The mysterious “they”

“Sometimes individuals like to distance themselves from responsiblity by blaming society”

This is the classic “they” problem.  I often ask my soldiers a question, to which the response is along the lines of “they said we could do this.”  Upon inquiring as to who “they” is, lost looks is usually the response.  There is something almost innate in us that transfers responsibility and recognizes some mystical “they,” whether it is the mysterious “they” that gave my soldiers permission to do something, or the “they” that is society, some extra entity beyond the sum of its parts and indeed outside it, that is somehow to blame.

Yes, society is greater than its parts, from one perspective, and yet is exactly equal to what it is made up of in another.  Perhaps “they” exists, but we need to make sure we know what we mean when we place the responsibility with them.

A couple of tools that would help one examine the deeper meaning of this are the following sets of distinctions:

What is a collective good versus a common good?

What is distributive, legal, and commutative justice?

Contemplating these aspects of justice and society will help to clarify what are the roles of society as a separate entity and as a collection of the people of which it is made up. I have written of each in other posts, but I think it is necessary to post a longer essay dealing with them specifically.  It will be forthcoming.

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