In defense of ‘Responsibility’

I’ve been thinking about the sentiment expressed by some students and faculty on campus that the “social responsibility” project’s in-your-face tactic has become irritating, offensive and tiresome. In the three and a half years I’ve spent on this campus, there have many things that I have felt were forced into my view against my will.I have been unable to avoid seeing people who drive from their dorms to Baxter to check their mail, people who throw away their cans and bottles because there isn’t a recycling bin within the next 20 feet or so, people who print repeatedly, then leave their papers behind, people who take more food than they can eat, then leave half of it on their plates and complain when they have to scrape them, people who drink two or three cups of coffee a day but never use a reusable cup, people who get grab and go several times a week and never think to reuse their bags, you get the idea.

I am not saying any of these things are wrong, or that any of those people are bad, just that I find their behavior to be in-my-face and, were I to dwell upon it too much, perhaps I’d find it irritating, offensive or tiresome. What the project has “forced” into people’s faces is no worse than what is forced into ours on a daily basis. Nevertheless, unlike those people who feel we are imposing upon them and express this by destroying the signs we’ve made, I do not find myself keying those cars waiting outside Baxter, or slashing their tires in a drunken rage.

This is partly because I realize how unproductive this would be, but mostly because one of my personal beliefs is that I should not impose my point of view upon others. Which brings me to my second point: It seems that many people here feel that the project is trying to lay some sort of elaborate guilt trip upon the campus.

On the contrary, I feel that I am not asking anyone to care or to feel guilty any more than that person with the SUV is asking me to condone his or her vehicle choice. In order to explain properly what it is that I am asking, I need to digress for a moment and borrow an analogy from one Chuck Matthei. We can think of the world, or a community as a big dining room table. You’ve got this big pot of soup to dish out. How much are you going to give yourself? Well, that depends on who else is at the table. You look around and then start to spoon out the soup. Whether you take it all, none, or anywhere in between is entirely your decision, and there is no right or wrong decision to be made.

This is exactly how I feel about the project. Our decisions are our own. I cannot be the judge of what is right or wrong and it is not up to me to decide what is a good or a bad decision. All I am asking is that we look across that table before we decide.