When did “reinventing” become not simply a possibly-good idea, but a social norm? I’m troubled by the currency that “reinventing oneself” has attained, with its concomitant resonance of repudiating history, continuity, responsibility (even “accountability,” however much that may irritate Dave).

I harbor no animus against trying anew, or changing direction, or amendment of life; the trope of “reinventing,” though, sounds ominous to me.

Dave says:

AKMA, I think you misunderstand my views on accountability. I think your reservations regarding the currency of “reinvention” are well-founded. Now, I do have serious views regarding whom one may be accountable to, and on what basis; but I don’t think those are inconsistent with your reservations, though you haven’t really offered many of the reasons for your reservations. I simply imagine they are similar to mine.

In a similar vein, I have always regarded the claim of being “born again” to be a similar repudiation of history and responsibility, and have generally not held those to have claimed such an experience in any higher regard on the basis of that claim. Most often, nearly the opposite in fact.

On the other hand, I am quite sympathetic with a view I heard expressed by the noted philosopher Cher, who disclosed in an interview that she is accountable to two people: herself and God. Which is the response I embrace when certain self-appointed “authorities” of some “communities” try to hold others “accountable” for something they find unacceptable.

So, it’s somewhat complicated, and I generally prefer to use these terms in well defined and rigorous contexts. Otherwise they become mushy, meaningless or even dangerous. But with those somewhat vague caveats, I’m not at all irritated by your use of the term.

Unaccountably yours,


[Dave, I suspect both that I haven’t fully understood you and that in many respects we’re quite in agreement. If I recall our past discussions correctly — and the odds are against that — I’m willing to apply a sort of graduated version of accountability across varying degrees of relationship, and you argue that accountability (rightly understood) admits of few if any such gradations (“only to herself and God”).

To take a trivial recursive example: I cited you here because I would construe it as a breach of the odd, somewhat tenuous, long-distance, respectful friendship we share if I were to use the term “accountability” without acknowledging that we’ve been around this bush before, and that neither of us has persuaded the other. Your courtesy and persistent insight would, I suspect, impel you to a comparable gesture even if you didn’t call it accountability. I’d be interested to know what you would call it, and how you’d differentiate it from my “graduated accountability,” and even why, if it’s not too presumptuous to ask.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *