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Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Responsibility 911" and the Statue of Responsibility

I've just heard about a soon to be released book called Responsibility 911. One of the Canadian contributors, Elliott Frankl, is featured in the Georgina Advocate, an Ontario newspaper. He is a distant relative of the famous Victor Frankl, whose writings are also featured.

As of today, it is still not listed at Amazon.com, but I want to respond pre-emptively to the message of this book:

" … At the heart of the book is the idea freedom cannot exist without citizens accepting responsibility for the society in which they live..."

The announcement by author Thomas Schaff from May about Responsibility 911 is available on YouTube. Thomas Schaff is also one of the trustees for the Statue of Responsibility project. Their video presentation is at www.sorfoundation.org. More information is available at the project's FAQ.

The video presents a consistent message: "Coming together... brotherhood ... in the same boat ...not just about self-interest ... the greater interest..."

Summaries of Responsibility 911 are available online (here and here).

Highlighting some of the chapters: “Everybody Matters” by George W. Bush, “Moral Courage” by Senator John McCain, “Lessons for Leaders” by Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Never Retreat” by Rudy Giuliani, “You Have a Role to Play” by Barack Obama and "Bill of Responsibilities", by Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. Pending articles for the new book include other establishment figures William Bennett and David Gergen.

Reading their “Bill of Responsibilities” will give you a flavour of what Freedom's Foundation is all about. On the home page, you can watch bi-partisan buddies, Senators Biden and Hatch present the "Freedom Isn't Free Campaign" video. The Advisory Council for the Statue of Responsibility project also includes the same Senator Hatch.

In my opinion, the number of political figures listed as contributors appears to discredit whatever value the book has as a collection of works on spiritual or self-help topics. Also, the presence of works by self-help authors, and the confusion caused by mixing political and psychological concepts could make this book an appealing and effective piece of propaganda.

The whole idea of the Statue of Responsibility is to “balance” the Statue of Liberty, in effect downplaying and cancelling out the value of seeking liberty, as if liberty and responsibility are opposite values. They define “freedom” as something superior to “liberty” because they say “freedom” also includes “responsibility” (whatever they mean by that). Whatever freedom is (insert Orwellian term here), if you lose it, they say it’s your fault. You didn’t pay the price. You didn’t suffer enough or you didn't go along with the program and now it's time to really get started paying for that freedom! So you are going to sit and be lectured by the same people passing the legislation every day that destroys your real freedoms – instead of telling them to stop.

The themes of the book are very clear from the pre-release. In a pure self-help context they might be very positive, but mixed with politics, they convey a totalitarian warning: responsibility (shut up and get in line, it’s your fault, your selfishness and desire for liberty caused all these problems), leadership (we need new leaders like us to rule), accountability and social responsibility (watch out or you’re the next show trial victim like Martha Stewart), transparency (invasion of privacy and private property) and the "role" of the citizen (submission and sacrifice to the State, don't question the credibility of its institutions).

I can’t help interpreting this as a situation where the ideas of Victor Frankl and self-help authors are going to be twisted by the defenders of a corrupt political system who are given a platform by this book. Liberty means being free to do things with your life that you decide are constructive - and the right to be wrong about your choices - as long as you do not interfere with the rights of others. Liberty does not equate to irresponsibility at all. In fact, we need to exercise responsibility in order to promote liberty, preserve established freedoms and hold the power-abusers in government accountable.

Posted by Alan Mercer on June 22, 2008 in Media | Permalink


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They say: "The significance of the Statue of Responsibility monument is the message which it will evoke in freedom loving people around the world; the message that, 'with great liberties come great responsibilities.'"

I see, so liberty and responsibility come together. You say: "The whole idea of the Statue of Responsibility is to 'balance' the Statue of Liberty, in effect downplaying and cancelling out the value of seeking liberty, as if liberty and responsibility are opposite values."

Errr ... looks like you didn't read very carefully. They say: "The Foundation does not, in any way, wish to advocate a uniform way to act responsibly. Our objective is to stimulate a national discussion on the role responsibility plays – hand in hand with liberty – in maintaining freedom."

You say: "they convey a totalitarian warning: responsibility (shut up and get in line...."

It sounds like the book you have created in your imagination is a very scary one. It also sounds like the one they will publish is quite different and quite interesting. Thanks for at least letting us know about the book.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-06-22 4:24:53 PM

"It sounds like the book you have created in your imagination is a very scary one. It also sounds like the one they will publish is quite different and quite interesting. Thanks for at least letting us know about the book."

And since neither of you have read it, I appreciate your different but ultimately uninformed take on it but with a pinch of salt.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-06-22 4:37:57 PM


You don't seem to have noticed that I did not offer a "take" on the book. I simply gave quotes from the people responsible for the book as a response to Alan's Chicken Little analysis. Take all the salt you like. It won't make his free-style interpretations any more accurate. It will only make you retain water.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-06-22 5:43:42 PM

looks a lot like it's really going to be a 'statue of guilt'.

Guilt that you are more or less a free person.

They don't teach responsibility in schools, the home or society in general so how does a young person relate to this responsibility thingy?

Just more 'newspeak' from our betters.

Posted by: John V | 2008-06-22 6:01:46 PM

Your comments to me could easily be directed back at you for your analysis of what Alan was saying...which was my point in the first place.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-06-23 5:28:16 AM


The home page of the Statue of Responsibility website, http://www.sorfoundation.org/, says,

"These two principles - liberty and responsibility - when linked together, will help engender and secure freedom for the present generation, and for generations yet unborn, wherever a thirst for freedom exists. Only by balancing Liberty with Responsibility can Freedom be sustained"

I'm participating in the "discussion" before the book is released and before the statue is built, but the one-sided discussion has already been taking place for the last few years while the U.S. Congress has been destroying constitutional liberties. And many of the contributors to this planned book have been involved in doing just that. I don't see what kind of qualifications they have for lecturing readers on responsibility.

Alan Mercer

Posted by: Alan Mercer | 2008-06-23 10:32:54 AM

The difference with Chicken Little is that the sky actually is falling, and has been for some time.

U.S. LP Presidential Candidate Bob Barr seems to agree there's a problem:

"There is much to be said for someone so entrenched in the system to not only admit wrong, but to take initiative in correcting it. This is not something we can say for John McCain or [Barack] Obama, both of whom voted to fund the war and extend the Patriot Act."

So these people who are listed for the book, what do they spend all their time doing other than undermining the U.S. Bill of Rights:
Bush, McCain, Obama, Hatch ?

I wonder if the book should be re-titled -"Chicken Soup for the Civil-Liberty Destroying Soul"

Better if the book's editors removed the politicians and left Oprah, Bill Cosby and the self-help writers in there. Add in non-imaginary concerns about civil liberties, war, that sort of thing, articles by Bob Barr, Ron Paul and supporters, and you'll have the perfect book.

Posted by: Alan Mercer | 2008-06-23 10:50:02 AM

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