Do human beings spend too much energy on both allocating and avoiding blame? Should we be more focussed on debating progressive solutions to problems, instead of pointing fingers at the creators of those problems? Or can we do both a little better?
Here in the UK, we live in a blame culture. It’s all about who broke what, and who pays for it. It is never about how do we move forward, how do we fix the mess together, so it doesn’t break again. It’s about who messed up, who gets punished, by whom, and how badly. And if you are the one who messed up, it’s apparently about doing all in your power to avoid admitting that, and diverting blame elsewhere.
The example people tend to follow, is often at the top. Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, responsible for gross mishandling of a pandemic (weak and late lockdowns, weak and late border controls, confused messaging following initial denial of the crisis itself). He has been sited directly by scientists as footing the blame for the UK reaching 100,000 deaths, having ignored scientific advice, brushed aside urgent recommendations and done his own thing, his own way, he stood before the country and said he “did everything he could”, knowing full well, he didn’t. He avoided blame.
Politicians always have a toolkit of delfectors ready
Part of living in a blame culture is using blame as a driving force for one’s own actions, gaining recognition by allocating blame, and doing whatever is possible to avoid blame when it comes at you. Accomplished, manipulative politicians always have a toolkit of delfectors ready; Johnson is quick as a fox to blame others for problems, whether it be the EU, the Labour Party, or the Public themselves. In the US, Trump blamed the electoral system itself rather than admit he screwed up.
Feminists might argue this attitude is a uniquely male one; a mindset where admission of mistakes is seen as weakness, and where to be an ‘alpha male’ one must refuse to ever say the words “I’m sorry”. Both Trump and Johnson have lived by this, it seems, up to the stage of genuinely believing themselves incapable of doing wrong.
Would it really have taken so much for Johnson, or Trump for that matter, to stand up and say look folks, sorry, I was wrong about this Covid thing. It’s a nightmare and I shouldn’t have dismissed it, I should have acted sooner, just like the scientists said, so a lot of those deaths are on me, personally, for being an arrogant twerp.
Never gonna happen. Professional blame-avoiders with their blame deflecting toolkits. That is the new politics, folks.
But we, as a population, waste too much energy allocating blame. We should perhaps entrust the Law to do that for us. (If only we could, eh?)
Would the energy of criticism be better directed into practical actions?
Blogs like this, and all the millions of tweets and posts and memes (often rightly) set the blame where it belongs, but what has actually been achieved by the use of all that argumentative energy? Nothing really. See, the thing is, no matter how right you are in pointing the finger, Stupid gonna stupid. Stupid doesn’t care. And so one must ask ones self, would the energy of criticism be better directed into practical actions or proactive thoughts about the future?
I know, it’s a bit hypocritical of me to say that, considering the content of this blog. But still, in my defence, I did reduce back my blame-throwing after Brexit, and spent a lot more of that energy on positive things like helping homelessness charities.
When history looks back on Covid-19, or Brexit, or Trump, will those history books devote entire volumes to the allocation of blame? Or will they instead ask what, as a society, as a human collective, was the underlying social cause of these events? What flaws in human nature brought us down? These are perhaps more productive questions to ask, if we are ever to learn ways forward.
Let the Law deal with the illegalities.
Let the Law deal with the illegalities of individuals; the rest of us can focus on making things better for others. If we want to find optimism then we need to look past the playground fighting, over the fence, into the world beyond the playground; the world of grown ups, of innovation and collaboration, of foward-facing thinkers.
Hope of a better decade lies not in blame allocation but in resource allocation. Who, what, when and how much will we spend on fixing the underlying problems?