The Blame Game
Articles like this tick me off:
Grist is a good magazine; I normally really enjoy their articles. But this one just seems pointless. It’s not that I disagree per se with exactly where and how they apportion the “blame”–although honestly I could find some fairly significant quibbles there. It’s not that I resent the “the rest of us” 22% piece of blame they apportion because “We drive. We fly. We buy gizmos and food shipped long distances” and so forth–although I sort of do, because the system we live in is constructed in a way, and our lives and cultures are shaped in a way that makes any other way of life a real challenge to even imagine, let alone just decide one day to make happen. It’s not even that the levels of blame, such as they are, don’t go any further into the past than Bush and Cheney, when the processes that led to this catastrophic tragedy go back decades if not centuries.
My problems come down, essentially, to two: the breathtakingly naive and complacent simplicity of the author’s little pie graph, and the sense that any little pieces of “blame” can be named, separated, and identified. The insane tangle of lies and greed and blindness on all sides that brought us to this place is more complex and impenetrable than any of us, I expect, can hope to parse out, let alone be able to point the finger and say, “Okay, you get 9% because you didn’t do enough to keep this from happening.” Pointless.
Over to another, very different, view of things–over at the Green Phone Booth, where I blog a few times a month, there has been a recent conversation about buying organic vs. deciding it’s simply too expensive (or not getting to “decide,” but making ends meet wherever they can). The “blame” question has come up again there, and Erin the Conscious Shopper raises a similar question to the one I pose above: essentially, is it right to blame or scold people who make certain choices, when their choices come out of a deeply flawed system that we are just beginning to recognize on a large scale and choose to change? People who either make certain choices because of their lifestyle or budget, or who just haven’t been exposed to the kind of under-the-radar facts and realities we Crazy Radical Greenies are beginning to be aware of?
Then there’s the whole “breast vs. bottle” debate, or the natural childbirth one (or the one which suggests they may be connected!)…which has difficulty even happening most of the time due to the accusations of blame or guiltmongering or judgment that pop up before any substantive conversation seems able to happen.
Why do we always go to blame first? Why do we assume that everyone really has all that many choices about what they do or how they live, or are even necessarily aware of what choices they have, or are not so exhausted and beaten down by the world we’ve all collectively allowed ourselves to create for one another that they can’t muster the slightest bit of energy to envision something different?
Whose fault is THAT?
Changing our own lives and habits–not so hard. Changing a system, a cultural pattern we’ve all been initiated into and are deeply and inextricably enmeshed with–that’s really, really hard.
I think I’d like to assign at least 1% of the blame for the Gulf oil spill to the people who stand around assigning blame, rather than really working to evolve the system that led to its happening. Let’s stop blaming, fix what we can, and grow.