Question 18.2

I took a shit today in the cleanest, safest drinking water that man has ever known. While two thirds of the world lives on less than a dollar a day, I spent 1.97 on a casual cup of thin black coffee and let it get cold. I look at my carbon footprint, crushing the earth under the tonnage of my commute, of my casual vices, and I believe, for a moment in bigfoot. The wild parts of my country have been roped off as eco amusement parks, and I have the good fortune to enjoy them on a lark instead of having to attempt to eek out a strained and exhausted living toiling in the soil until my stooped and weathered back breaks under the weight of too many years, and I lay dying face down in the dry, eroded gray dirt of subsistence farming. Instead I may decide today to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables from a dozen different nations, each picked and shipped hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles to me. I may cook them, or simply let them spoil in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator because I decide to go out instead. Out, to a restaurant where undocumented workers will avoid my eyes as they scurry about, sweating in the kitchen, sweating as they bus tables and wash dishes, wondering if they will have enough time to get to their second job tonight, wondering if the boss will try to stiff them again, and desperate to scrounge enough money together to feed their wives, their children, their mothers.

In the absence of these pressures, I am allowed a life of near perfect historical luxury. I have abundant heating and cooling that I control on a whim, personal property, protected, safe, and private. I have, for the sheer hell of it, animals that eat and drink better than most people on the planet, and I keep them as pets for no other reason than I enjoy their company. I am opulent, and this is the first and most fundamental fact of my existence. I was born into a level of comfort and wealth that most of the world will never know, and to this I owe a tremendous debt. What terrible hubris it would be to accept the gifts of my fortune and to not make every effort to use these advantages to transform myself. I have an obligation to kindness, since I have no excuse to be cruel. I have an obligation to generosity and charity. I owe a debt of patience, of humility. I owe it to myself to grow intellectually. I owe to my friends and family and neighbors the sweat of my brow at their request. I am obligated to honesty, to work, to a striving effort in all the things I do. I am obligated by the fact of my existence to attempt in that life to live a life of exemplary character and uncommon strength, since in this life I have no excuse otherwise. As I lay down every night on the soft pillow of benevolent comfort, I know that I am obligated, to assist where and when I can, to inspire, to lead, and to teach, so that the good fortune of my chance existence is never wasted.

Question 18.1

Obligation as a sense of duty, relates only to the social realm in my personal view, as it is not a necessity. Necessity relates only to the physical needs of existence (involuntary breathing, eating, drinking, expelling waste, sleeping). A person’s sense of duty is only as strong and as detailed as their social awareness and willingness to serve themselves, others, their world. As a person who exists, I can only speak for my own obligations, as the spectrum of obligations range from person to person and their shades of gray vary.

I feel obligated…

To speak my mind.
To actively pursue God.
To actively love those who love me.
To try and answer questions like this.
To passively love those who dislike me.
To help those who cannot help themselves.
To explore as much of this world as possible.
To work honestly and diligently for the betterment of my microcosm.
To use my creative gifts to produce as much meaningful art as possible.
To contribute to the direction of my country’s government by casting my vote.
To exercise and eat right to keep my body as healthy, strong and attractive as I can.
To contribute to my local, state and national economy by purchasing goods and services.

Question 18.0

To be or not to be, that was and, for many always will be, the question. One of the most basic metaphysical presuppositions is that we are, that we exist. Given then, this assumption that we are, what obligation(s) if any does the act of existence create?

Question 17.7

Power by its nature must include two components. First, there must be a person or body which acts. Second, there must be the subordinate party which is acted upon. Power implies action, be it through physical, economic, political, emotional or other means. Power then exists as a function of its own exercise. That is to say, there can be no power which does not act, and so, in turn, there must be a subordinate body which is acted upon. It is the presence of this subordinate body that, by virtue of its existence, creates an obligation for the powerful. In social situations, that responsibility is easily understood as part of a larger social contract. In order for people to function together in a cohesive society, the greater abilities and possible privileges of the powerful must be tempered by a responsibility for the care taking of the subordinate body upon which it exerts its force. Power without temperance is tyranny and injustice, which in addition to being morally objectionable, are historically untenable and, in relative terms, short-lived. All societies inherently recognize this, and establish systems of law and order to codify and restrict the use of power by the powerful. In consideration, nearly every act of violence, aggression, and illegality are the results of unrestrained power, power acting without the reasonable restrictions of responsibility. While there is often a disconnect between those who have power and the incumbent responsibilities that power engenders, there is nonetheless a responsibility, social in the larger sense, and moral in the individual.

In fact, in order for one party to be responsible for and have a responsibility to another, there must exist a power dynamic which favors that party who is to shoulder the responsibility. One cannot be responsible if one lacks power. Children, who have very little real or acknowledged power are not generally held responsible for their actions until such time as they are able to gain a sufficient mastery of their environment and sentient self control, that they can be deemed to make conscious and active choices over their environment. Responsibility exists because one party has first the ability to affect the world, and second because he or she has the obligation to do so. Therefore, the root and cause of responsibility presupposes power, and the two are inextricably linked.

Questions then, of the dynamic between power and responsibility are questions of degree. If we accept that power exists because of its ability to affect subordinate parties, that responsibility is derived from positions of power, and that a key component of both power and responsibility is the obligation owed by the powerful to the subordinate, then it must be clear that as the relative distance between the powerful and the subordinate increases, so too does the level of moral and social obligation out of which responsibility is created. Those with the greatest power to affect the lives of the lesser have an obligation to that power. Those who choose to shirk this responsibility are doomed to vilification by an unforgiving and watchful populace.

Question 17.6

There are a few basic laws that govern life as we know it. One such scientific law states

Power = work / time.

The relationship between work and responsibility directly involves work. If you don't put in the work, you don't get power.

Take for example the nationalistic flavor that was pervasive in the U.S. a few years ago. There was a plastic American flag stuck in every chemically treated lawn and a sense that people were trigger happy to nuke those responsible for 911. It was just the climate the administration needed to convince the world to take on a nation that had nothing to do with 911 and paint anyone who thought otherwise as a traitor. So we hit them with the "shock and awe" campaign and the grand finale of firebombs made short work of taking down an internationally disliked dictator. What followed was neither shocking nor awe inspiring. There was little put into the grand plan beyond nuke 'em and take 'em down. Now we are left in a bumbled mess all because no one put in the work needed to equal that level of power.

This little essay follows that rule. What I had imagined was more powerful than what is appearing on the page. I did not put in the work necessary for it to be well thought out and cohesive, thus it does not convey the power that I had imagined initially. The relationship between power and work is inescapable, whether it be a little essay or national policy. It is our responsibility having had the birthright of this wonderful and powerful nation to put in more work for our birthright than Paris Hilton has done with hers.

Question 17.5

"With Power Comes Great Responsibility"

The phrase has changed throughout time, but with each of its incarnations it shares the commonality of being a tool. Although we’ve become most familiar with the Stan Lee version, more important and famous figures have also uttered this phrase such as Churchill, Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. If I were less lazy, I could pull out the quote from the book of Luke in the Bible.

What I believe to be the superficial heart of this quote, regardless of its form, is that you (being either a single person or a “body” of people such as a group, organization, or nation) have a responsibility to your fellow man to act in the best interests of humans as a whole. In other words, your abilities, wealth, resources, or power must be used to serve the ideals and needs of a society.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, but at the same time it is also propaganda, sour grapes, and an excuse. The true intent of uttering this phrase belies an action that has taken place, or is about to take and its purpose is to placate the masses. Churchill warned us after Great Britain became a second class power in WWII that we would now be responsible to the world with our great power, but you can argue that England’s plundering of the riches of developing nations had ended, and seeing that the US would be stepping into their former role, he spoke from the position of a bully that had finally found someone he couldn’t beat.

Whether it was Lincoln justifying the new bloody new style of warfare the North was utilizing during our Civil War or Kennedy acting humble on the eve of taking the reins of the world’s most powerful nation (and potentially inspiring Stan Lee’s writing in Spiderman) I would argue that this phrase marks the exact opposite of the message it stirs within the masses; that liberties, lives, fortunes, and wealth are about to be taken and consolidated into the hands of the few.

In an age in which we can no longer handle the speed in which our technology advances and we slowly lose our freedoms to paranoia, guilt, and misplaced acts of patriotism I hope that I do not hear this spoken by someone with power.

Question 17.4