Pop Theory 13: On Accountability

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Pop Theory 13: On Accountability

In the season finale of The Good Wife, Kalinda packs her duffle bag (which she fills money and guns, of course) in order to leave town before her husband’s arrival.

But something changes in her.

Instead of running, she returns to her apartment, throws her bag onto the bed, and takes a seat (with gun stowed between the cushions) in a comfy armchair that she’s pointed at the door.

Kalinda decides not to run. And she decides to face whatever the hell that freaky-ass shadow was that eclipsed the eyehole of her door (and that we’re left to have nightmares about until the premiere of Season 4).

She has decided to hold herself accountable, not only to herself, but to her friends as well, whose lives are in jeopardy because of their association with her.

In this week’s column I want to think about accountability, not just how we personally hold ourselves accountable to our individual persons, but more pointedly how we come to hold ourselves accountable to others, in the name of friendship, partnership (marriage), and community.

The stalwart Nietszchean and social realist in me knows that the self is selfish—the self always puts her self first. The ego, in Nietzsche-speak, guides us; there is no such thing as an absolute selfless action. Actions are never purely altruistic. Or, for Nietzsche, the person who submits himself fully to another embodies a countenance of a “slavish” mentality and negatively compromises his own being:

...no man has ever done anything that was done wholly for others and with no personal motivation whatever; how, indeed, should a man be able to do something that had no reference to himself, that is to say lacked all inner compulsion (which would have its basis in a personal need)?  How could the ego act without the ego?— Human, All Too Human, Sec. 133

We are ultimately accountable to our self and to our own well being; only by being as such can we be indirectly beneficial or helpful to other beings.

Reading Nietzsche is always cathartic in the sense that it re-enforces one’s own self worth. Reading Nietzsche is great for a self-esteem boost. But