Society must learn to stomach personal responsibility

Last week, the United States House of Representatives voted 276-139 to ban class action lawsuits that put the blame on members of the food industry for contributing to the obesity of consumers.

In regards to the “Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act,” nicknamed the “Cheeseburger Bill,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, “Trial lawyers need to stop encouraging consumers to blame others for the consequences of their actions just so they can profit from frivolous lawsuits against restaurants.”

The fact that such legislation is considered needful is amazing. I can think of no better example to illustrate the lengths to which this epidemic of “victim mentality” has gone.

Victim mentality is when people blame outside forces on the things that they’ve done wrong, thereby shying away from any personal responsibility.

You can see this mindset in play everywhere in our society. Members of one race blame members of another race for their problems. The poor blame the rich for their poverty. Politicians blame the media for their bad image and “the system” for their campaign losses. Celebrities blame the stress accrued from “celebrity” for their drug and relationship problems. Islamic militants blame the West and Israel for their plight. And, in this case, overweight people blame food companies for their weight problems.

From these incidences have come: affirmative action, redistribution of wealth through the progressive income tax system, the fairness doctrine, campaign finance reform, E! True Hollywood Story, VH1 Behind the Music, the War on Terrorism and now frivolous lawsuits against fast food chains.

And you can bet that politicians are all too happy to cater to these “victims.” Scores of federal and state programs have been created to help them with their “raw deal” — some of which I’ve already mentioned. Any time a politician or political party can hand out favors to potential voters in order to make those voters dependent on them, they are usually more than happy to do so.

What ever happened to the idea of personal responsibility?

Instead of blaming people of another race, religion or class for problems, how about looking to the actions you have taken that may have affected you? It’s too simple to blame those who look differently from you, believe differently from you or have more money than you for all of your problems.

Maybe you can’t move up in the world because you have a negative attitude about everything. Maybe you didn’t win that last election because people don’t like your policy ideas. Maybe your addiction to drugs was made into an Entertainment Tonight segment because you have made bad lifestyle decisions. Maybe you think society is going downhill because your whacked-out beliefs are preoccupying your actions. And maybe — brace yourself for this one — you’re too fat because you eat too much.

Referring to the “Cheeseburger Bill,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, “‘Ronald McDonald made me do it’ should never be considered the basis for a lawsuit in the real world.” In the same respect, “Allah made me do it” or “The pressure of being a celebrity made me do it” should never be considered the basis for waging war on the “infidel” or for being addicted to some illegal substance.

I sometimes think that this victim mentality epidemic is the result of society’s overall laziness — laziness when it comes to being personally responsible for your actions. All of us are guilty of laziness every now and then. The worst instance occurs when people become so lazy that they depend on government to meet their every need.

Personal responsibility is an aspect of life that comes with living in a free society that many people would like to ignore. Living in freedom means living with personal responsibility for your own actions. Since you are free, no one can be blamed for the decisions you make. No one is forcing you to make bad decisions. You are free to make whatever decisions you desire. Try to make the right ones.

Adam Fowler is a junior majoring in political science.