Every time I read about accountability in the media, its about someone holding someone else accountable for the bad/naughty/inconsiderate thing they have done. We have a watchdog mentality, where someone, or some group of people, seems to be designated to be the conscience of society. They have the “right” – nay, the “obligation” it seems – to make a noise about something perceived to be “not right” and to help steer the ship towards the collective ideal. No doubt, this is generally a good thing.
So we have government ministers being exposed for poor management of public funds. We have doctors exposed for medical errors. We have corrupt police officers discovered and exposed. Cheating spouses being found out by private investigators. We have politicians with dirty secrets being exposed. We have sting operations that uncover fraud, or drug smuggling, or whatever. And we have the media in its self appointed role of watcher, under the banner “The people have the right to know”.
This has become what we call “accountability”. Self appointed watchers, out to catch transgressors. And people trying to keep secrets from being exposed, in a weird game of cat and mouse.
But what if that is not what accountability really is? What if we have lost the core meaning? What if a transcendent value has become a mere shadow of what it should be, as values shift from “I shouldn’t do …” to “I shouldn’t get caught doing …”.
“Accountability” is defined as “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.”
It has nothing to do with who is watching, and everything to do with the humility to be governed, overseen and protected by the insight and care of others.
In fact, making accountability about “being caught” cheapens the whole concept completely. Accountability is about being of such character and humility that one avoids even the appearance of evil, the appearance of wrong-doing, by deliberately creating a witness, or even a counsel of witnesses, to one’s life. Its about seeking out the protection of wise guidance and good friends. And the benefits of being fully known by another. Submitting openly and willingly to inspection, for the purpose of standing on a foundation of complete integrity.
Anyone being “held accountable” by someone else, simply has no idea. We do it, ourselves, so that nobody else has to do it.
THAT is accountability.