Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Personal Responsibility, Anyone?

I read an article yesterday about a guy in China who collapsed and died, apparently of exhaustion, after playing online games in an internet cafe for three days straight. Sad and bizarre, I thought. I can certainly understand getting obsessed with an internet game - I used to be something of a Tetris addict and my rehab after knee surgery consisted mainly of conquering Super Mario Brothers 1, 2 and 3 (to the delight of my children and their friends). But three days straight? That must have been one compelling game.

When I read these odd news stories, I try to avoid looking at the commentary people post underneath them. The posts are always depressingly ungrammatical and mean-spirited; often, they're horribly racist and/or misogynistic, too. But sometimes I can't resist. When I glanced at the commentary under the dead player story, I was appalled to find that the common theme was that the internet cafe "should have" kicked the guy out or made him take breaks every couple hours or imposed some other fail-safe mechanism to have prevented his death. Huh? Is no one personally responsible for anything any more?

It's beyond my ability to comprehend how anyone but player-guy could have borne any responsibility whatsoever for monitoring the amount of time he spent playing internet games. If he'd been a child, his parents should have been paying attention to him, but, as an adult, he's on his own. In fact, I bet those selfsame self-righteous commenters would be the first to have a fit if "someone" monitored the way they spent their time. So why are they always looking for ways to make someone else responsible for their catastrophes, minor and major? Too careless to secure your hot coffee before you drive away? No problem - sue McDonald's when you stupidly spill it all over yourself. Can't be bothered to keep a calendar for your commitments? No problem - just make it necessary for meeting and event organizers to send you (and everyone else) inbox-clogging reminders. Can't afford the stuff you want? No problem - max out your credit cards and buy it all anyway, then complain about crushing credit card debt when you can't pay.

Seems to me that freedom is highly desirable. Self-direction, too. As adults, we should be free to do as we please with our lives and our time. But the price for freedom and self-direction is personal responsibility. It isn't anyone else's fault or responsibility when the actions we take have negative consequences - and it's childish (not to mention disgusting) to look around for someone to blame.

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