Author: Pierre Welter

Although we in Europe objectively live in the “freest” time, it sometimes feels as if a large part of our lives is not sustained by “freedom”. Is freedom, in the final analysis, just an empty phrase? And what about “self-responsibility”? Only in freedom does self-responsibility take on its full meaning.  

What exactly the word “self-responsibility” entails is almost never said. So what is it about?

Self-responsibility sits in free will

Free will: It cannot be proved before reason, but it must be demanded, otherwise all self-responsibility ceases. Wilhelm Busch (1832 – 1908), German illustrator, painter and writer. And indeed: many decisions that people make can neither be explained nor understood with reason – usually not even by the person who made them. Was it the head that decided, the gut – or free will after all?

We hear a lot about “Western values” again. But what are they supposed to be? Due to the war in Ukraine, the term “value” is constantly heard in politics: in the Chamber, in debate articles, in editorials, in talk shows. The most used words are “freedom” “democracy” and “human rights.” Words we are proud of and ready to defend by all means.  The word “personal responsibility” is also on everyone’s lips. Often the word triggers fears and resistance in many people or overwhelms them. But what “personal responsibility” actually means must first be questioned. At least if one is serious about the beautiful word “personal responsibility”. 

To lead a self-determined and conscious life, it is important to realize that only we ourselves are responsible for our lives. But if “self-responsibility” is as important to us as a value orientation in life as we say, to what extent do we want to take it on and free ourselves from the supremacy of the state? Question: “What kind of society for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg do you think is better: a society in which the state is mainly responsible for its citizens, or a society in which individual citizens try to solve as much as possible for themselves?”

Where authority and power rot and where the legal system is made into a cynical show, the author believes, one must always first try to help oneself. He is not thinking of egoism here. It does not mean that everyone looks out for himself and the strongest gets his way. Personal responsibility and social justice are by no means mutually exclusive. After all, for the majority of people, social justice is realized precisely not by taking responsibility away from them, but by encouraging them to take care of themselves. These views on shifting the responsibility for securing prosperity from the Luxembourg state to the individual are simultaneously a call to the institutions of the state to create appropriate opportunities for this. 

Basically, it is a democracy problem. There is no lasting justice without a democratic legal system.  But a legal system can go wild and become a threat to justice. The legal system can be called only if it bears ownership, and it makes up for the suffering caused by – pandemics, wars, high inflation, decadence, decay, injustice, decline and depravity. If it does not, the legal system is simply immoral. If one wants self-responsibility, one must first accept the environment and the conflicts within democracy. For democracy does not fall from the sky. Self-responsibility is part of democracy.  The quality of self-responsibility determines the quality of our future.

If self-responsibility ruled, laws would be superfluous

How people deal with crises and challenges varies greatly. The willingness to take more “personal responsibility” in matters of prosperity is present in the majority. 

Most people count consumption among Western values. However, everyone should be aware that this is rarely available free of charge. And as a value ??? has an audible financial connotation. What is meant is monetary value. This is not the case with “personal responsibility” or “human rights”. You can’t buy “personal responsibility” and you certainly can’t buy “human rights”. This urges us to be more sensitive – also in domestic questions of “personal responsibility”.

Human beings are not characterised by a factual way of being, but by what they make of themselves in thought and action. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, high inflation, the climate catastrophe and the general malaise in society contribute to the fact that many people are radically thrown back on their self and thus often find themselves in borderline situations. “Borderline situations are now defined as those that are an inescapable part of life: Situations such as that I am always in situations, that I cannot live without struggle and without suffering, that I inevitably take on guilt, that I must die, I call borderline situations” (Karl Jaspers 1956, 203).

Self-responsibility is only one decision away from you

Meanwhile, numerous frightened people have a clear idea of what reforms Luxembourg needs for a good future: Among the most frequently mentioned reform measures are many that would also involve more freedom of choice and action for them. They concern those areas of reform in which values such as equality and solidarity (which is commonly called fraternity) are particularly relevant. They demand more “personal responsibility” and thus at the same time a sense of decency, righteousness, manners, decorum.

General insights into necessary reforms that enable more freedom and flexibility must not obscure possible conflicts of goals. Which can occur when it affects the individual personally. The author is thinking here of the egoistic Saint Florian thinking. The so-called “St. Florian’s principle” contains a very sober realization: in the greatest need, man is often only his own neighbour. 

Therefore: Every self-responsibility is only one decision away from you. Some take time.  Others take a lifetime.