Addressing Parliament about the London riots, David Cameron said, “This is not about poverty, it’s about culture. A culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities.”
The ability to protect our rights is a privilege we have in our “free” society. But there is a difference between upholding our rights and flaunting a sense of entitlement. This week we all watched the images of looters breaking into stores and helping themselves to whatever was in their line of sight. They displayed a total lack of responsibility for their actions. In order to feel responsibility, you need to have self-esteem and to be aware of your place in society. These people did not consider themselves to be part of society.
We live in a consumer culture, and it has become a game to see how much we can get for less. I subscribe to Groupon, Living Social and Vouchercloud. I won’t let myself buy any more Groupon vouchers because I keep allowing ones I have purchased to expire. It has become more about the deal than the product.
I am not particularly materialistic, but I am definitely a consumer when it comes to how I spend my time. There are so many books to read, shows to watch and experiences to be had. But there is only so much consuming we can do before we begin to feel empty. Real meaning comes from creating and contributing. It is more fulfilling to write a book than read a book, but it’s much harder and a great deal more time-consuming. Our natural inclination is to be lazy, but when we do invest the time and effort, the dividends are invaluable.
It also seems easier to stand back and let other people handle a situation than to take action ourselves. We often have ideas about how to act, but we tell ourselves that we have no place taking control and that those “in charge” will be most effective. Then we sit back and talk about how we would have acted differently. It may feel easier to be passive, but it is more satisfying – and our responsibility – to follow through with our instincts. If you have an idea, don’t wait for someone else to think of it; go ahead and act yourself. You can do the job as well, if not better, than anyone else.
When I lived in New York, I stood by and watched someone die on the street, signalling for others to call for help rather than making the call myself. I realize now that I knew the most about the situation, but I was overwhelmed by what was happening and did not consider myself qualified to take control. We have to think highly of ourselves to not cause harm and to act in the face of harm. We have to be aware of the impact we can make on the world because our actions, whether we realize it or not, have an effect on others.
It is when we dare to put ourselves on the line that we have the capacity to realize our full potential and make a difference. Pushing and challenging ourselves can feel uncomfortable, but when we embrace this feeling and even seek it out, we learn that it is nothing more than growing pains. It is by stepping outside of our comfort zone and not shying away from responsibility that we will lead truly exciting and fulfilling lives.