Wednesday, 19 February 2014
I'm sorry but I just refuse to do something I haven't freely chosen, simply because other people expect it of me. They can talk about "duty" as much as they like, but I prefer to decide for myself what's the right thing to do.
People talk about the "duty" to look after your elderly parents, fight for your country, report road accidents, pay taxes, give evidence in court, serve on a jury, or vote in elections. But is it always right to do these things? No, of course not. In many instances there are very good reasons for not doing them, and self-respect and the public interest demand that you refuse.
Should I look after my elderly parents if they never loved me, always behaved badly to me and were glad to see me gone? Should I fight for my country if I believe the war is pointless, brutal and unwinnable? Should I give evidence in court at the risk of facing hostile lawyers and reliving an emotional trauma?
The decision should be up to the person concerned. They shouldn't feel pushed into something they have deep reservations about. They shouldn't be doing it just to look good or to avoid public disapproval. They should be doing it because they genuinely believe it's the correct thing to do.
I've done jury service twice, but not because it was seen as my duty. I did it because I believe people should be tried by their peers, by people like them, and not by someone remote from their own lives. I did it because I wanted to see if the jury process was as fair and objective as it's made out to be (and the answer was yes). I felt I had done it for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
Forget duty. How about passion and commitment?
"What destroys a man more quickly than to work, think and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure - as a mere automaton of duty?" - Friedrich Nietzsche.
Pic: Witness Nicole Alvarez at the trial of Michael Jackson's physician.