I had a thought the other day which i’d like to expand on (and it doesn’t matter either way, as basically nobody reads this blog!). It was: If you give someone a responsibility, but don’t give them the authority or power to fulfil that responsibility, you can’t really hold it against them when that responsibility inevitably goes unfulfilled. It’s a common principle in leadership and in business.

And it got me thinking about the derelict family up the street. The one that, at midnight once a week runs outside their house screaming at each other, waking everyone up in the street. Now my first instinct is to think ‘Trash! Grow up.’ – as would most people. But after considering my own struggles to deal with smaller issues, it’s hard to not feel hypocritical.

It’s as though we’re responsible for living well (eg: not screaming at your partner out on the street at 1am in my neighbours case, or being more fun to be around in my case), but aren’t given the authority/power to actually live well. And if not, well, who could blame you for being a shouty bogan?

Or is this just justifying our lack of effort at dealing with this stuff? Does ‘free will’ come into play somewhere? Do we actually already have the power to deal with this stuff: is our free will that power? I’m not so sure, because there seems to be an awful lot of people out there living crappy lives. And i’d like to know exactly: what is it that’s different about those random people you occasionally meet, those people who seem to have unlimited reserves of willpower to improve themselves, and seem to be doing really well? What’s their secret?

Or is this concept of responsibility and blame completely irrelevant anyway? If a criminal is who they are because they never were given the power to improve themselves (eg were born to a lousy family, grew up in a lousy school) – you have to forgive them, surely? Of course you’d have to lock them up anyway for the sake of public safety. But it wouldn’t be for punishment’s sake any more: it’d be simply for the purposes of rehabilitation (Ha! Like our prison systems rehabilitate anybody).

But this all strikes me as a little cold. There’s no room for the magic that is the human spirit in all this – and if life isn’t malleable with our free will, then it’s a pretty grim existence. We all love the stories of someone who pulled themselves by their bootstraps out of a crappy upbringing and sitation, the classic underdog tale, because I think it speaks to a deeper truth embedded in our psyche: we do have what it takes within us to win, if only we’d try hard enough.

I really would like to know how it works! I often see people who i’d love to help, love to see them pull themselves out of a hold, but i just can’t figure out how to do it. I can’t make my mind up at all about these issues. But i’m still leaning towards thinking: We can’t really blame people for failing to improve themselves, but we can certainly blame them for failing to try.

Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.