Friday, December 9, 2011
Who's to blame for this mess?
I'm inspired to think this by a long article that hit my inbox this morning about who's responsible for the Euromess. Googled "who's to blame" and got almost 6 million hits. Six million. Let's see, what failures are being examined? The euro, the supercommittee, the great Gulf Oil spill, Nickelodeon's loss of ratings . . . everything but Who put jam on the cat?
The idea that some Wun Giant is to blame for giant things like this doesn't make sense in the light of our interdependence. A great many actions culminated in that oil spill, including, I am afraid, my own reckless use of fossil fuel flying places in airplanes just for fun, drying clothes in a dryer, flicking on light switches. I was a smaller contributor perhaps than a manager who decided some problem on the oil platform could be ignored, but I added to it. Then there is the large diffuse problem of human nature and behavior.
The denotation of blame is to assign responsibility. But it nests with words that assign judgement, like culpability, guilt, reproach, fault. And what happens when you point a finger? You have a war. You have sides, someone saying "I didn't do it, Sammy did! He did it! You always blame me. It isn't fair." This is a pretty good translation of American political talk today.
I am sensitive to this issue because it takes place on the small scale of our lives. I was the scapegoat in my family, courtesy of my father. There is an odd mechanism there, in which all the pain and distrust of an alcoholic family is laid at the doorstep of The Wun. This is similar to sacrificing a goat to God to wash away our sins, a tradition found in some societies.
What is the problem? The karma created by our actions is not washed away. To restate: You don't get away with nothing. It's easy to see how harmful the blame game is in a family - if the whole problem is Billy, nobody looks at their own behavior. And if nations or politicians put their energy into blaming the other, we have gridlock. The only way to move ahead is to ask, What are the causes? * To assume a nonblaming attitude.
This tempts me to go to the many finite causes of unemployment, such as doctors buying expensive software to answer and make phone calls, so they can fire the people who used to do that. Or to climate change - public places cooling the air in summer down to 68 (the guys in suits are comfortable that way). These things are matters of individual choice. It gets subtle. Fixing it is not about blame or exculpation, but about looking at reality. Reality. And that means looking fairly at our own part in this mess.
* Though you can never really untangle the causes. Maybe the way to move forward is to ask, What needs to be done here? or What can I do?