Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Blame Game

I stumbled across the TV show "Hoarders" the other day. The episode I saw featured a man who collects bunnies. He had something like 47 of them roaming freely around his house, chewing holes in the walls and generally making a shambles of the entire property--which he rents, not owns. None of which was of the slightest concern for the man...nor was the thick layer of rabbit droppings over every surface in the house. I found it interesting that he was never shown actually holding or even touching one of the objects of his obsession.

When threatened with various actions by health and other local authorities, and even with eviction from his home, he was of course righteously outraged; righteous outrage seemed to be his primary emotional response to every situation. Whenever confronted, his reaction was to storm into his den and slam the door, leaving his wife to deal with whomever had dared to question his rights to do whatever he wanted. And then, later, he would blame her for any response she gave the intruder. That he was also a totally disagreeable, incredibly hostile and insufferably obnoxious jerk had nothing to do with the simple, indisputable fact that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Absolutely none of the difficulties in which he found himself--not one--was his fault.

I was struck by how this man epitomizes much of our society today. Politicians and self-appointed pundits increasingly spend seemingly every waking moment and every ounce of energy in blaming everything they do not approve of on anyone with whom they do not agree. This attitude is not limited to them, however. Not one of those so quick to point blame at someone else is in any way responsible for anything. They are all totally innocent victims of...well, that usurper-to-the-presidency/Muslim/ foreign-born/supporter of terrorism (and, I'd not be surprised, beater of puppies) Barack Obama, for one. I cannot recall any single individual since Vlad the Impaler ever being so intensely vilified by those who never let facts intrude on their beliefs.

Total deniability of responsibility is, I'm sure, very comforting, and allows more time to spew bile on whomever one sees as the real source of any given problem. It also totally negates the necessity of having to deal constructively with the problem itself. Blaming others is cathartic and empowering. That it is also counterproductive and often actually destructive is never considered. And no matter what argument may be raised against a negative position, it can be countered with still more negativity.

I personally find this fascinating because I am one of those relatively few who take exactly the opposite tack; all my life I have been more than willing to blame myself for everything. I'm sure I could convince myself that I was somehow responsible for the sinking of the Titanic. Like the bunny man, I, too, react too often with outrage, but it is always directed against myself for my own ignorance and ineptitude. I have enough sense to realize that this is in fact a perverse form of narcissism in that I somehow assume and expect myself to be far more powerful than I am or possibly can be, and the outrage stems from being confronted with that fact.

At base, both those who refuse to acknowledge responsibility for anything and those who assume full responsibility for everything share what I sincerely feel is the greatest threat to our future as a civilization: the increasing awareness that we have less and less control over our own destinies. We are, I believe to the depth of my soul, losing the undeclared, even unrecognized, war between our humanity and the technology we ourselves created to serve us. As our world becomes more complex, as we willingly become more and more dependent on that technology, we find ourselves with less and less individual control over the world around us, and it is a truly terrifying sensation. We are addicted to our technology as surely as anyone addicted to any deadly toxic substance, and we are unwilling or unable to break ourselves of the addiction.

Well, there is little point in worrying about it. I'm outnumbered 7.5 billion to one. So whatever is wrong is obviously all your fault. (There. I feel so much better now.)

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