On Responsibility and Boundaries

I’m terrible with time management. Sometimes that lack makes me feel almost coquettish with my responsibilities, but I think (or at least like to think) it’s less a matter of me not being responsible and more because I haven’t discovered a unifying mode through which to confront the things for which I feel responsible.

My parents, I’m sorry to say, raised me decently enough, and because of that I feel a deep-rooted moral responsibility to address elements of injustice when I see it, and—thanks to my curiosity and inbred ability to stumble into places I would have never thought to go intentionally—I come across a lot of things that strike me as unjust.

But so many issues for which I feel responsible I also must acknowledge I am not wholly responsible for: California’s water shortage; racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in the United States; rampant hunger across the world and outbreaks of treatable diseases; the election of Donald Trump and the manifestation of the self-titled alt. right; over-population; the excess of animals in animal shelters; gentrification and displacement; the distortion of Christian morality through the GOP lens; consumerism; waste production; global warming; the meat industry.

I’ve found outlets that help me feel like I’m contributing to the resolution of some of these outstanding issues. I acknowledge that I can’t do it alone, so I try to find ways in which I might help stir a communal response. I look for opportunities for dialogue.

That’s why I write.

However, there are more people out there determined to use these issues to their advantage and people determined to keep themselves as far away from the problem as possible than there are people working to resolve the conundrums at hand, and while some people are able to draw the line and say, “I’m doing my part,” many others find themselves torn apart. There is a recognition of a problem, there is recognition that the problem must be dealt with, and the recognition that if fewer people involve themselves, then the people who have acknowledged the need for resolution will have more work to do.

Some of the issues seem more feasible, like the California water crisis. There are set boundaries. There are avenues for change and petition to ensure that the restrictions placed on citizens are likewise placed on the corporate powers that be who are actually responsible for the shortage. But how does one effectively combat sexism? How does one fight against the ill-effects of an unavoidable consumerism?

How does one individual, aware of the growing pile of issues that need to be confronted, learn to partition off their share of responsibility and find a mode of living that lets them tackle their share without a schizophrenic division of will and purpose?

I’m afraid this ramble is a truer ramble than what I normally aim for. It is meandering and pointless. It’s less of a sermon and more of a working-through.

The world is horrifying right now, and I feel the need to do something. I feel called to foster change. But when the whole world’s gone wrong, where do you start?

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