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Principles v. Responsibilities

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

An interesting feature of contemporary life is an expectation that we separate our principles with our responsibilities. We now have multiple roles in life: professional and private lives being two of the more distinct and varied formats. In order to be successful in contemporary professional culture we need to not only accept the expectation that we will separate our principles from our responsibilities but also fully utilize this separation for the benefit of our employers. To our benefactors we are expected to do whatever is asked of us; anything less is justification for termination.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger saw two distinct spheres of existence, both of which were defined by the relation to the rest of human kind. In the “public sphere” the individual functions on the basis of social norms and perceived expectations. According to Heidegger’s writings, it is only in the “private sphere” that an individual’s true personality shines through.

Subscribing to these beliefs establishes the precedent that a person is only “real” when in private. Furthermore, the individuals we encounter are not realistic representations, but are instead personal concoctions created to meet perceived expectations and social norms. This human function instills the separation of principles and responsibilities. The professional world has grasped on the awareness of the two spheres and created an expectation that our “public self” the false character of who we are, can function with the needed “false emotions” to act not in accordance with personal needs but instead for the benefit of the employer.

Interestingly, society does not maintain this distinction through the life cycle of a business. When successful, this cold-hearted, inhuman behavior expectation goes unquestioned. Lives are forever altered: weak employees are terminated, factories are shut down and re-opened in cheaper locations and a swath of corporate maneuvers are carried out with sole interest for the company at play. But what occurs with failure? What happens when the darker sides of corporation are considered and brought to light? Suddenly the acceptance of “responsibilities before principles” is discarded and the corporate actors in the spotlight are characterized as cold-hearted and inhuman. Rapidly the perceived positive qualities (here to fore qualities of the successful) are positive things, but face complication and failure and the reaction to these qualities is flipped and public pride becomes vengeful hatred.

A social system that strays into emotional denial immediately strays into dangerous territory. Reality is destroyed when a corporate actor understands success to be dependent on the ability to discard principles. Can we alter this system? It is highly unlikely? Why? Because this system of personal denial has brought about immense amounts of success. With our distance from human emotion and reality we have crafted narratives of existence that we have then manipulated for our benefits. Long ag0 we greeted this dangerous territory and will never make an exit. For now there is only one critical skill we all must develop: recognition.

When we see the system for what it is we can respond and prepare accordingly. Responsibilities tout personal principles in successful people and in order to function in a world where these players exist we must cruise with calm awareness. Take on this very skill to increase the possibility of success, but be wary of the damage such adjustments can bring about. It is a risky game of denial when these features are utilized.

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