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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Personal Responsibility – Gone the Way of the Dodo?

It’s “Hump Day.” Wednesday starts as most Wednesday’s do with the minutia of everyday life. Feed the dogs, shave and shower, grab a coffee, collect the trappings of work – laptop, iPhone – and so on. In the car the radio talks to me and the drudgery of work still seems distant, the Mavs won Game 4 so the world is grand. Same drive for years and the car is almost on autopilot. A pain in the end of my nose; the coffee is hot and the road is bumpy. Turns out I actually burned the end of my nose. To be fair it is not the most serious burn; a small red blemish and a little throb for a few minutes but for some reason it puts me in mind of the “McDonald’s Lady”.

Most of you will recall the 1994 case Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants. At the time I was somewhat less of a transplant than I am now. I was a northerner living and working in southern England three years before crossing the pond and transitioning to limey living and working in Dallas, TX. I do recall that the case actually made the news back in the old country; a non violent incident in the US making the UK news was something of a rarity at the time. I also recall thinking that it could not be a serious news report but of course it was. Coffee is hot, if I place it in my lap and spill it I am likely to be burned – common sense? Is the degree of that burn relevant? To some maybe; to me not so much. I purchased the coffee [and would have complained if it was cold]; I held the coffee and I spilled the coffee. Yet the injury was someone else’s fault and a court held it to be so!

That of course sent my mind into the slew of tangential thoughts that inevitably follow an initial thought. You may have a more sequential and structured thought process than I but at least that is the way my mind flows. Is personal responsibility a thing of the past? Is there always someone else to blame [and pay]?