Well, that is one way of doing it – acquiring enough feminine charm to influence whole countries! I don’t think I will try that. How about my masculine “I know what I’m talking about” style? It works sometimes…

With the recent bombing and shooting episode here in Norway (for large values of “here” – Oslo is hours away), there is some soul-searching going on. Did we say or do something that might have inspired this guy, or made him feel that he was not alone in thinking as he did?

In my case, no. I was and am critical of the current immigration policy, but it is not a big deal to me, and my perspective is radically different from his. Also I don’t have many readers in Norway.

But I have my own worries, like the chance that people may go clinically insane if they read me too much. I break up the deep stuff with lots of fluff, and always have done. I make sure (I hope) to not come across as a guru. And I hold back, always hold back. But there is still the uncertainty whether what I say will help or harm.


Anyway! If we did not believe we could influence others, we would not share our thoughts at all, would we? I mean, perhaps some would just to vent, to let out steam. But for the most part, I am sure we actually WISH to influence others, whether online or offline.  But if we succeed in doing so, does that not mean that we are responsible to the same degree? If we greatly influence people, we are responsible to a great degree. With great power comes great responsibility. But even if we have only a small influence, we do have some small responsibility, don’t we?

I aired this on Google+ today, and an old friend immediately pointed out that each person is responsible for himself. Which is also true! How can they both be true? I shall show you, if you have just a little patience.

The key is that we are not gods (or even angels). We do not know everything. We don’t have time to reflect even on everything we know. And we are not even aware of many of the things we could have reflected on.

For example, most of us have never actually seen bacteria in a microscope, or only once or twice in school. We take on faith that they are responsible for a wide range of diseases. We have heard this from people we respect and trust, who for the most part also don’t actually know, but have heard it from others, and so on for some while backward. Generally antibiotics seem to help sometimes, so there is probably something to it. And if we have lived a while and have read widely, we know from a very large number of unrelated sources that bacteria are indeed the culprits of many diseases. It seems impossible that so many researchers for so long could be wrong about this.

Now, in my opinion there is no reasonable doubt that bacteria are indeed the cause of a number of  diseases. But especially early in my life this was entirely a matter of faith. I had not the extensive experience and knowledge base to decide this for myself. So if my teenage self had the choice between taking his antibiotics or not, his responsibility for the result was almost purely formal, not real.  Formally I was my own man when I was 18, but in practice I had to rely on others whom I trusted.

In America, unlike Norway, it is quite common to prescribe antibiotics for viral diseases. Antibiotics have no effect on them, but people feel better knowing that they have done something, the doctors get a happy customer (not sure if they also get a small cut of the sale?), and you never know, perhaps some harmful bacteria could use the opportunity to invade while you were sick anyway. Unfortunately, we now have multiresistant bacteria, thanks to this practice, and they kill some people and disfigure others.  Who is responsible?

On a related note, what with it being Friday night and all: Scientists Discover First Gonorrhea Strain Resistant to All Available Antibiotics. Just saying.


Again, we do not know everything or even very much, each of us. So we have to rely on others. This means that we make a decision to let someone else make the decision, at most. Usually not even that: We just act automatically. This is pretty much the default human condition. Over time, some people start expanding their control over their life, but it is a slow and erratic thing even if you aim for it. For the most part, we just have to make do with culture.

Another example! Chairs. If you live in the English-speaking world, you probably think highly of chairs. A house without chairs is definitely lacking something essential. You probably spend a good deal of your day in chairs, perhaps even most of it.

Chairs kill.  We only found out fairly recently. And we still sit in them. I sit in one right now writing this.  Who is responsible? Well, I am, now. The few times I think about it.  (Actually, I do habitually get up and stretch out to make the blood flow again. But probably not enough.) For hundreds of years, we and our ancestors have considered chairs a good thing, and I suppose they are, in great moderation. But whoever originally influenced us to use these, we will never know. And they probably had no idea that anything ill could possibly come of it.

We can only do the best we can. Often we don’t even do that. The thing is, we are mostly just drifting with the current, even the more advanced among us. That is how it is. But what little we can do, we will do. And if we make mistakes, we do not make them on purpose, at least not to hurt others. Hopefully over time we – and everyone – will know better, find better solutions, understand more and create more happiness for ourselves and others. Right now, we just have to start where we stand. The first step always starts from where you stand now. Or that is what I believe right now. ^_^


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