¨What can everyone do? Praise and blame. This is human virtue, this is human madness.¨
“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness. ” (Monseigneur Bienvenu in Les Miserables)
― Victor Hugo
The tendency of people to blame others in the occurrence of untoward incidents seems to be a spontaneous reaction. As such, we take the matter as something normal and in many cases, blaming gets the approval of the majority in a society wherein a general consensus has been reached. The highest point attained in the act of blaming is at the level of condemnation. An event whose harmful—even destructive—effect on the people is of tremendous magnitude ¨naturally¨ results to a level of condemnation wherein it is not only the act that is slammed but more so the perpetrator(s) of the act. The act of blaming is grounded on a moral foundation. By and large, nobody blames one who has done something considered moral in a particular socio-cultural context. However, in another context where the ¨cultural operators¨ (as in a gang or a criminal syndicate) value more the opposite of what normal and decent people consider to be good and acceptable, the finger of blame is pointed to someone who has failed to toe the line. Thus, we may say that blaming in general is an act of disapproval, a kind of censure to the failure of someone to achieve a desired result.
In actual instances, though, the act of blaming has a certain degree of complexity especially if we focus more on the subjective perspective because experience has made us get used to the common tendency of individual persons to lay the blame on others when there has been a failure to achieve what the former originally desired. In this sense, we may say that at least blaming is rather utilized as a defence mechanism and at most, an escape route, so to speak. Blaming others therefore becomes an automatic way out to save one´s ass. In the process, it involves a ¨narrative,¨ a story or a interpretation—even a reinterpretation—of the issue at hand to generate sympathetic agreement from the majority of interested observers through which the latter are expected to be convinced. In a lot of cases, such narratives are distorted accounts of what really happened particularly in circumstances where the blaming party holds more power by virtue of the space of prominence it occupies over and above the other side that heaps the blame.
Socrates´ tragic experience is a case in point. He was blamed and accused by his adversaries, the Sophists, of poisoning the minds of the young people of Athens. On that basis, he was indicted in court and was given the death sentence. We all know through Plato´s accounts that the event was characterized by a distortion of facts. The real reason why Socrates was condemned is because the Sophists´ traditional reputation and unchallenged prominence in the splendid society of ancient Athens were at the brink of ignominy. As we reflect on this event, we see that the blamed is the victim.
However, it is not always the case because there are states of affairs wherein the ¨blamers¨ are the victims and the act of blaming is prompted more truthfully and is hence morally legitimate. In such cases, we find people who have been entrusted with serious responsibilities along with the appropriate resources for them to act judiciously and with integrity to accomplish such responsibilities. But along the way they have shown an attitude of appalling carelessness, even excessive negligence and idiotic recklessness in the performance of the duties solemnly delegated to them. In fact, worse than carelessness, negligence and recklessness are the conscious and aggressive efforts on the part of these ¨trustees¨ to impudently ruin the trust bestowed on them and to even squander the very resources handed over to their care for conscientious disposal.
Related to this are states of affairs in government wherein the accountability of an elected official is deemed a public trust. The cost of failure is lofty and the wayward infringement of an official´s ¨contractual obligation¨ to the electorates is a mortal transgression. To be stoned, therefore, with a truckload of blames is the logical consequence more than merely expected but rather actively called for. Stealing public funds budgeted for national development programs in hundreds of millions of euros or dollars not only once but regularly annually within the span of a government official´s term of office is an absolutely heinous crime of sheer plunder and high-level economic sabotage of grand scale.
But a new level of complexity gets in the way as we reach this particular point of consideration because in some less politically mature societies where there is only a simulacrum of democracy superficially seen in certain practices and instrumentalities as the election of candidates to government offices, the blame should not solely be flung on the elected public officials but likewise on the electorates themselves. It may be reasonable to blame the corrupt and incompetent public officials who have pulled the country to extreme poverty as they enrich themselves with the people´s money they steal from the national treasury. But it may likewise be equally reasonable to blame the people themselves who have put thieves and incompetent people in public offices to victimize them and make their lives miserable. What we see here is a condition wherein, on the one hand, the victims get to a point where they relentlessly blame and ruthlessly condemn the victimizers, while on the other hand, the more critical segment of the ¨victim class¨ which constitutes the minority likewise gets to a similar point where they woefully blame their gullible colleagues and lamentably accuse them of utter stupidity.
While veering away from a theoretical discussion of the act of blaming, it is perhaps more practicable at this point in time to problematize the trajectory of the act itself. Along the way we ask the questions: What then is the pragmatic end-point of the act of blaming that one does? Is our act of blaming an issue or a perpetrator of a blamable deed heading towards transformation? In a more succinct way of asking it, Is our act of blaming creative/constructive?
The tragic end of reasonable, judicious and prudent act of blaming is for it to fall on deaf ears and aimlessly fly like dust in the wind. . . . a fruitless endeavour . . . an exercise in futility.
© Ruel F. Pepa, 24 September 2013