When I was writing my dissertation, seemingly decades ago right now, the issue of moral responsibility was unavoidable; does any human being ever have a moral responsibility to another human being, or can we shift the blame to government, or to charitable organisations?
Are we morally obliged to feed the hungry?
Should we be helping those seeking asylum?
Is the “Western” world to blame for the effects of climate change in lesser-economically developed countries?
The latter being my focal point at this moment in time. I recently read a Guardian article examining the effects of the failure of developed states to uphold their financial commitments to combat climate change. It wasn’t exactly the most uplifting, faith affirming piece I have ever read and I finished with the conclusion that a political culture of “shifting the blame” has arisen in the place of any sense of morality. Depressing, I know. Despite the significant impact this failure has on the lives of individuals all over the developing world, the victims of the floods in Bangladesh being used to contextualise this, and the pleas from the leaders of these countries for an upholding of these financial promises, to date only $2.4bn has been delivered from a legally agreed sum of $30bn. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to conclude that promises are being broken, people’s lives are being broken and the on-going financial crisis is leading to a regressive international climate in which state interest overrides the greater good.
So the question remains, who is responsible? Is anyone responsible? In an arguably over globalised world, with a diminishing climate of a sole superpower and increasing transnational organisations the issue of responsibility is unclear, that is, if there is even room for moral responsibility in the midst of world politics. Differences in opinion among the EU and China and India at the climate change talks in Durban last year (happy new year by the way!) bring this theoretical concern into reality and an inability to agree on a course of action subsequently results in any sort of progress being pushed further into the future - a future which many don’t have time to wait for. At the forefront. pushing for these obligations to be upheld are NGOs, including Green Peace and Friends of the Earth, who have taken on some of the burden. (Again, is this a Government, individual or charitable obligation?) Working to raise awareness among the public their efforts and message have been recognised but a combination of financial restrictions and resistance for national leaders highlight significant limitations and leave their calls falling on somewhat deaf political ears. So where do we turn?
"The world is on track to a 4C temperature rise, a death sentence for Africa, small island states and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. The richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”
Whilst the question remains unanswered the need for action is evident.
The need for morality is evident.
"Women go into politics to do something; Men go into politics to do something for themselves."
I can’t remember who said this, but it was discussed on a Guardian Podcast a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to sit down and ponder it for a while. Cue ridiculously hectic lifestyle at the moment and I finally have time to write. And breathe. For five minutes at least..
Being wary of overgeneralising here, I think it takes a certain type of woman to get involved in politics, particularly with intentions of upsetting the status quo. I’m still debating the relationship between nature/nurture, with regards to gender, but for the most part I think men do have a greater natural need to lead. Whether to actually try and change things for the greater good or for more personal reasons I am unsure. I think that given human nature, and the nature of British politics and associated esteem, I would argue that it’s a combination of the two. I guess the same goes for women. And while I think perhaps women go into politics with a focus on so-called women’s issues, to try and change things for the female population - their presence a mere representation of progressive change - there has to be some element of personal accomplishment.
Harriet Harman’s recent vocal advocacy of a rule change within the Labour party to ensure that inequality within the party is combated and the “default position” of the leadership and deputy leadership positions being held by men is brought to an end mirrors the increase in women in high powered jobs, including politics and opens up a whole new debate as to the motivations of women in the political sphere. What is interesting here is the way she speaks of the “team”, working best when comprised of both men and women, thus implying the leadership position as merely a symbolic figurehead of the party as opposed to an overriding influence. Drawing on power politics in relation to gender here, if the leadership position serves as symbolic representation, and is occupied only by men, can we not assume therefore that male politicians exert more a powerful, driven image than women before they have even voiced an opinion? Something is clearly wrong, - and it seems that instead of being about motivations, the issue in question braces the idea of gendered stereotypes.
History and traditional social norms, roles and values are, in my opinion, the significant contributors to the vastly differing percentages of men and women in politics. I think they are driven by similar motives with varying but comparable intentions and as such, I think both men and women go into politics to do some something. And both men and women go into politics to do something for themselves. I just think that it takes a certain type of person to get into politics in the first place.
"You don’t have to be gay to support it, you just have to be human."
Today New York State passed the Gay Marriage Bill.
I have such a difficult time understanding WHY this is such a controversial issue in the first place; some people that have been in love for years, in a committed stable relationship yet aren’t allowed to marry in many states (in both the domestic and international sense of the word). However, in Vegas, (as a stereotypical example, apologies!) people get married when they’re so ridiculously intoxicated that they can’t even remember their own name, never mind that of their “significant other.” As a Human Rights student, I invariably spend time discussing issues of individual freedom. A surprising, and somewhat appalling, number of my classmates - even as some of the most tolerant, compassionate people I know, who spend their lives campaigning for equality, dignity and the right to choose - still fail to comprehend LGBTI rights. How can people be so angered, so outraged by something which has no impact whatsoever on their lives, and only serves to improve the lives and opportunities of others? I want to shake people until they open their minds, even just a little. Something definitely needs shaking up.
So to the future; it’s questionable whether the democratic existence of referendums will lead New York down a similar road to California. Despite being the only Republican controlled state legislative chamber in the United States to have voted in favour of gay marriage, only four Republicans voted in support of the bill. While this demonstrates the progressive potential of a decentralised government, it also highlights what a long way is left to go.
Enough of the negative potential, today is about moving forward; Well Done New York!