GRE Issue Essay 166
“The concept of ‘individual responsibility’ is a necessary fiction. Although societies must hold individuals accountable for their own actions, people’s behavior is largely determined by forces not of their own making.”
People develop their behavior depending on the way in which they have been brought up, their environment and the society in which they live. The behavior of people is determined by external elements, but people have the liberty of making the choice to behave in a particular manner and they are solely responsible for their behavior. The external forces do not determine the behavior of people in a major way as people can take the decision to fight the external forces and behave in a manner that opposes the forces. Therefore, it is true to an extent that the behavior of people is influenced by forces that may not be under their control, but it is highly unjustified to assume that the concept of ‘individual responsibility’ is a necessary fiction.
Individual responsibility plays a very important role in determining the behavior of people. Take for instance the behavior of students. External forces like the requirement of doing well in one’s studies for getting a good job play a significant role in determining a student’s behavior with respect to his studies. However, it is ultimately the student’s individual responsibility that will determine the exact nature of his behavior. A particular student can choose not to be influenced by this external force and he may decide not to devote time to his studies despite the irreversible effects it may have on his career. On the other hand, there may be a student who chooses to be influenced by this external force and he puts in his level best in studying for doing well in his life. Thus, it can be seen that the behavior of students with respect to their studies is not influenced as much by an external force as compared to their own individual responsibilities.
It is true that external forces like those pertaining to society, schools, parents, law etc. determine the behavior of people to a significant extent. People stay within a set of laid down norms as per the laws that have been enforced. People of a particular country may be more responsible towards cleanliness by not throwing garbage on the streets as the laws of their country prohibit them from behaving in such a manner. When the same people go to another country where there are no such laws, it is their sense of individual responsibility that will come into play and they may choose to behave in a particular manner depending on how responsible they are towards keeping their environment clean.
There are people who choose to break the laws that have been enforced and this is evident by the crime rate that exists in almost all societies. What about the effect of external forces on these people? These people may have no control over the external forces like law and order, but they have decided not to let the external forces determine their behavior. Moreover, they have taken the decision to ignore the responsibilities that they should shoulder and so they alone are responsible for their conduct. No other force can be held responsible for their behavior.
A society which chooses not to blame the individuals for their actions can never thrive. There will be mass disobedience of rules and the framework of law and order of the society will break down. Therefore, it is essential that individuals be held responsible for their behavior as they are the ones who have chosen to behave in that particular manner. In sum, it can be said that more than external forces, it is the individual’s responsibility that determines his behavior.