Rights and Responsibilities . . .

Rights!  There are no rights whatever without corresponding duties.  ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This is a difficult blog topic for me as I am not much of a philosopher or academic and feel more at home on a trout stream than on a soap box.  However this is something I feel strongly about and as a result of recent events I am compelled to articulate my thoughts in as coherent and hopefully honest manner as I can.

It concerns the Occupy Wall Street movement.  First let me say that I am very sympathetic to those who have suddenly lost so much: hard-earned pensions have disappeared, savings gone, home values greatly reduced and many real jobs lost in the recent global financial meltdown and continuing economic depression.

The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the major financial institutions and the government regulatory bodies.  For a variety of reasons, either by commission or omission, they caused this mess.  So I can thoroughly understand why people are demonstrating against the major banks and financial institutions, as well as against inadequate governmental regulation and financial policies.  Few of us would argue that the system is broken and needs major reform.

I was a college student at the University of California in the mid-60s and have seen first hand how the power of people responsibly protesting against misinformed and out-of-touch governmental policies and actions can create a major wake-up call for citizens and governments alike.  The anti-war protests during the Vietnam War were instrumental in finally getting the US out of an ill-fated conflict (but not before over 50,000 young people died). So on the whole I am a supporter of public demonstrations.

However, I have a major problem with one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration locations; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  On the steps of one of the major tourist and religious attractions in London the protesters pitched their tent city.  They caused a major disruption to a public place but people do have a right to assemble and voice their concerns, so they were allowed to stay.

However what really frustrates me is the behavior of some of the protesters.  According to news reports at the scene, numerous protestors used St. Paul’s Cathedral as their personal latrine.  Even going so far as to urinate and defecate on the carpets inside the main cathedral hall!

So, my post today is really about the principle of Rights and Responsibilities.

I believe that many of us are blessed to live in countries that guarantee rights and individual liberties for citizens.  These are not free and have been won over the years with the blood and sacrifices of many of those who helped defend these freedoms.

But I also strongly believe that with rights come responsibilities. Responsibilities on the part of citizens to not only honor those liberties through appropriate actions and participation in the process of government, but responsibilities to behave in a manner that supports the well-being of all citizens and our public institutions.

There can be no real liberty or individual freedoms without individual responsibility.

In my opinion, rights without responsibility creates anarchy, and responsibility without rights is slavery.  Our open and free societies are based on a healthy balance between rights and responsibilities.

Defecating and urinating on the carpets inside St. Paul’s Cathedral is not responsible behavior.  And it wasn’t an accident, it was deliberate and in my mind an indication of immaturity, disrespect and lack of personal and social responsibility.  With this type of behavior it is no wonder the government, city officials (and church officials) are getting fed up with the demonstrators, even if they are sympathetic to their cause!  Therefore, it is time to move the occupiers on.  They have had their say, we heard the message, but we should not condone such irresponsible behavior.

When people respect the balance of rights and responsibilities, the system works.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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