Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who's to Blame?

Pick a bad thing that happened. Anything.

It could be something little, like falling in the supermarket and bashing your elbow. Or something big like the Elliot Rodger shooting.

Why is it that the question after any bad thing is always: Whose fault is this?

Is it society? parents? the media? movies? mental illness? poverty? nutrition? aliens? gamma radiation?
The finger-pointing and banner waving commences, then dies down. Until the next bad thing. Then it begins again. It gets really ugly.  It turns perfectly good and reasonable people into trolls. And if people were already trolls? Well, they get fed and become fatter, meaner, uglier trolls.

And I have to fight against my own urge to simply shut down and hide from the vitriol.

That's what a lot of us do. We disengage. We give in to the "almighty shrug" (an awesome phrase I read in this article about intersectionality), and thereby free ourselves of responsibility. There's nothing I can do, therefore I will do nothing.  Like Ned Flanders's Mom once said in a very good episode of the Simpsons, "We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas!"

I get it.

I'm tired, too. But, even if we somehow made it through the chicken-and-egg, house-that-Jack-built world of argument to actually find someone or thing that was definitively to blame, how would that help? How would that keep any particular bad thing from happening again?

Engagement is the only thing that will make a difference. You have to try something.

Maybe if we could all let go of ego just enough to say, "Hey, maybe this isn't about me." If we just stopped worrying about covering our own behinds and worried about leaving a situation better than we found it. 

So, I fall in the grocery store. Do I walk away quietly cursing? Do I sue the store? Or do I tell someone about the puddle and help make sure it gets mopped up so no one else falls? The choice is up to you.


  1. I think you're exactly right - it's a choice. But sadly, I think there's something hardwired in human nature to look for the blame unless we train ourselves not to. This will probably get me flogged, but I think this is the basis of superstitions and religion. I also think that if someone does find comfort in religion, they still need to base every day behavioral decisions on making things better for everyone, not categorizing or labeling. Great post.

    1. I wonder what it is in our hardwiring. Some kind of fear response? It's definitely hard to overcome. It's not the kind of bravery that tends to earn you a medal, but it's very very needed.

    2. I'm not going to be the one to flog you, because I think you're right. Humans need for all events, both excellent and bad, to have a cause. In the absence of observable evidence, we still feel the need to assign the occurrence to a person, a person who is real or imaginary. Someone has to take the credit or the fall, whether it's Yahweh or the Easter Bunny or Thor or Zeus.