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Chapter 1 Article 1

The New 3R's: Respect-Responsibility-Rights

by: Gary P. Waterworth Owen - Founder of the ResponseABILITY Alliance


‘The volume of education continues to increase, yet so do pollution, exhaustion of resources, and the dangers of ecological catastrophe. If still more education is to save us, it would have to be education of a different kind: an education that takes us into the depth of things’. E.F. Schumacher.

'The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them'. A. Einstein

To educate and entertain, emotionally engage and intellectually stimulate, to delve into the depth of things, and confront the significant problems we face is no easy task. So hats off to those in the film industry who have recently produced the following movies: An Inconvenient Truth, The Constant Gardener, Syriana, The Lord of War, Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland. Their plots and content seem to have been extracted straight off global media headlines. They have addressed significant social, environmental and economic issues, made millions of people globally think a little deeper, and certainly been a boon to those whose mission it is to promote the need for Relevant Education, Social Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility. However, when watching all of the said movies, Theodore Roosevelt's observation of: 'A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad', was ringing loudly in this writers Enron era saturated ears.


At the time of this writing (2006) it was declared on BBC News that: Heroin should be prescribed to drug addicts to tackle crime. Staff at 60% of supermarkets in Nottingham tested in an undercover operation have been caught selling alcohol to under 18s . A growing number of schools in England have been judged "inadequate" by inspectors, and a number fall into the most serious category where schools are put into special measures and where school leadership is deemed incapable of achieving change. To top it all - Britain's teenagers are the most badly behaved in Europe.

But who is really to blame, an under 18 buying alcohol or an adult selling alcohol to someone underage? Of course, we owe our children a brighter future, but we also owe our future brighter children. Our present educational system at best barely prepares young people for present and future challenges. At its worst, it is the subject of spurious headline initiatives like the one being put forward right now of: 'Super nannies' - the UK Government Home Office's latest innovation aims to assign full-time "super-nannies" to 6,000 problem families. It is said that they will bring serenity, order and early bed times where before there was only chaos, cursing and juvenile career criminals. Sadly, however, the plan is flawed in one vital respect: the Home Office is not sending in nannies; it’s a newsy euphemism for social workers.

African wisdom states 'that it takes a whole village to make a man'. Present trends in society reveal a severe breakdown of family and community. As a result we are witnessing a slow but sure disintegration of society and an overwhelming sense of rootlessness and hopelessness in the most pampered and educated regions of the world.
A 200 page report entitled: "Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World", reveals that last year (2005) more than 1.5 million Britons thought about moving away from their local area due to young people 'hanging around'. About 1.7 million admitted to not going out after dark as a direct result of 'youths gathering'.

Britons were also three times more likely to cite young people "hanging around" as a problem than they were to complain about noisy neighbors. Adults have become fearful of children. British adults are more likely than their other European counterparts to say that young people were predominantly responsible for anti-social behavior, and cite "lack of discipline as the root cause of anti-social behavior". These adults tend to turn a blind eye or cross over on the other side of the road rather than intervene in the discipline of another person's child, often because they fear they might be attacked or verbally abused. Recent research figures also reveal that 15% of Britons are planning to emigrate. What a sad reflection on a once great nation.

This social dilemma is not restricted to the UK alone. Delivering the Steve Biko memorial lecture at University of Cape Town, Bishop Desmond Tutu questioned why a respect for the law, environment and even life, were missing in South Africa. "What has happened to us? It seems as if we have perverted our freedom, our rights into license, into being irresponsible. Rights go hand in hand with responsibility, with dignity, with respect for oneself and for the other. "The fact of the matter is we still depressingly do not respect one another. I have often said black consciousness did not finish the work it set out to do," he said.

Bishop Tutu went to say present government officials often acted like former officials during the apartheid era - treating people rudely. He said South Africa should oppose xenophobia and act sensitively when place names were being changed rather than appearing to gloat and ride roughshod over the feelings of others. He also made a plea for people to pick up litter, to care for their own environments and for their fellow citizens. "Perhaps we did not realize just how apartheid has damaged us, that we seem to have lost our sense of right and wrong, so that when we go on strike as is our right to do, we are not appalled that some of us can chuck people out of moving trains because they did not join the strike, or why is it common practice now to trash, to go on the rampage? The best memorial to Steve Biko would be a South Africa where everyone respects themselves, has a positive self image filled with a proper self esteem and holds others in high regard."

Limited to the privileged few throughout most of recorded history, the 3 R's of education (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic + Read, Remember and Repeat) became an obligatory element of general education and the main task of elementary school, due to the needs and demands of the industrial revolution. Everyone agrees on the value of education, but in addition to solid, marketable skills, education has always included subjects about which most people say later in their life: " ... hasn't been of much use to me since I left school!"

However, it is generally accepted that exposure to subjects not directly related to any material benefit can be of great value. The consequence of learning cannot only be measured in monetary terms. If so, we are the poorer for it. In this fast changing world, mastery of today's educational curriculum may not be of much value when new thinking is needed and implemented. Our precious school years should be reinforced with knowledge of sustainable value and essential life skills.

If the 3 R's of education (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) is not the 'be and end all' of vocational success in the future, what are the foundational skills for the future? Humanity has reached a crucial tipping point

"The future is a race between education and catastrophe." said H.G. Wells. We need a universal agreement for an education in values? The Green revolution spawned the 3R's of - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which has proved to be a step in the right direction. But why do we have waste in the first place? It has been designed in. We have to design it out. This will need a new way of thinking.

'Respect' is a new UK government initiative, albeit a reaction to a long time festering problem. It is about central government, local agencies, local communities and ultimately every citizen working together to build a society in which people can respect one another - where anti-social behavior is rare and tackled effectively and communities can live in peace together. It’s not about going back to the past or returning to the days of ‘knowing your place’. It’s about nurturing and, where needed, enforcing a modern culture of respect, which the majority of people want. It’s about showing tolerance, acceptance and common decency towards people, family, friends and peers, people who are older or younger, people from different walks of life or who follow different cultures or religions It’s about being considerate of the consequences of behavior towards others.

For most cultures this is automatic and ingrained in the habits of everyday lives. But when respect for self, others and the community breaks down, anti-social behavior takes hold. Making offensive and threatening remarks, participating in violent behavior and urinating in the street is clearly inconsiderate or disrespectful by any definition. Research also reveals that irresponsible marketing has played its role in perpetuating the myth of the Brand, promoting to the youth market unhealthy food and over priced fashion items, creating champagne tastes for people with beer money. It seems we have been led to believe that the only way we can avoid being a nobody is to have somebody else's name on our clothes and a myriad of seasonal fashion accessories. We seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. We are building bigger and better houses but are living in broken homes.


'Stop the world I want to get off, is the wish of many feeling disillusioned with the manic 'society of speed' we have created or perhaps lacking the necessary courage, pray to find themselves lucky enough to be thrown clear of the collision. This need for speed pervades entire cities and many societies, every crook and granny, from fast food, to fast communications, faster cars, and even faster women. As revealed in the movie: The Constant Gardner, 'the pharmaceuticals industry is right up there with the arms dealers'. New cures are dispensed before costly and time-consuming tests can be responsibly completed and then too often they are recalled with no responsibility accepted for the damage caused along the way. There seems to be never enough time to do the job right but always enough time to do the job over. Investors and shareholders obsessed with 'quarterly' thinking demand higher and quicker returns, pushing business leaders to bend the rules and burn out at a frenzied Enron pace, revealing the lack of moral compasses and providing evidence that possible 'ethical by-passes' were conducted at birth. Faster and faster broadband is demanded in case a single dollar is lost. The saying 'Speed Kills' springs to mind.

Research indicates that many companies do recognize the risks associated with degrading ecosystems and are trying to adapt accordingly, but most fail to balance the maintenance of healthy ecosystems with their quarterly returns. A collective business response is therefore needed to address the scale of environmental change currently taking place. The implications that water scarcity, climate change, nutrient overloading, biodiversity loss, habitat change, overexploitation of oceans and the resulting escalation of poverty and social breakdown will have for the future of business; are issues that have to be addressed now.

The scarcity of raw materials, higher operating costs, government restrictions and reduced flexibility are issues companies need to factor in now and prepare for these risks by transparently and honestly measuring their impact and dependence on ecosystem services, taking advantage of emerging business opportunities and reducing their operational footprints. This needs a drastic program of unlearning and relearning.

We all acknowledge that modern mainstream society intoxicated with over-consumption and unbridled growth is toxic on every level: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. With the unbelievable growth in China and India, western economies have stepped up a gear, moved into overdrive and are accelerating on a major collision course that can be avoided. The significant economic losses caused by the current degradation of ecosystems and the vital services they provide is proving that the elephant is truly in the room and does not want to leave.

Any thinking person will agree that we the consumer and business must develop and enhance our ResponseABILITIES - our Abilities to Respond, effectively to the realities of the fragility of the Earth's ecosystems and the effect it is having on global societies. The final result of this scenario is anything but clear. Whether we are in agreement about global warming or global cooling, there is climate change. Nature bats last.

The best that most of us achieve individually (and it does make a difference) is some minute demonstration of personal ethics and concern by recycling our unwanted plastic, glass and paper. The resulting plastic, glass and paper mountains around European landfill sites are proof of our individual efforts. Excuse the cynicism following: many do purchase the odd energy saving light bulb, savor occasionally, premium rated organic produce, take the odd walk after launching a serous attack on the Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding - hopefully contemplating and calculating the air miles incurred to have the luxury of such a lunch. Some do invest in the latest hard to find and even harder to fill hybrid hydrogen powered car and some fortunate enough to live in cities with excellent public transport systems, do away with cars altogether and enjoy the extra income derived, by purchasing the latest range of labor saving electrical and electronic devices available. Unwanted slow mobile phones and even slower laptops are donated to worthy causes in Africa, provided the recycling point is convenient and on the way to work. However many feel skeptical about whether the said items will ever reach their 'in need' beneficiaries, or whether they will end up in some container destined for some other port of call in a developing country with lax environmental recycling law. But when it comes to planning the annual family sun, sea and sand holiday we know deep down inside that getting to the destination by walking or by bicycle is not only impossible, but will not gain many favorable votes from the rest of the family. Apologies once again for the cynicism but this is a reality and our outward manifestation of these actions are the green badges by which we recognize each other. Learning to live sustainably within an oil driven economy without oil, is a gargantuan challenge and often seems beyond all of us. But it can be done.


Understanding and adopting a decent code of behavior is what makes society function as a whole. John Ruskin noted that: "Education is not about teaching people what they do not know, it is teaching them to behave as they do not behave". B.F. Skinner was perhaps the most famous of the Behavioralists. He did groundbreaking work showing how much of behavior is based on conditioning. Erich Fromm, in his classic book: Escape from Freedom makes a convincing argument that much of human behavior is based on avoidance of responsibility. Conditioning creates our Beliefs, Beliefs create our Attitude, Attitude governs our Behavior, and Behavior delivers our Results. If it's our Results we want to change, then it's our Conditioning and resultant Behavior we have to work on.

To comprehend whether or not these behavioral experiments, and this theory of humanity accurately reflects how we are formed, we have to confront one of the most sensitive philosophical issues since the dawn of conscious human history: namely, Where do we come from, What are we, Where are we going? Is there indeed such a thing as free agency? If there is not, then we are in fact products of psychic and environmental determinism -our cruel or caring parents, our ruthless or nurturing state, our religion or lack of religion, our class or caste status at birth, etc. If there is no such thing as free agency then we have to accept that Al Capone, Charles Manson, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe are just unfortunate victims reacting inappropriately to challenges in their environment. That they are mere pawns in a pervasive system, rather than the creators of their own private power crazed agendas and responsible for the consequences of their actions.

Accepting responsibility for our own lives liberates us from our past and frees us to move forward. Abandoning blame, shame and regret from the perceived fate of our birth, from the burden of class and caste that has kept so many in bondage for so long is liberating and essential for sustainable growth. J.Rousseau suggested that: ‘ Man is born free yet everywhere he is bound in chains. We cannot escape from a prison if we don't know we're in one.’ Too many of the chains binding people are mind created realities. We do have the ability to control our own lives and we can free ourselves from the past and wrong doings. Only dead leaves go with the flow. We do not have to be swept along with the current. The environment we choose to be in will have more of an effect on us than will our very genetic make-up. The people we choose to mix with, the companies we choose to work for, the clubs we choose to subscribe to, will affect our lives and results. But it is our choice, based on free agency, and conscious, value based decision-making.

So which ideology should we hold fast to: personal responsibility, or psychic and environmental determinism? There is much evidence to prove that both schools of thought have an influence on an individual’s life. We are indeed the products of the conditioning and belief systems we have unconsciously swallowed since birth. Did you choose your name, the school and church you attended when a child? Some societies do enjoy more freedom and transparency, are safer, value creativity and innovation, respect human rights and are more prosperous than others. Those that are repressive and cruel, where the mass is poor and the leadership does not respect human rights, have their cross to bear.

 Many years before his election as President, Abraham Lincoln, spoke at the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. His last two paragraphs state: -- At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide

In this congested Information Age and in the midst of all this velocity, slow down for a moment, and take time out to consider how these 3R's can be implemented in your life, society and business. The 3R's presented are worth investing in and fighting for, and can defend us from the enemy within. Only when we have Respect for ourselves and others, the planets fauna and flora, accept personal Responsibility for our lives and the society we choose to live in, can we earn, demand and be worthy of our Rights.



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