Individual Responsibility

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the significance of individual responsibility.

First a quick update:

“Passionate Love or Companionate Love?”
We generally long for passion and chemistry in our relationships, but can we maintain that level of intensity? One form of romantic love is inwardly directed and the other is outwardly directed. Watch the video of my insights on the TV show “The Daily Buzz” – part of the series of “Get Motivated” and read my full article here.

Now, let’s talk about the significance of individual responsibility.

A furor recently occurred when Victoria’s Secret advertised that it was launching a line and collection expanding on its current “Team Pink” for teens but actually targeting even younger tween girls. “Bright Young Things” was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition” according to official statement by Victoria’s Secret which insisted the collection was aimed at ‘over 17s.’ But its CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer, told a conference in January 2013 that the company is targeting girls as young as 15:

“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”

Victoria's Secret - targeting tweens - 15 year old girls

Victoria’s Secret – targeting tweens – 15 year old girls?

Some of the items was initially advertised on Victoria’s Secret website has been removed; a line featuring thongs with provocative slogans such as “call me” and “I dare you” written across them.

The company’s action of sexualizing young girls for profit was scoffed at by some bloggers who pointed to individual responsibility: “What’s the fuss? If parents don’t like, they don’t have to buy it.”

While it is a parent’s individual responsibility to guide, direct and place boundaries for his/her children, these lingerie/swimwear items are targeted at and easily accessible to young girls who are highly impressionable and are often victims of peer pressure i.e. the girls can easily be sexualized and objectified.

But is individual or personal responsibility limited only to parents or does it apply to everyone everywhere?

Are executives of Victoria’s Secret’ free and clear of the need to enact individual and personal responsibility?

“Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.” – American writer Ambrose Bierce

A common argument and defense by individuals as well as corporations is: ‘I am not responsible for harming anyone else or for the damage I might directly or indirectly cause, particularly to children; it’s up to the parents to protect children from my products/services/music/art.’

In a CNN interview, Anderson Cooper interviewed rapper Eminem who has been branded as a misogynist and homophobe – accused of promoting violence and even murder against women and gays in his music.

Anderson repeats some of Eminem’s lyrics to him:

Bitch I am going to kill you…
My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge
That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez
Pants or dress, hate fags? The answer’s “yes”
I’ma be a f….. rapist in a Jason mask

Eminem tries to justify use of his words by saying that he grew up in a scene where these were common words, and he directly denies that he has a problem with anybody which, of course, is a complete contradiction of the misogynistic, violent and hateful words and message expressed in his music.

Anderson cooper asks Eminem about how he responds to parents who are concerned that their children will hear Eminem’s lyrics and message and will, in turn, use those words.

“Do you feel a sense of responsibility?”
‘I feel like it’s your job to parent them; if you’re the parent, be the parent’
says Eminem.

Eminem who has 4 children (including 2 adopted girls and legal custody of his brother) says he doesn’t use profanity in his home but he justifies the use of violent, hateful and misogynistic words and messages as music and art.

Eminem’s response is an attempt to avoid any form of individual responsibility for the potential consequences of his music which, is in fact, directly accessible to children – argue that you don’t believe in what you say which then negates the very message and appeal of the art form making it insincere and opportunistic while simultaneously attempting to justify the promotion of violence against women and gays by hiding under the umbrella of art and music.

However, some people choose to demonstrate more than individual responsibility; they choose courageousness and heroism driven by morality, ethics and the sincere concern for the welfare of others.

“This is a war movie. The big strikes are lawsuits. The battlefield is the conscience. And the heroes put themselves on the front lines for the sake of the truth” – film critic Jeffrey Overstreet critiquing “The Insider.”

“The Insider” is a film about the true story of Jeffrey Wigand PhD, a Vice President of Brown & Williamson Tobacco who in 1996 chose to blow the whistle and reveal the truth about what the seven major tobacco companies deliberately concealed from the public – the dangers of cigarettes as well as specifically expose Brown & Williamson for intentionally manipulating its tobacco blend to increase the amount of Nicotine in cigarette smoke.

Wigand subsequently was harassed and received numerous death threats but he knew what he was doing was the right thing.

Individual responsibility is driven by conscience and morality – the ability to distinguish right from wrong and the choice to act upon it. There are documented cases of Nazi soldiers who chose to disobey orders to kill or torture Jews, with the most famous example being the “20 July plot” in 1944 by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and take control of the country.

“I had what I would consider some moral compass issues that I was dealing with in terms of what principle do I need…is my guiding principle here? And I wanted to get the truth out. I wanted to make sure it got out. I felt that the industry as a whole had defrauded the American public. And there were things that I felt needed to be said.” Jeffrey Wigand

Corporations and governments have a collective moral responsibility for the actions by their group with such examples as the Nazis and the Holocaust, the South African Government and Apartheid or the tobacco companies and nicotine. However, the action of just one person, who chooses to act on individual responsibility, can change the tide and course of governments and corporations – such as Jeffrey Wigand, or Gandhi who led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

Ultimately, individual responsibility is driven by the desire to do what is right. Accordingly, that requires courage, intestinal fortitude and sacrifice. But the rewards are immeasurable – self-respect, dignity and inner peace.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist
www.patrickwanis.com

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