Collective responsibility

/ 5 October 2008

Here’s an interesting post where a rabbi reflects on a traditional Jewish prayer, and asks about its possible connection to collective responsibility. A taste:

What if it weren't about my individual repentance as it affects my individual fate? What if our repentance as a society (which demands that each individual do his or her part) is the thing that affects our collective fate? What if the reason a person gets cancer is not because he or she personally has done something wrong, but because we as a nation and a globe have poisoned our air, our water, and our food with toxic chemicals and negligence? Are the growing numbers of devastating hurricanes and tsunamis of the last few years a sign that entire sections of the world are filled with sinners, or a tragic by-product of global warming? Do people die in war because they don't adhere to religious law or because we are reckless in our decisions to go to war and put innocent people in harm's way? Are the women killed by stoning–yes, today–in honor killings around the world guilty of insufficient prayer, or should we assign responsibility to everyone who perpetuates a culture in which this is considered acceptable?