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Monday, 7 November 2011

On returning responsibility to individuals not organisations

When Ghandhi composed the rules for Satyagraha (literally "insistence on truth") or civil disobedience they included assertions of individual responsibility including: "do not make your participation conditional on your comrades taking care of your dependants while you are engaging in the campaign or are in prison; do not expect them to provide such support".
Participation in Civil Disobedience is an individual act
with consequences for the individual

It is this realisation that you act as an individual in a campaign of civil disobedience, that you accept the consequences of your actions and that you act only in a way which will ensure continued self-respect, which differentiates such actions from mob rule.

St Augustine of Hippo wrote that "Evil, unlike good, is insubstantial, so that thinking of it as an entity is misleading. Instead, evil is rather the absence or lack of good."

If good and evil share the same asymmetry as light and darkness, then evil can have no source, cannot be projected, and, of itself, can offer no resistance to any source of good, no matter how weak or distant. 

Goodness cannot be actively opposed, and power becomes a consequence of benevolence. However evil is the default state of the universe, and good exists only through constant effort; any lapse or redirection of good will apparently create evil out of nothing.

This philosophy re-asserts itself in polity as "The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke.

Clearly at the Nuremburg Trials a number of German Soldiers had participated in brutal and horrific actions because 'they were following orders' but the Court established a higher moral duty on every individual to take responsibility for their own actions and be ready to oppose any, even their own superiors, should they order the perpetration of immoral acts.

In R. vs Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (1990) the same duty was placed upon individual police officers who personally must uphold the law at all times, even if that means disobeying superior officers.

As someone who believes in the fundamental goodness of humanity both these situations are prime examples of what Burke referred to. Good men stood by and did nothing whilst atrocities were carried out. The reason was primarily fear of the consequences of refusing to obey.

That is the nature of evil in the modern world. One person issues an order, another decides how to implement it, another administers the implementation, another carries out the action. There is confusion as to who exactly bears the legal responsibility for the act.

We often see that decisions made in the States of Jersey which set out to achieve one aim are perverted and twisted by the time they are implemented and bear little resemblance to the original decision. The Civil Service is loathe to accept culpability and responsibility for its actions and often documents which would identify an individual are lost. The Royal Court requires evidence to reach a verdict and the Civil Service will do its best to limit the ability of the Court to reach a finding. The most frustrating thing is the reluctance of anyone to stand up and say, 'I'm sorry, I was wrong'.

Oligarchy ("rule of the few") is Aristocracy ("rule of the best") tainted by Corruption, there is nothing more corrupt than shielding an individual from the consequences of their actions within the anonymity of a wider organisation.