Has the idea of personal responsibility completely died out in this generation? People can and do blame their problems on every imaginable external source: McDonald’s is the cause of obesity in America; video games are the cause of teenage violence; parents and even DNA are what caused you to fail in life. Stop! Stop blaming everyone else and accept responsibility for your own actions! If people are fat, it’s not because McDonald’s force-fed them, it’s because they ‘live’ on a diet of four Big Mac’s a day. If a teenager goes on a shooting spree, it’s not because they saw it in a video game, it’s because they picked up a gun and decided to commit a horrendous act. If your life isn’t quite what you imagined it to be, it’s not because mommy cut your sandwiches diagonally instead of into rectangles: look around, realize that you’re not the only one with problems, stop whining and do something about it.

I know not everyone is crazy about playing the one-player blame game, but maybe we as a society should start. The following is several loosely-tied examples of exactly what the hell I’m talking about.

A new game, ‘Manhunt 2’, has been the center of quite a bit of controversy. In the United States this game has been given the dreaded ‘Adults Only’ (‘AO’) rating, pretty much dooming the game. See, the ESRB, the organization that gives games their ratings, has deemed that ‘Manhunt 2’ is rated ‘AO’, meaning that it should only be played by players who are 18 years of age or older. This is somehow different from the ‘Mature’ (‘M’) rating which specifies that the player must be at least 17 years old. Idiotic ratings will be the subject of a different rant, back to the task at hand. The fact that a game is rated as ‘AO’ pretty much kills it: retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target refuse to carry the game and two out of three console makers have policies against ‘AO’ games on their consoles (Sony and Nintendo). Why? Why is the consumer not given the choice in the matter? How dare a corporation dictate what I can and can’t play? When Wal-Mart pulls a ‘controversial’ book/CD/game off their shelves, they are imposing their twisted sense of propriety and morality on our culture. And here’s the tricky part: we let them. We allow these companies to have a word on what is supposed to be our own choice. We allow our experiences to be cut short by the ‘Wives With Knives’ Club.

Wives With Knives

The reason that the multinational corporations institute these policies is because a large part of their customer base loves to blame social problems on ‘evil’ books, music and video games. Here’s where this is actually relevant to whatever I wrote two paragraphs back. Because people decide to blame video games when a messed up kid goes berserk, the rest of us aren’t able to make the choice for ourselves on whether or not we should be playing ‘Manhunt 2’.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about my weekly cheese tastings. I love cheese. And I enjoy getting together with a bunch of like-minded individuals, opening up a bottle of wine and munching down on half a dozen different types of solidified curdled milk. But did you know that it is illegal to sell some cheese in the United States? Yes, there are laws on cheese. For example, it is illegal to sell cheese made from raw milk that has been aged for less than 60 days. According to the FDA, raw-milk cheeses can cause “serious infectious diseases including listeriosis, brucellosis, salmonellosis and tuberculosis”. But of course in matters such as these there does exist contradicting opinion that the pasteurization of milk does not ensure its safety. There’s also statistical evidence that even in countries that have not made raw-milk cheese illegal, the majority of cheese-related food poisonings stem from pasteurized cheese. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that I don’t have a say in the matter. Once again we come to the original point of personal responsibility. If I want to risk my life by partaking in some ‘dangerous’ cheese, that should be my right.

So, what’s with all the talk about laws? It’s quite simple, really. I think laws should exist to protect people. Period. Laws against victimless ‘crimes’ should be done away with. This also includes such acts that a person can perform that harm themselves: suicide, eating raw-milk cheese, smoking cigarettes/marijuana/whatever and a variety of other ‘crimes’ in which the only person being affected is the one carrying out the actions.

What would this accomplish? Well, for one thing, there’ll be less idiots walking around: if a person is given the first and last choice on the use of dangerous substances or whathaveyou, the idiots will automatically weed themselves out. Imagine if that raw-milk cheese was actually available from Whole Foods. It would of course come with a label that said something along the lines of “made from raw-milk, the FDA suggests that you don’t buy this cheese, it might make you sick, but it’s your ultimately choice”. Obviously not everyone (or is it ‘no one’?) reads warning labels, so we’ll clear out quite a large segment of society. Also, and this is equally great, the rest of us would be able to live our lives out the way we want to, not how a religious asshole, neglectful parent, nosy neighbor or self-proclaimed knight in shining armor would tell us to live our lives.

On the subject of all the above-mentioned so-called ‘Good Samaritans’:

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good… Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

I can’t think of a way to wrap this up in a cogent manner, so pretend that I concluded with a poignant quote by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.