Personal Responsibility

Hello, everyone in Internet Land. Today I want to talk about the return of James Arthur Ray and the notion of personal responsibility. For those of you who don’t remember him, he was a New Age con artist who ran some pseudo-Native American “sweat lodge” ceremony at which a few people died. He went to jail and has recently been released. This has caused a lot of discussion amongst pagans.

While I normally find the doings of New Agers and con artists both to be too dull to pay attention to, some of the commentary made by members of the pagan community has really been getting on my nerves. It all started with a comment made by an unusually clear pagan thinker, that he had little sympathy for the people who died because A) their deaths were their own faults, not Mr. Ray’s, and B) their deaths occurred for really stupid reasons. The backlash his comments sparked was simply jaw-dropping, at least to this heathen.

Let me first make my own position clear. I am of very much the same opinion myself. These people, of their own free will, chose to give this obvious con artist their money. They chose of their own free will to go to his lame little sweat-lodge ceremony. They were the ones who chose to remain in the sweat lodge despite their own physical discomfort levels and health warning signs. They are the ones who chose to remain for the incredibly stupid reasons of not wanting to seem weak, or look like they weren’t team players.

Furthermore, they also chose to do no research into sweat lodge rituals themselves. They chose to do no research into health issues, and they also chose not to ask their own doctors about whether or not they were fit to take part in this ritual. They chose not to question why a supposedly Native American ceremony was being run by some sleazy white guy. They chose not to question why this guy, who was claiming to have the secret to vast financial wealth and material success, was spending his time hawking cheesy fake Native American ceremonies instead of parasailing behind his own personal yacht off the shore of his own private island.

In short, these people died due to greed, an appalling lack of common sense, a desire to look tough, a desire to fit in, and an utter lack of awareness of their own limits. In other words, this was a clear case of Darwin in action. They chose to act stupidly, and they died as the result.

Yet despite such clear evidence of epic dumbassery on the part of these unfortunate departed, most pagans responding to this opinion declared themselves shocked and outraged at such supposed “victim-blaming.” Some people even went to far as to say that such opinions were the same as blaming rape victims for being raped.

Seriously? Let me offer a heathen perspective on this matter. The relevant issue here is personal responsibility. To heathens, personal responsibility is considered a serious subject indeed, coming as it does from two of the nine noble virtues: honor and self reliance. To the heathen mind, every competent adult is fully and solely responsible for the consequences of their own actions. Adults do not depend on nannies. They do not depend on other people to look out for them, clean up their messes for them, or shield them from the real-world consequences of their behavior, as if they were children. To the heathen way of looking at the world, if there is no personal responsibility then people will become as children: foolish, incompetent, dangers to their own selves and everyone around them.

This insistence of treating these people as victims instead of fools is remarkably childish, but it is actually even more disturbing than that. It is a sign of the ever-growing victim mentality that has been spreading through modern society. It’s easy to be a victim. It doesn’t require any work, introspection, or personal responsibility. So lazy people seek out every opportunity to play the victim, to get cheap sympathy and care that they don’t really have to earn. As this becomes more common, a culture develops around it, a culture that reinforces its warped values by always offering unconditional sympathy and concern for anyone who presents themselves as a victim, and even everyone who just runs into bad luck or the consequences of their own stupid decisions.

This culture of victimhood has become widespread, especially amongst the younger generation. It has created a complete and absolute lack of personal standards. In this toxic culture nobody is assumed to have any intelligence or common sense. Nobody is assumed to be able to make mature and responsible decisions. Everyone is expected to give over all of their risk assessment and personal protection to other people, such as the government or corporate entities. This culture of failure believes that nobody is capable of taking care of themselves, and that anyone expecting people to be is engaged in the terrible crime of victim-blaming. To these sick people, being a victim is practically a badge, a prize to be won.

These people want the world to be a sandbox. They never want to have to take risks, or to do the least little bit of personal development or work. They never want to have to grow up enough to take care of themselves, so they just decide that it’s somebody else’s responsibility. They want a world where they are free to be as childish and irresponsible as they want, protected by Big Nanny, praised by other willing victims for their victimhood.

There needs to be standards. There needs to be the expectation that people are, by and large, responsible for looking out for themselves. People need to be expected to grow up, or they never will. This kind of sick victim mentality needs to be opposed at every turn, lest the rot they represent spreads any further than it already has.

And really? Comparing the simple assumption that there needs to be minimum standards of personal responsibility to blaming rape victims? That’s just wrong. And incredibly insulting to rape victims. Women do not consent to be raped. These fools consented to sit voluntarily in an unhealthy environment, completely unrestrained and uncoerced, until it killed them. Not even remotely the same thing.

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