Friday, June 8, 2012

The Blame Game

Politics & Society

But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.
Leviticus 16:10

Do not blame anybody for your mistakes and failures.
Bernard Baruch [1870–1965], 
American financier & statesman

When a man points a finger at someone else,
he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.
Louis Nizer [1902-1994], American trial lawyer

It's far easier to blame someone else for your lack of success, or failures, than to honestly assess whether your views, thoughts and actions are keeping you from attaining something desirable, necessary and good. Such requires honest analysis and assessment. To examine if the initial and subsequent assessments are morally correct; to see if failed policies are the result of excessive bad thinking; and to stop believing in conspiracies, since they do more harm than good and do nothing to make the situation better.

There are also the personal battles for supremacy. For many persons, it is far easier and more common to blame, to cast aspersions, to destroy an adversary or at least those that question your motives, your integrity, your actions. We have come to accept this and call it business as usual, the political game, real life. Too few see it as a bad or poor practice; it has become normative.

So, the result is that such is common today among people, groups and nations—some better at it than others. The politics of victimhood work alongside the blame game, so much so that whole groups of people and societies use it to their advantage to gain what they want—a ready-made excuse. For example, there are such ready-made excuses as the Zionist conspiracy to control the world, or at least its media; Blacks blaming Whites in America for their continued failures; Arabs blaming Jews for their failed policies; Marxists blaming Capitalists for the world's economic problems; or after the 1995 referendum loss in Quebec, the leader of sovereignists or secessionist party blaming "money and the ethnic vote" for the defeat. Such lists are long, and you no doubt can add to it. The implications are clear; the scapegoat ready-made to take on the sins of the many.

Such ideas of redemption and atonement are far from the realm of politics. After all, politics is a nasty, brutish game, its modern version dating to ancient Greece and Rome. Such rhetorical devices are done for a purpose: their use is to deflect the attention or spotlight away from where it's needed, whether it is on corruption, patronage or failed government policies. There might be a correlation between politicians and parties that always or often play the blame game and their degree of moral rot. It's worth considering.

Many politicians are adept at the use of such tactics as a way to remain in power, although some taken such skill to deceive greatly and widely. Even so, it's not really a good thing or a characteristic of which to be proud. It's more like a moral failing. Yet, such ones are blind to it, because their ambition binds them to a false reality. Of course, in spite of their blindness such ones gain many things, including money, fame and power. Their losses are simple and harder to calculate—human dignity. Remember, when you open Pandora's Box of Blame, Hate soon pops up as its close companion.

Truly, a far more difficult, yet more noble task (an old-fashioned word), requiring effort and a honesty that either few of us might have or want to work at to attain, is to look inward with deep retrospection to determine if there is anything is us, in our thinking, in our ideas and actions that need to be re-examined and, yes, altered and changed. That takes time and effort and a large dose of brutal honesty, i.e., the Examined Life. Persons who assiduously avoid the blame game and take responsibility for any and all actions undertaken are mature individuals, who both conform and confirm the ideals of rights with responsibilities—part of a healthy democratic and civil society.

So, there we have it. Instead of the finger-pointing—always a bad idea—it's far better to take personal responsibility, even after a failure. Even after a gross moral failure. Such failures afford us an opportunity to learn, including what not to do next time. Acknowledging and accepting failure as it comes, without too much bitterness, is the mature thing to do. Sure, it's not easy, but such describes the grown-up life.


  1. Blame is linked with the idea of punishment. Our religions tell us that the Creator of the heavens and the earth does not have the power simply to forgive sin; punishment has to go somewhere. Leviticus 16:10 says it can be inflicted upon a goat. The central miracle of Christianity is the Crucifixion, meaning God came to earth in the form of his son to suffer the punishment that had to go somewhere.


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