Accountability

I wonder how often we conflate expressing displeasure with someone’s action and holding them accountable. In reality the two are quite different.

I can make my feelings known about someone’s action but that is only likely to have any influence at all on their behaviour if I communicate directly with them and they actually care about my feelings. This means expressing my dissatisfaction at another person’s conduct will have an impact at best only occasionally. (And if I am using social media as my vehicle I would say the strike rate is practically zero).

Holding someone accountable is different. But it is only possible if I hold some form of power over the person. I can only hold a person accountable if I can take action which they will deem as unappealing. The other person may have voluntarily given me this power, but I need the power dynamic for accountability to exist. In the case of politicians, this is my capacity to vote. In the case of companies, this is my capacity to take my business elsewhere. In personal relationships, this will vary widely.

I have come to realise that I have a deep resistance to the expression of displeasure in the absence of the capacity to take meaningful action. For me it leads to apathy and far ranging discontent which ends up infecting everything. The only situations I want to speak out on are those where I can actually hold people accountable. And I deeply respect those who are doing just that! Our world needs every single one of those voices, and the actions that go with the words of discontent.

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