery winner that spent twenty five years as a factory worker who is suddenly in the spotlight long before they understand how a huge bank account makes them a media darling. It’s the college co-ed that submits photos to Playboy and suddenly becomes the fantasy fixation of former father figures and gets lost in the materialism of objectification before ever experiencing the magic of mutual and meaningful respect.

There are also the fully ordinary, though equally damaging and diminishing, examples. I’ll cite my own experience with the individual that, until quite recently, maintained my website. Over six months ago I posted an inquiry on a professional network seeking someone to provide ongoing technical support. I stated my needs and cited the skill sets that would be applicable…and I received a number of responses. I selected an individual that represented themselves as an expert. Yesterday I put an end to the six months of deception and denial that characterized this particular situation and that is found in so many of our daily involvements.

I won’t belabor you with all the details as they are subordinate to the larger point I seek to make...that who we really are has become less and less relevant and / or connected to the behaviors that we exhibit.

Back to my example. Suffice it to say that my list of requests grew larger and longer over the course of our involvement and culminated in my pushing for their completion two weeks ago. At that time, the party apologized for the repeated delays, provided an incomplete list of outstanding items, a price to do the work, and a timeframe for completion. After two weeks of untold frustration, I sent an inquiry as to when I could expect the items to be completed and I received the following response:


I responded by asking if I should interpret the message as a joke…and instinctively I knew what would follow as I’ve been archiving all of the inconsistencies and making note of all of the signals of pending hostility. I call situations like I was about to experience my moments of hyper-reality…the times at which all of my nagging suspicions, instincts, and intuitions that we've all been taught to bury (in this particular case in the interest of commerce and the unspoken code of conduct that characterizes our capitalistic endeavors) rush to the surface of my awareness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to condemn capitalism…just as I wouldn’t condemn communism. Neither system is perfect as both systems are executed by us fully flawed humans.

Regardless, that caveat cannot and should not lessen our obligation to aspire to an ever evolving demonstration of personal responsibility…the singular mechanism by which any system of societal structure can hope to succeed. I knew I was about to witness the wholesale disregard of that concept…sending me spiraling into that bittersweet realm of perception I call hyper-reality. In all honesty, I find a good deal of comfort in my moments of hyper-reality...it's a time when who I am and what I really believe rises to the surface of my awareness, overcomes the many incongruent constructs we've all adopted, and brings me a sense of restored wholeness.

Anyway, here’s the response I received:

I have looked at the CSS until my eyes were crossed. I downloaded and looked at all the images and figured out exactly what your original designer did.

On the left the image and the CSS is as it should be. Yet there is a black border.

I hired (name removed) who is a Perl and MT programmer. He was paid and stands behind his work. I hired and paid my graphics guy to make the new graphics and installed them and added the code to six StyleSheets. Then I spent hours going through Movable Types new method of using Modules.

All I have received from you for a ridiculous amount of time since day one is freaking abuse. It seems I am now personally responsible for a site I DID NOT make, with problems with a web host I recommended AGAINST.

And when I mention I have received no money for my time whatsoever I have been insulted.

What do you expect?

A few items of clarification are necessary. In response to my inquiry on a Professional Network, this individual assured me that he was a Movable Type and Perl expert. Six months ago he told me he would provide a list of recommended changes along with costs for each item. Two weeks ago, I pressed him for a price for my own list of requested changes and I was told it would cost approximately X amount of dollars and worst case no more than X…and would be completed on the following Sunday.

Very early that Sunday morning I realized that he had not reviewed my detailed list of items (even though they had been listed in the estimate he provided…albeit with little detail), that he had not recalled our countless discussions and my numerous confirming emails with full details of the work needed…and I also realized he wasn’t going to be able to execute the agreed upon work.

In frustration, he quickly indicated he would need to consult another individual with Movable Type and Perl expertise. He also insinuated that he would need to pay that individual and asked that I send the payment for the worst case amount…which I did first thing Monday morning before the bulk of the work had been completed.

After making full payment, he began to hint on Monday that the quoted price along with the need to hire another expert would result in him spending hours of time completing the remaining items for next to nothing. I sent an email suggesting that we could revisit the cost.

Shortly thereafter, following an ongoing exchange of emails related to some of the specific tasks, I got an email that completely overlooked and ignored a matter of fact that I had provided on Sunday…insinuating that I wasn’t following through on a particular item. At that point, I sent a lengthy email stating that the most recent exchange was a perfect demonstration of why he was finding himself worried that the items were going to take longer than anticipated. I went on to state that I was frustrated with the lack of attention to detail, that he seemingly ignore or skimmed over the details in my correspondences, and that that was likely the reason he was upside down on the estimate. I suggested he examine his own lack of thoroughness and cease shifting responsibility for his inadequate oversight.

I believe that is an ample amount of history. The following is an excerpt from the response that I sent to the above message which I believe fully captures the essence of the argument I’m making herein:

What you really mean to say is something that I have heard from countless people throughout my life...and that is "don't hold me responsible for anything I've said or done because if you do I will get mad and try to reinvent reality so that I don't have to look at my own part in the problem and my own baggage." You see, it may make you feel better to ignore your part in creating this situation...and it may make you feel better to attack me and make me the bad guy...but one thing is certain...it will never change the truth and you know that as well as I do...and that is what is really bothering you.

Not to worry...I've been here before and while it is always disappointing...it no longer comes as a surprise...I've come to expect that most people haven't the willingness or the wherewithal to see and acknowledge the truth...that requires all too much self-reflection...a process that is frequently avoided like the plague because it might require one to make some necessary changes.

You asked the question, "What do you expect?"...and the answer is, not much...not much at all...I've suspected this would be the outcome for some time now and I knew if I pushed you to look at the truth, you would balk and begin the all too familiar process of denial and projection. You see, in the end you won't have to be accountable because you know that you can make it so miserable for me that I will give up and walk away (regardless of the time I've invested, regardless of the frustration I have already endured and will have to endure to get my site fixed, regardless of the money that I will have to pay to undo the mess that has been made of the site)...and then as they say in the states...you get to wash your hands clean and tell yourself, "Mission accomplished".

So as it now stands, I get to know and accept the truth...you get to know and ignore the truth. Nonetheless, the truth will remain the truth.

I'll get busy looking for someone to rescue me from this predicament and you can move on and keep reassuring yourself that this entire mess is my fault.

Needless to say, I have yet to receive any further response and I am in the process of hiring another person to complete the items that were paid for but never completed.

So what do I think at this point? First, I don’t think that he is a bad person. Second, that doesn’t minimize the degree to which I detest his behavior. Third, one's integrity should always be more important than the pursuit of profit. Lastly, but even more so, I detest a society and a system that promotes prevarication over personal responsibility and that has institutionalized ingratiation over authenticity.

What we suffer is the direct byproduct of the illusions we have created. When we attend church and attest to Christianity while at the same time endorsing and engaging in the practice of unprincipled profiteering, we make a mockery of the Christian principles we espouse and we are less than the tax collectors tossed out of the church by the one called Jesus that we purport to idealize. Unfortunately, in its current iteration, this all too often contrived homage to Christian values is scant more than wanton idolatry.

Frankly, this and many other situations and examples are some of the reasons I recoil when I see suggestions that the internet establish a code of civility…or that we’re going to enroll members of the current Bush administration in ethics enhancement training…or that we need to put God back into schools to prevent future Columbine or Virginia Tech tragedies…or that more gun control is going to suddenly expunge the influences in society that lead one to devalue humanity such that it becomes second nature to extinguish life…or that if we would only regulate the lyrics in music or the content of comedy or the verses in books then our children will forsake violence and racism and misogyny…or that if we banned abortions we will have somehow miraculously embraced the sanctity of life.

Yes I recoil because all the while I witness the ranting and raving about the ex-wife, the soccer coach, or the driver in the next lane…all the while I watch politicians give jobs to political crony’s regardless of their qualifications and character…all the while I see parents failing to teach their children to respect others and that winning is far better than learning to play fair and accept that everyone can’t be number one…all the while I see one religious group arguing that another must be extinguished because their religious beliefs are no doubt invalid…all the while I’m watching millions of innocent children die of AIDS in Africa because they haven’t the economic wherewithal to obtain the needed medications.

So I ask myself what has happened to all the personal responsibility in these and so many other examples and I am left dumbfounded. So little makes sense. For example, I don’t believe in God or an afterlife and yet I find myself championing the downtrodden, the damaged, and the disregarded…while at the same time watching countless believers give lip service to dogma and doctrine…scorning the nonbelievers…and systematically trampling upon those who might keep them from obtaining all the worldly trappings they can beg borrow or steal…yet admonishing the have-nots to submit their welfare to faith and the promise of future rewards that will be found in an imaginary and idyllic afterlife. Is it possible that this is the basis of the notion, "Do as I say, not as I do"?

I abhor obfuscation…I revile hypocrisy…and I reject the allure of redemption that has become the commodity of religious institutions…but above all else I declare myself for humanity. Until humanity is honored…through the practice of personal responsibility…here and now…in this life…I will forever denounce the fallacy of faith and I will, with unwavering resolve, demand that fantasies of an afterlife be forsaken in favor of reasoned facts that support and sanctify the legitimacy of the human condition and its realities.

If we fail to foster our fidelity to personal responsibility and we continue to relegate our human identity to feigned fabrications and folly, we will have forfeited our fate and our free will and our flaws will flourish as we spiral towards our own self-inflicted demise.

Our human success is predicated upon choice. Whenever one of us succumbs to wrong choices, all of us suffer. The price of capitulation is compounding…each time one of us ignores personal responsibility, the whole of our humanity is diminished. In those moments when we exhibit a misguided and shortsighted rush to gain the spoils that we perceive can or will come from self-gratification and self-centeredness, we also set in motion the process whereby illumination and self-awareness are circumvented and replaced by the increasingly debilitating disease of delusion and denial.

Left unchecked, individual awareness and personal responsibility is pushed outside the purview of perception…leaving us detached from our true human identity and doomed to experience an emptiness that will expand in opposite but direct proportion to our need to feed an ever increasing penchant for consumption. At the conclusion of that progression, both the individual and the society will have been devoured.

Daniel DiRito | May 1, 2007 | 5:27 PM
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1 On May 10, 2007 at 2:09 PM, Jean wrote —

This sounds hauntingly familiar. I had a shopping cart built for my website. The project came in way past the deadline, and the cart does not function at all. The programmer agreed to "fix" it -- to the tune of $750.
Outraged, I requested bids from other programmers, and went with the person who committed to getting the job done the fastest. In our contract, I set deadlines for mock-ups, etc., all of which were totally ignored. The deadline for the completion date passed, and I canceled the contract.
Programmer #3 is someone I know personally. Met him at a networking event two years ago. Lives about five miles away. He agreed to do the job for $1000, by May 15. Two weeks before the deadline, I emailed him a reminder since I had not heard from him at all. One week later, he said the programmer he had subbed was having "personal problems" and could not complete the project. The "good news" is that he lined up several programmers who could do the work for just 50%-350% more than our agreed price. I canceled the contract, and now I am holding my breath, waiting for the fourth programmer to bail.
I hate to generalize from particulars, but there seems to be a serial lack of ethics in this profession (and I'm a lawyer, so I know lots of unethical professionals). But at least with lawyers there are codes and boards of ethics. I have been trying all afternoon to find a way to hold these folks accountable, short of legal action, and posting this message was the best I could do.

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