Who Is Responsible?


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October 17, 2006

Being a play on a small dimly lit stage. Similar, in some respect, to those mystery dinner theaters, but this will be a morality play, if you will. Perhaps a reflection of life, perhaps not. You are invited to witness and then to place your vote. Welcome, and let the show begin...

The Scene:

A man in a sharply tailored suit sits in an elegant chair with his arm draped casually over its back, sipping a snifter of well-aged brandy.

A second man, head bowed, cowers on his knees, his legs and arms bound.

A third stands quietly at the side, arms folded, waiting.

The action:

The first man waves his hand dismissively, turns to the third man and says, "Dispose of this problem."

The bound man is then dragged from the room, [offstage, described by the narrator] summarily shot and dumped from a fishing boat far out in the ocean. Man number three returns, quietly resumes his post discretely against the wall and awaits further instructions.

Optional set changes:

This could also be set in a courtroom, the first man in robes, the second in handcuffs, the third in a uniform of some sort.

Or: The setting could be a large oval room with flags and emblems as decorations. The first man sits behind a desk looking sincerely into a television camera. The second man is actually an entire culture, living hand to mouth in a rugged mountain setting while the third man is in fact a large squadron of men and women flying awesomely complex flying death machines heavily laden with armaments capable of laying waste to entire villages. The third "man" listens to his radio awaiting instructions from the first man, the one speaking smooth, pre-scripted words written by someone else into the television camera. The second man scurries about trying to herd his goats and keep his children from starving, one eye on his goats, the other on the sky. (This might be too complex of a set to build within the budget of most playhouses. But hey, if you're 'publicly' funded, or if you have the keys to the printing press, print up some extra bucks and go for it!)

The "action," in summary, is the first man instructing the third man to take some form of action against the second man. The second man then carries out these instructions.

The Question: Who is responsible? Which of these people bears responsibility for what happens to the second man? There are three choices (the three actors), or four if you feel inclined to include a magical, extraterrestrial, all-powerful, intelligent script-writer(s).

The Choices for your Vote

The First Man: Clearly he is a contender. He gave the order, after all. Since he gave the order, it is obvious, is it not, that he is responsible? It was an order. So does an order imply responsibility?

The Second Man: As odd as it may initially appear, this is the most likely candidate for your vote. Picture: the first and third men get together, claim to follow rules laid down by the fourth (the invisible man), and explain to the audience that the second man did not follow those rules.

The second man, it will be explained by the first, had been informed of the rules, and even if he had not, that is no excuse, as ignorance of the rules is one of the rules. So by the fact that he chose voluntarily to do something that the rules specifically forbade (or perhaps were really, really nebulous on), it is clearly he who is responsible for his own punishment.

Anyone alive in the last several centuries should be familiar with this logic.

(Please! Put down your pencil until after all of the choices have been explained. It's not fair to vote without first listening to all of the propaganda.)

The Third Man:

This one is, or should be, very clear. Obviously he is the one who did the deed, but it was number one, on the orders of number four, who ordered him to do it. And an order is an order, after all. (At least that is what number one said is the case, and how can we disprove the voices in his head?)

The Fourth "Man:"

The invisible, magical, all-powerful script-writer. This guy's always a perennial favorite. He is claimed to be the script-writer, you know. It is hard to argue with the claim that this is the script you were given to play. (Especially when you are not allowed, in polite company, to dispute the existence of the script writer.)


Okay, we have the guy who actually did it (#3), but he has all kinds of excuses and orders and such like that. Then we have the first guy, the one with the arm chair and the brandy, the guy who gave the order to the guy who did it . . . but he was just following the rules that he claims are set down by the invisible fourth guy, don'tcha know? This fourth guy (the invisible script writer, who nobody has ever been able to show to anyone else), well he, since he's in charge of everything anyway, he really has the right to tell us all what to do. And how can we argue with him anyway since he's the big Kahuna and all . . . . At least that's what #1 claims.

By default, that leaves Number Two! The guy who didn't follow the rules and brought it all on himself in the first place.

Time to VOTE!

Okay now! Y'all go and make your votes and place them in the box on your way out. For those of you who don't know which way to vote, just pick one already! And for the rest of you, remember, it is your duty to vote, otherwise you won't feel as though you doing what you believe others expect of you. You wouldn't want to feel like you're not a part of the group now, would you?

I didn't think so.

(Personally, and in confidence, I'm voting for #3. I know this is not politically correct, actually holding people responsible for their actions, but then, I've always been a little "off." So please don't pay attention to my thoughts on this; go ahead and vote. We won't be counting them, but then you'll know how you voted, won't you?)

Thanks for participating in our event this evening and drive safely on your way home!

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