In order to “liberate” the person to be an obedient subject, to turn a person towards blindly evil-doing and evil-promoting, to turn them against their fellows, it is necessary to convince the person that his responsibility for his own actions has been delegated to someone else.
To understand why this is a logical impossibility, take the example of a hitman’s crime. Andre hires Bresson with a contract stating that Bresson must kill Andre’s wife, and that Bresson is delegating all responsibility for his actions in that regard to Andre. Bresson kills Andre’s wife and is taken to court. Bresson then stands up, and defends himself by saying “but look here, I have this contract saying that I am not responsible for these actions, and so you must arrest Andre for the murder, not me.”
I think no one would recognize this as an rational defense: signing a piece of paper which says that you are not responsible for your actions does not magically not make you responsible for your actions. Bresson committed the murder, therefore he is responsible for it, no matter how many pieces of paper he signed to the opposite effect. A contract cannot make a person not responsible for their own actions, or make rain fall upwards, or make it so that three times three is ten. You can state and restate that all these impossible things are factual, as many times as you want and as clearly as you want, but this does not make them any less impossible.
This “delegation of responsibility” is make-believe. The objective of this fake delegation is two-fold. The first is, as I already stated, to “liberate” the person from having to follow actual moral or ethical principles, or from being compassionate and loving. The second is to give credit for the person’s actions to the authority to which they are “delegated.” By far the most used is the former, but the latter is generally taken for granted as coming with the former. Whatever subjects do while “irresponsible,” if positive, is attributed to the authority they operate under.
The most striking example of this “delegation” is the story of Jesus’ death. According to Christianity, the man-god Jesus died so that our sins could be expunged. But this can only be the case if our responsibility for our sins can somehow be delegated to the person of Jesus: otherwise, there is no relevance of this one man-god dying for the individuals who actually committed the sins. It also puts into question the idea that one can redeem sins by being killed, as well as the negative status of sin (which is defined as disobedience to God), but those are separate issues. The main issue is that it is logical nonsense for one person to be punished for someone else’s actions; of course, the actual reason for this story lies in the notion of sacrificing animals as atonement, which is another logical nonsense.
Another major “delegation” in Christianity and all other monotheisms is the belief in God as the creator of good and evil. Because the subject “delegates” the attribution of good and evil to God, he is then “liberated” from the necessity to make his own moral evaluations; all he has left to do is be an obedient subject. But such a “delegation” is logically impossible. Even if we posit that it is possible for anyone to know “the word of God,” the individual must still first decide to follow it, a decision which necessarily comes prior to the adoption of Christianity. Therefore there always exists some inner principles, some way of judging good and evil, which come prior to, and sustain, Christian beliefs. But more importantly, it cannot be the case that we are no longer obligated to make moral evaluations, because we are still committing actions on the basis of these evaluations, and we are still responsible for these actions. It does no good to the mother who drowned her children to declare that God did the evaluating for her. All those who abandon their moral compass and voluntarily subjugate themselves to some authority are personally responsible for the actions they perpetrate under that authority (and of course so is the authority as well, for giving the orders).
A capitalist work contract is very similar to the hitman contract I used as an example. In such a contract, the worker “delegates the responsibility” for his production to the corporate person in exchange for a wage. But, once again, taking away the worker’s responsibility for his own production in the name of a contract is logical nonsense. Either he did produce, or he did not: if he did, he is entitled to the full product of his labor, which he may or may not decide to trade in exchange for a wage, and if he did not, then he is entitled to nothing at all.
Note that while, unlike in the religious cases, this “delegation” is mainly undertaken to credit the authority, not to “liberate” the person, “liberation” is also integral to the process. The submission of the worker to the dehumanizing processes of capitalist work is necessary for said work to proceed; moral or ethical evaluation of these dehumanizing processes is not desirable for those who control them. It is also necessary to condition workers to obey orders without thinking of the consequences to their own society, to other societies, and to the environment. Without this conditioning, capitalism would crumble, as it depends crucially on undermining its host society, other societies (esp. in its neo-liberal form), and the environment.
In a less literal sense, the same fallacy can be applied to democracy as well. The act of voting is a “delegation of responsibility,” insofar as the voter delegates judgments about right and wrong to the politicians who are elected, as this is the basic nature of democracy. As such, it falls under the same fallacy as delegating decisions about right and wrong to God or to a corporate person.
We observe this mechanism at play in every hierarchy, even if it can remain implicit. Children being blamed for their parents’ reaction to their behavior, and the fact that children are so afraid of their parents’ reaction that they will suppress their own psychological needs, is a good example of an implicit “delegation” generated by an authoritarian system. Because the authority has the ability to punish, and an ego to protect, subjects have no choice but to evaluate their actions by what they believe and expect the authority will do in response.
Another example of passing along responsibility happens when we reject responsibility for ourselves and try to pin it on someone or something else. In trying to attribute guilt, we see things like “it’s society’s fault” or “it’s not our fault, it’s only his fault, we are all victims.” These are both attempts to reject responsibility.
All of the systems I have targeted claim to emphasize responsibility. I have explained the phenomenon of projection before, and this falls squarely within it. It is precisely because these systems are founded on, and depend on, the usurpation of responsibility and the destruction of responsibility that they must misdirect people’s attention on the issue of responsibility. As in any other projection, those people who tout “personal responsibility” the most are generally the ones who believe in it the least.
The net result of such projection is, as it is for many other concepts, that the concept of “responsibility” itself is distorted beyond all hope. To really understand it, we have to ignore these self-serving ideologies and look at the actual facts. Who is acting? What is the nature of the action? What are its premises and are they valid? What is the context of the action? How is this context created and maintained? What is this person doing, what is that person doing? Without a thorough, naive examination of a situation, we cannot have any hope of properly attributing responsibility in a world where responsibility is consistently misattributed and destroyed.