March 30, 1993
Several hundred members of the American workforce have initiated lawsuits because they have RSI. In fact, some estimate these civil actions will cost computer manufacturers up to $4 billion over the next few years.
RSI stands for repetitive stress injuries. These injuries account for over 50% of occupational illnesses in the United States and many of those who suffer are computer operators. Over-use of their muscles and tendons in fingers, arms, hands, and shoulders has produced permanent physical damage. When we wrote strictly with pens, we had a much milder form of RSI: writers’ cramp.
Interesting that the manufacturers of computer equipment are being blamed for these injuries. Granted, the design of certain hardware, such as keyboards, might create pressure points, and some software is more physically demanding than others, but it seems to me that overuse, not design, is the cause of RSI.
Beyond the questionable logic behind these lawsuits lies another issue. I remember a service station owner telling us about a woman who sued him after he told her he was too busy to work on her car that day. Instead, she would have to wait 2 or 3 days. She was angry and proceeded to take the man to court demanding her personal rights — to the exclusion of common sense. In this case, the judge did not agree with her demand and dismissed the case, reprimanding both lawyers for wasting the court’s time.
It looks as if RSI complainers will get more attention during their day in court. For one thing, there are more of them; for another, they do have a legitimate problem. However, does this make their demands reasonable or even logical?
It seems fair and logical that service station owners have a right to schedule their own work load. On the other hand, it is not always easy to let fairness and logic prevail. There have been occasions when I didn’t want to accept responsibility for my own actions so shifted the focus by accusing some innocent bystander.
Worse yet, I have even blamed God for pain I myself caused, even said something like: “If you had not made the world like this, I would not be hurting right now” or “If You had given me the strength I needed, I wouldn’t be having so much trouble with this temptation...”
The Bible is much more logical. It puts responsibility where it belongs and refuses to allow us to point our fingers at anyone else. James focuses on our tendency to blame God for our failures: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God” for God cannot... tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1).
Hurting ourselves with hard work at a computer may not be sin but the principle is the same. Blaming God or suing the next handiest scapegoat does not help. Even if the courts do order computer companies to pay up, anyone who demands unjust compensation shoots themselves in the foot. Not only are they stuck with an uncured RSI, but in the long run the cost comes back to the customers in higher prices or less service... infringing the rights of other computer operators.
Someone has said that when demands for personal rights escalate there will eventually come a time when no one has any rights at all. The end of this escalation has to begin with four words: “It was my responsibility”.