The UC Davis incident and personal responsibility

November 24th, 2011

The first post I read about the pepper spraying incident at UC Davis was this article about the effect the incident may have had on the policeman doing the spraying.

The author, Madrigal, recalled a quote from the NYT about a similar incident from the 1960s.

[Clark] cannot be dismissed as a total monster; I am sure he loves his wife and children and likes to get drunk. One has to assume that he is a man like me… Something awful must have happened to a human being to be able to put a cattle prod against a woman’s breasts. What happens to the woman is ghastly. What happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse.

The article goes on to consider the system that produces police that will do (and believe they should do) terrible things to other people.

I think personal responsibility is so important, especially in systems that require authority and control. On the one hand, we can’t be constantly questioning, arguing, undermining and overriding our leadership, but on the other we we can’t always blindly follow orders given. We have to take personal responsibility for our actions, which involves balancing what we personally believe to be right with trusting our leaders.

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