Freedom to choose.
This shows up in two domains – your personal choices to act and your personal choices to produce consequences for the actions of others.
When you make a decision to act, that is your choice [note: inaction is a choice to remain in the same situation so it is still a choice]. The consequences of that choice are not yours to decide.
All the stories you tell yourself about what options you had, what consequences each action could produce and finally why you chose the action you did are all yours.
What happens next is not.
Consequences are produced when others react to your choices.
Some consequences are fundamental because they are produced by reality’s operations. If I step off of a ledge I will fall. Gravity will produce the consequence.
Others are a result of the choices others make in reaction to your action. And those choices are determined by the stories they tell themselves about your action, what it meant to them [how it impacted their situation and their choices], what they assumed about your intentions, what responses are possible and which one they chose to act upon. All not your choice.
Some people reject this notion. They will say things like ‘I am sorry that you were upset by what I did or said’. This means that they are declaring dissatisfaction with the consequences you chose for their actions. As if you made a wrong choice. But actually they should have said ‘I notice you chose to be upset by what I did or said. I don’t like your choice’. Imagine the consequences that could produce if spoken. How would you feel? And then accept that people who try to dismiss the choices others make to produce consequences for their actions often are still subject to consequences they didn’t want.
Why does this matter?
In choosing to act in response to the actions of someone else, we either produce a consequence for them and for their actions, or we don’t. And our choices about what consequences to produce influence their next choices.
If drivers actually got a speeding ticket each and every time they were speeding with no exceptions, drivers would stop speeding. But they don’t. In fact, there are rarely any consequences for speeding. And often other drivers produce consequences for not speeding [like driving right up to your bumper…. ]. Over time, the failure to produce a possible consequence for an action may cause people to forget the consequence is possible and may even cause them to become upset when that consequence does occur – viewing it as unfair. [No one else got a ticket; I never got a ticket here before; it doesn’t matter that I was speeding so why give me a ticket]
When we have a law like speeding that is rarely enforced and becomes common practice to ‘break the law’, we begin to trigger a set of assumptions that negate the consequences of legal restrictions. If I don’t get picked up for speeding, perhaps I won’t get arrested for purchasing illegal drugs…. or cheating on my taxes… By having laws we don’t enforce consistently – like gravity applied to the walk off a ledge – we ‘teach’ people that the consequences aren’t real.
So what happens when we allow someone in a position of power and authority to lie?
If all of us choose to ignore that lie – no matter what the excuse – is our failure to produce a consequence allowing them to believe that the consequence does not exist and, therefore, it is ok to lie?
As we watch the drama of our political situation unfold and people claim that the media ‘is all lies’ and we ignore all that is happening because we don’t like politics, we are part of a group that is choosing to remove the consequences of lying and being dishonest.
And that can lead to a culture of dishonesty.
Because the absence of certain consequences impacts how people make choices about how they act.
And if we want a world that is based on an ethic of honesty if requires us to be honest in our choices AND to produce consequences for those that choose to act dishonestly.
Consequentialism is a philosophy based on the fundamentals of consequences and that we each choose our actions and others chose the consequences so our choices should be made in that context.
So if we hold a belief that all politicians are dishonest and, therefore, opt out of politics, we are accepting and perhaps rewarding dishonesty because we are removing the consequences for politicians lying.
And the very excuse ‘all politicians lie’ is inaccurate. We should say ‘when politicians lie, most people like me are so disengaged, that there are no negative consequences for lying and the benefits from lying are more likely so politicians that tell the truth are at a disadvantage because I will assume politicians are lying no matter what they do and their opponents are likely to beat them if they don’t lie. So I guess people like me are all contributing to the increased dishonesty in politics’.
We each hold a set of responsibilities. #1 To accept accountability and responsibility for all consequences of our actions. #2 To accept accountability and responsibility for our choices to not produce consequences for the actions of others when those actions are actions we hold to be ‘unethical’.
What will your choices be?