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DURING THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS the task of tabloids changed. The shocking stories are

no longer ridiculous. Today tabloids are intensifying the farce of our daily lives by systematically reducing the seriousness of the tragic events by placing them on their front pages.

THE RISENGA REPORT is a story of Solveig Skinnarland, an ex-nurse, who wrote a diary about her suffering while she was lying in a nursing home.  Solveig died without getting absolutely necessary care that should be provided to all patients admitted to such institutions. After she died the content of her diary was made public.


IN THE «TRAM KILLING» due to negligence, a psychiatric patient was released from the local hospital without having a place to go to. After only one day of being by himself, in a psychosis, he killed a person on one of the central trams in Oslo.


LATELY WE HAVE LOST COUNT of how many people had died because doctors at the emergency care refused to treat patients because they could not get in contact with their local GPs.

ONE THING all these cases have in common is that after every single event we read in newspapers and saw on TV the “potential responsibility taker’s” giving endless excuses for what had happened. Their statements ranged from that “they could not know” to that “somebody else had responsibility and they will find out who it was, and make sure that it does not happen ever again”. It was also said at one point how “publicly it is not possible to go into details about the particular case because of (our good old friend) ‘confidentiality obligation’. In a case of Solveig’s diary (not to talk about the painful pictures of bruises that demonstrated amounts of pain the lady tolerated daily) the potential responsibility taker went as far as stating how Solveig’s story should not be taken so seriously since she was after all a very old and care-needy person.

How is this possible???

WHAT THESE EVENTS REALLY DEMONSTRATE is just how impossible it is to pin down responsibility for what happened to a single person. The answer to the question of how this is possible, Zygmunt Bauman pinpointed some years ago in his book “Modernity and the Holocaust”. He writes that what we are confronted with here is a modern phenomenon, namely the “endless free-floating of responsibility”. What he means is that when such situations occur and someone shall be made responsible, we are not able to pin down responsibility to a single agent, and the result is exactly the opposite: Instead of taking the responsibility for what had happened, on oneself, the system is actively used by single individuals for systematic avoidance of responsibility.

Bauman’s “free-floating of responsibility” is a phenomenon we have difficulties avoiding in our daily lives, due to enormous bureaucratising of our society. Without thinking about it in our daily life, the extreme administration of human relations allows us not to feel responsibility for our own actions that effect others.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY for our own acts is assumed, and since we do not feel powerful enough to do something with this completely lacking feeling of responsibility, very quickly we give in to our survival strategies: We suppress the unpleasant in order to make life more liveable for ourselves. We end up in something Bauman calls “the/an agentic state” where we see ourselves as executives of other’s, in this case as the system’s wishes. This state is a condition for execution of immoral or illegitimate behaviour by persons who under ordinary, normal circumstances would not think of doing anything immoral. An answer to the question of how this is possible, that we do not even feel ashamed once we are confronted with catastrophic results of our action, according to Bauman, is very simple. We are trained by the system to feel shame or pride, dependent of how well or how effective we complete the task given, according to ask by the superior’s authoritative scale for obedience.

DUE TO THE SYSTEM’S IDEOLOGY, we are daily convinced that our own happiness and our own valuable existence, in the future as well as today, lies safely in the hands of the system. But seen from the reflections over these particular events, we can only hope as individuals, each for ourselves, that we never end up on the front page of tabloids as either covered with bruises, as psychotic tram killers, or simply dead resulting from negligence at emergency care, as an indication of how valuable and quality determined our existence is as modern individuals.


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