Occasionally I hear someone lambasting politicians for pandering* to the masses in order to be re-elected, or bemoaning the lack of community spirit, or the reduced civility in everyday life, or, well, the list goes on.
Sincerely believing it is my first and foremost task to become the change I seek and to lead by example and deed, not by word, I usually keep my mouth shut. But what frequently runs through my mind is the phrase, “No individual raindrop takes responsibility but the flood still happens.”
If our elected representatives pander to us it is probably because it works. When it no longer works, when we are willing to turn down pork barrel dollars for our backyards because it is not in the common good, when we do not punish them for frank answers and blunt assessments, when we allow them to be human and have off-the-cuff moments like we all do, well, then maybe we will have more honesty in government, more authentic leaders, and a more effective, productive dialogue as a country.
This shared individual/collective responsibility matrix holds true across a wide spectrum of societal forces.
Just as we as individuals create much of the reality we experience so we, too, as a society, community, and culture create much of the reality that surrounds and impacts us. As we as individuals grow in awareness of how our individual actions, for better or for worse, amalgamate, converge, and intertwine to create societal forces, we create the joined societal power to direct those forces for the better.
When we accept the powerful cumulative impact of our marginal actions, we have taken the first step toward accountability. When we acknowledge our responsibility as individuals for our participation in collective outcomes, we grow more powerful both as individuals and as a community.
*Pander: to provide the means of helping to satisfy the baser desires and/or instincts of another.
This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted July 22, 2008.