Accountability in Hard Times

Accountability in Hard Times

When do you get to say that the group you were in (family, mob, gang, cult, neighbourhood, military, field of practice or study, country) influenced, coerced or forced you into doing something you would never have done otherwise? When should you be and when are you held to account despite that?

From your own action, to knowing when someone else has acted

The thinking/moral choices begins with things like whether you stole a loaf of bread because you or your family were hungry, stole a coat because you were cold, to selling drugs because you needed money or in a gang territory, you joined and engaged in their crimes with them. If you were a spouse and your partner abused and/or neglected your kids. If you were a soldier, you followed orders even though you knew civilians esp kids would be harmed. If you were a priest, doctor or teacher and covered up for a colleague’s crimes.

And as a leader, did you actually commit the crime or did you ask others to in your name?

Charles Manson

Had his followers commit crimes, many of whom faced consequences of their activities.

war crimes

We now have clear direction on what constitutes a war crime or a human rights violation, mostly due to the UN/ICC and it’s work since the Nuremberg trials.

Jan 6/2021 US Capitol insurrection

Those there, or those who incited their heightened emotions and stood back to laugh and watch as people became a mob?

But when is it your fault too?

  • Clearly, when you were one of the leaders. But that depends too on how much authority and autonomy you had in the chain of command. What usual practice and ethics of the time were.
  • Your pattern of behaviour – Outside of the group, were you a problem? Did their coercion teach you to behave this way beyond their reach?
  • when the stress of the activity and group aggression made you ill – ie PTSD, addictions, Stockholm’s Syndrome or worsened something you’d had before but had been pretty much under control till you were in the group.

It’s a complex situation. One I’m not sure even the professionals have a handle on. So do we show empathy to the point where most of the people who had no power get off? But how do we prevent these small fry from doing this again the next time some megalomaniac incites or coerces them?

Where does your line fall in these situations?

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