Imagine you are driving down a two-way street named Accountability. Coming straight at you is a car driving down the center of the road, acting as if Accountability is actually a one-way street. “What an a**hole”, you think.
Now think about some of the advocates of social change. Pick a cause, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, Anti-Violence, Anti-Street Harassment, Gun Rights, Gun Control, Occupy Wall Street, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Feminism, Men’s Rights, whatever. The list goes on and on. What many of these advocates and organizations are complaining about is a lack of personal and societal accountability; by other people, by society, by other occupations, by other races, by other religions, by poor people, by rich people, by immigrants, by the privileged, by women, by men, by companies, by the unemployed, etc.
And they are right. It is the lack of accountability for the actions of certain people and certain organizations that is the heart of many social problems.
When people and organizations take responsibility for admitting mistakes, correcting errors, finding solutions, enforcing rules, punishing violations, and righting wrongs, systemic social problems get solved. But many of those that complain about the problem of a “cultural lack of accountability” also lack accountability themselves. They only see other people’s lack of accountability. They don’t see or acknowledge their own.
Having accountability means that:
- You take responsibility for your actions and the actions of your cause.
- If you have a cause to promote, you tell the truth as best you can. You don’t use misleading and flawed studies and pass them off as facts.
- You don’t engage in the use of propaganda to promote your cause, regardless of how “just” your cause might be.
- You learn as much as you can about the issue at hand. You explore and investigate ideas that may run contrary to your cause’s ideology.
- When you promote a “solution” to a problem, it actually is a legitimate solution, not a “sound bite” that only has emotional appeal.
- When other members of your cause act with a lack of accountability, you hold them accountable for their actions.
- You don’t exaggerate the extent and magnitude of a social problem in order to create “awareness’ and recruit supporters.
- You don’t use “fear marketing” as a means to generate support for your cause.
- You don’t engage in othering, stereotyping, and bias as a means to generate support for your cause.
- You don’t engage in widespread blaming (of other groups), which reduces overall trust in society, as your primary strategy for getting support for your cause.
- You acknowledge the importance of personal accountability (or lack thereof) on both sides of the issue.
If you want other people to be accountable for their actions, you will be more successful if you and your cause are also accountable. People will be more willing to listen to your point of view. They will be more trusting of what you and your cause have to say. They will be less likely to resist and more likely to compromise.
Remember, Accountability is a two-way street. If you act like it is a one-way, then you’re an a**hole and part of the problem.