On personal responsibility

Russell Wangersky
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Cover court for any amount of time, and you’re likely to realize something: few people truly accept that they’re responsible for the things they do. It’s other people who are to blame; it’s other people who started it. It’s other people who are responsible.

You hear the same thing at public inquiries: rarely does anyone stand up and say “yes, that was my fault.”

Much more often, it’s the system that was flawed. If it’s not the system, then people are too busy or just plain can’t remember or tell you that it doesn’t seem like something that they would be likely to have done.

Maybe it’s because people like to see themselves in the best possible light — maybe it’s because, more and more, we’re being raised to believe that, no matter what we do, we really only share in part of the blame. The rest is our upbringing, our family situation, the evil boss or the darned unreasonable corporate overlords who rule all of everything.

Late last month, Kentucky Fried Chicken — or KFC, as it prefers to be called now — introduced their Double Down chicken concoction to this country. It’s two pieces of battered chicken, holding cheese and bacon. There’s no bun — it’s just a pile of meat and cheese.

As soon as it came to market, there was a healthy bout of hand-wringing about the unhealthiness of the thing. In Ontario, one of the last bastions of the hidebound, there were immediate suggestions that the thing should be banned for our own good. Hooray for setting up a brand new stop for the stupid train.

This is the same province, after all, that banned pitbulls, and made news during the last week or so for banning a pitbull named Junior from the province — a pitbull that is the pet of noted dog trainer Cesar Millan, who uses the animal to help train and socialize savage and out-of-control dogs.

Whose fault is your behaviour?

Missing in this whole equation is the question of personal responsibility.

There is a point at which the state should not have to keep stepping in and deciding what is and isn’t good for you.

There are plenty of things in this country that can seriously harm you — many people own chainsaws, and still more own lawnmowers. Both can do decidedly spectacular and long-lasting damage, but there hasn’t been a push to make them illegal to protect those who end up using them foolishly.

The other side of the responsibility coin is that, in the event that the expected happens, the people involved should have to bear the full freight of their actions.

If you want to live an unreasonable and unhealthy lifestyle, that’s your choice. But don’t expect someone else to jump in and care for you when you become debilitated by that lifestyle. If you want to keep dogs with a reputation for savage behaviour, so be it — but recognize that you should absorb every single cent of any cost that comes out of their behaviour, because having them is a choice you make.

I can understand the need to protect individuals from unreasonable government-sponsored home access to gambling. I can understand the torment of true addictions.

I can’t understand the need to protect ourselves from a chicken sandwich.

Yes, it’s unhealthy; yes, it’s another step along the line to the obesity epidemic and yes, those who decide to eat the offering regularly will pay some kind of health price.

Maybe they should have named it the Darwin Down — if you decide to make it your favourite snack, well then, evolution will pretty much weed you and your offspring out of the overall gene pool.

Besides, there will always be other unhealthy options. You just don’t have to eat them.

But if you do, it’s really not the fast food company’s fault. It’s your own.

What you should do is buy a mirror. And start looking in it.

Some things actually are our own fault.

Russell Wangersky is the editorial page editor of The Telegram. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Kentucky, Ontario

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