Blame has certainly taken centre stage with the COVID-19 pandemic as layers of government jockey to balance economies with science and the well-being of society at large. Of course, not to be lost in any of that is the possible underlaying driver of some foundational beliefs that separate some of those layers, giving people one of the greatest emerging values of the last century, choice.
Blame as a word can be traced back to around the 1100’s, a derivative of blasphēmāre, giving humanity about nine hundred years and change to perfect and live its meaning. That meaning when blaming someone 1”is to hold them responsible for something negative that happened. In other words, to blame them is to say or believe that they did it or that it happened because of them.” Nine hundred years to refine how it is used, paving its journey as a tool for daily justifications that fuel opposition of personal, business, political and other institutions.
As the world emerges from this pandemic, so does the erosion of collaborative relationships between layers of government that have for the most part banded together during social, economic, and medical uncertainty since early 2020. Some of that blame just seems too easy, right? “You didn’t send enough vaccines”, “You didn’t plan well enough”, “You enabled the lock down too late”, “You let people into the country by not closing the border”, “You contributed to this many deaths”, and so on – surely, some of those will become part of some re-election campaign as everyone returns to their respective corners and waits for the bell to start the next round. Add to this a divide between businesses who were forced to close and those that broke financial records, one pressuring governments with blame for operating cost losses and closures, and the other praising how they’ve handled the opportunity, while paying nominal fines to accommodate whatever rules were broken as they remained open. This might be the first time that all layers of government can accuse any other, while all living a version of the truth, which is much better than living any version of a lie. All that considered, it’s easy to scrutinize the decisions of leaders standing at a podium with a lens on their every move. Does blame really start and stop with the elected leaders we’ve selected and has their belonging to one political platform over another made a difference?
Sometimes, lost in all of the pandemic blame is society itself, the citizen, the consumer, You! Psychologically, perhaps that may be hard to hear and accept. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. identifies in Psychology Today, “5 Reasons We Play the Blame Game”, which include that it’s a “defense mechanism”, “a tool we use when in attack mode”, because “we’re not good at figuring out the causes of other people’s behaviours”, or “it’s easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility”, and simply, “people lie”. None of those sound very constructive or encouraging for humanity, but all can be easily found on social media platforms. Arguably, parts of society hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer while blaming manufacturers for shortages and other parts gathered in groups against the advisement of medical and scientific professionals in the perceived value of conspiracies and free choice, perhaps also genuinely being incapable of taking any type of social break. Then, as the number of cases and deaths rose, parts of society failed at self-awareness, looking outward for reasons, pointing to government for not doing enough.
This isn’t about the pandemic and if anything has struck a nerve thus far, have a look in the mirror before starting a potentially exhausting and growth-stunting journey to lay blame elsewhere. The pandemic is a great modern example for how blame has become engrained in the fabric of our society as humanity emerges from possibly an even greater threat, which at its core is the self-consequence of blame – the compromising of responsibility.
The intention towards responsibility growth is to reflect on what is at the foundation of your blame. Why are you mad at the furniture maker when you stubbed your toe on the nightstand, but you weren’t wearing your slippers? How is it the car manufacturer’s fault the engine seized when you haven’t checked the oil in three years? Is it really the fault of the hiring organization that you weren’t successful in your last interview, even though you didn’t prepare in the week leading up to it? If you choose to ignore social distancing and other medical advice, caught COVID-19 and ended up in an ICU, how did anyone else not do enough?
Look, exceptions can certainly exist, but it seems like there’s a lot of dogs still eating homework out there.