This holiday season, when you get together with your relatives from the other side of the tracks—you know, the Fox watchers—here is a little something to talk about:
Thursday night, someone said the following about the FedEx guy who “delivered” a computer monitor by throwing it over a gate (caught on tape) and the FedEx executive who made a public apology for the delivery guy’s behavior:
We want to know who this guy is. We want to know how you fired him, and what his name is, so none of us hires him by accident…..Disciplined? We don’t want him disciplined. We want him on live television, all channels at once, begging us to forgive him because he’s everything that’s wrong with America today—lack of personal responsibility and laziness and stupidity…employees have deteriorated from “no longer personally invested in their job” to “not giving a rat’s ass about their own performance”…
Who is this vitriolic vigilante ready to mete out New Frontier justice?
Is it Bill O’Reilly? George Will? David Brooks?
Nope, it’s Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann excoriated FedEx executive Matthew Thornton III for his soft-on-crime response, naming him the day’s worst person in the world.
Why will this throw your Fox relatives for a loop?
Keith Olbermann is practically the conservative poster child for liberals run amok, with the sharp tongue and “bleeding heart” characteristic of the species. Liberals are supposed to embrace laziness, not call for personal responsibility. Liberals are supposed to defend employees against employers, not urge employers to take harsher measures.
In Fox’s hands, personal responsibility is a fundamental value used to divide us and set us at each other. Liberals are stereotyped as indolent and irresponsible, always blaming others for the consequences of their own actions and probably dodging the tab at restaurants. I wouldn’t want to be around someone like that, either, let alone elect one to office.
The truth is that liberals do view personal responsibility differently, but not as differently as the stereotypes would suggest. Liberals have as strong a work ethic as anyone else. We believe a job well done can be its own reward, and we feel the weight of our families depending on us. We just have different beliefs about what we can and should control.
We hear about this all the time. Liberals want to regulate business more than individuals, conservatives want to regulate individuals more than business, and libertarians don’t want to regulate anybody. But it’s more than that. In very general terms, liberals believe that better decisions and outcomes come from a group, and evidence is building to support that. Liberals believe we can achieve more working together. Libertarians believe the biggest breakthroughs are the brainchildren of one person acting alone. Libertarians believe we achieve more working individually. Conservatives believe that innovations are developed to address needs or gaps in society. Conservatives believe the optimal structure is a strict and judgmental hierarchy. Have great ideas come from all three sources? Absolutely.
What does this have to do with personal responsibility? When individuals need help—and all people do at some point in their lives—what they do about it is based on these beliefs. Liberals look for a crowd-sourced solution, libertarians double down on individual effort, and conservatives set out to prove themselves worthy within the hierarchy.
These very simple descriptions point to the limitations of each approach. Liberals can turn to others too soon and can get bogged down in discussion. Libertarians don’t get input from others at all, so they only know their own experience of life. Conservatives never question the hierarchy itself, and their leaders can exert too much control. Thus we get the stereotypes of liberals as lazy, libertarians as anti-social and conservatives as conformists.
Are these characterizations fair? If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge that there is some truth beneath the broad brush strokes. When it comes to politics (and religion), we are all a bit blind and holding on to different parts of the elephant.
And we are not letting go. We are not likely to budge people from their orientations. The answer is not pillorying someone to your point of view but understanding where they are coming from.
Personal responsibility and understanding each other as a Christmas message?
Try having peace on earth without them.