On Accountability

The following was a spontaneous answer to a survey question on accountability in OWS communities.

4. What does accountability mean to you?

Our society has instilled a system of values in all of us whereby, for example, greed is good, getting rich is to respected, being poor/homeless is shameful, there are any number of socially contracted “rules” deciding norms of interactions between people of different gender, race, class, etc.

This cultural system has created circumstances including, but not limited to; patriarchy, racism, economic inequality, precarity, apathy, forfeiture of self-sovereignty & autonomy, blind trust in politicians and The State, blind mistrust of community, and many more. 

One of these circumstances most directly related to the inception of the Occupy Wall Street uprising was the Global Financial Crisis, which was caused in large part by selfish and destructive actions of those in power in the government and the financial industry continuing to be egregiously unchecked; or in other words, by a severe lack of accountability.

In order to reverse the conditions of the point in time we have come to, we have to invert their root causes. With a revolution of cultural values, we can undo the vices that the current system of values has created.  This can take many forms; for example, a radical change in societal gender relations has the potential to reverse the trend of damage that patriarchy has done. In this same respect, creating a culture of accountability has the potential to prevent the kinds of conditions in which the financial crisis was allowed to be perpetrated.

A cultural revolution of values means our social norms allow us to call out abusive behavior in individuals, and actively, relentlessly seek to uncover and uproot structural violence and injustice. A radical shift in the social contract means we don’t sugarcoat our criticisms of people because it is may be seen as rude or inappropriate, or not the right time in the social setting – but rather this accountability it is taken with humility and appreciation, because it is intended to help correct damaging behavior. 

And so, “Accountability”, to me, means we don’t let shit slide anymore. If someone is doing something wrong, I stand up and say “no, that’s not cool with me”. If someone in a group is not pulling their weight, or not following through on responsibilities, or acting in a way that is unfairly unbiased, or makes an off-color joke, or even worse being dishonest or betraying the trust which is voluntary given by others.


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