Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

What ‘responsibility’ means

As always in such cases, the owners of the circus where Anne was abused have claimed they knew nothing about her treatment, as if this somehow exonerated them. But this is precisely the point: To operate any business or facility involving children or animals is to assume the duty of ensuring their safety.

Anne the elephant was abused by her trainer

Anne the elephant was abused by her trainer.
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When you take charge of any endeavor, commercial or otherwise, your leadership puts you in the position of a ship’s captain, with ultimate responsibility for the vessel under your command.

When a former captain of the USS Mars (my ship when I was in the Navy) allowed his helmsman to steer the ship into a wharf, it didn’t matter that he didn't personally commit that blunder, nor that he didn’t give the orders that led to it, nor even that he wasn’t on the bridge when it happened. None of this mattered, because he should have known what his crew was doing; to know was an integral part of his job.

What happened to the helmsman, the pilot and the officer of the deck I don’t know, but the captain bade farewell to his military career. And that is exactly as it should be.

I wish Anne a golden retirement, and I wish the operators of this circus in jail along with the abusive elephant trainer.

But, of course, I know how improbable that is in a country in which “personal responsibility” is for individuals — particularly poor and low-ranking ones — not institutions or corporations, and those who run the show feign ignorance and saunter off unscathed.

Originally published as a review of a report on the fate of Anne the former circus elephant.

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