A couple of years ago, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, made an interesting statement that was ignored by most, and demonised by the few who listened. “I tell you, a decent society is not based on rights, it is based on duty,” Blair naively declared, “[o]ur duty to one another. To all should be given opportunity, from all responsibility demanded.” Some English tabloids called Blair a fascist, while most chose to ignore it. Now why am I thinking of this now, two years or so after the fact? Its because I think the PM was right. As Lord Acton said, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.”

Today, most people (at least around me) are sloppy, messy, dirty, tardy, miss appointments completely, show up with their work not done…you get the picture. I do not remember the situation being so bad even fifteen years ago. This irresponsibility has reached epic proportions in the name of individuality and, to slip into Americanese for a moment, freedom, and liberty. Somehow, everyone is supposed to have the freedom to be late and have their work incomplete. Apparently, it is an expression of oneself to speak so loudly that they can hear you down the street. It seems to be the trend to be clumsy. Moreover, the American Psychological Association has recently come out with a study that says adolescence can last until 24 (LINK HERE and HERE). I am a big proponent of science, but I this really seems to be the work of some namby pamby lame scientist whose benefactor is desperately trying to justify laziness and apathy genetically or through some other means so that we can all say this is how we are, it is not our fault. Or perhaps, they could sell you some more drugs with side effects that border on cruel and unusual.

Oddly enough, older generations do not seem to have such problems. Sure, “problem children” may have existed back then and were not noticed as they are now. But they could not hide behind science – they could either get over their issues or become janitors and clerks like everyone else. Surprisingly, they got over any disabilities they may have had and some of them went on to do excellent things. Today, we seem intent on pampering ourselves. The sheer level of indulgence would shock anyone not in this culture. In the United States, for example, they now have a pill for something called “Restless Leg Syndrome” – if you lie down to sleep and can’t stop fidgeting, you can take a pill now! When I had a sports-related injury, a minor sprain, I was prescribed 800mg of Ibuprofen – 800mg! – when the regular size pill is of 100mg or 200mg. My dosage could numb an ox!

Not to forget, all those nut jobs who pulled guns on their co-workers or schoolmates. Have we really gone that berserk that we irrationally gun down people we don’t even really know? Are we really that desperate to find someone else to blame? Canis meus id comedit? Was Tony really wrong when he said that in a decent society, we should be responsible to each other? Or perhaps we are not decent folk…

In that abomination of a country where there seem to be no human rights, Saudi Arabia, there is less crime than anywhere in the “free world.” In fact, crime has probably risen a little after the Gulf War. What are they doing right? Now I would never want to live there, but they must be doing something right if there is less murder, less drugs, less vandalism, and less theft. Machiavelli would probably say force. The ultimate basis of power was, for Machiavelli, force, not knowledge. Kautilya, an Indian political scientist of the Mauryan Empire, did not believe in prisons – the criminal either worked for his keep, was executed, or was flogged and released. The Penal Code was much simpler, and the justice system was not paralysed with cases, I will give you that. And more importantly, crime, per capita, was less. They tell us that it is because we grew up with violence on TV, violent computer games, and angry music that we are dysfunctional. To them, I can show many people who grew up with toy guns (some with real guns even), and a steady diet of movies like Rambo and Rocky who are today against guns and are some of the most well-adjusted people. I think it is time people took responsibility for their own mistakes. No, you are not special, you have a malfunction, and it IS your fault. Now fix it, and we can all move on.

As a generation, we seem to be over-pampered and over-medicated and any other excess you can think of. What did they call us, Generation X? I think they meant Generation XXL. Did you hear about the boy who tried to sue McDonald’s because he was overweight? An of course, that infamous case where the woman spilt coffee on herself and sued. In any case, Gen Y is only proving to be Gen X++. All this highlights how irresponsible we have become. Back in the day, all I had to worry about was being vapourised in a nuclear exchange between the US, USSR, or China. Now, I have to worry about my next door neighbour…well, at least we live in a free society.

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Jaideep A. Prabhu is a specialist in foreign and nuclear policy; he also pokes his nose in energy and defence related matters.

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