We, the humans of planet earth, LOVE blame. When something goes wrong, there has to be blame. We need it. We crave it. Our entire legal system is based around it. Our headlines are incomplete without it. Our governments utilise it for their own benefit to fuel fear and hatred.
The irony is, it is never ours to keep. Nobody owns blame, or at least, very rarely does anyone lay claim over it. It’s the hot potato of humanity to pass around and throw at unsuspecting victims of misunderstanding and misrepresentation before they have any chance to lay down their case. Once hit, you are branded until your wounds heal or until someone more marginalised, ignored or alien comes along. It can take a very long time for the sting to go away.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe justice is a worthy cause. If somebody commits a crime or misdeed against you, stopping them from doing it again makes all the sense in the world. Making them answer for their actions and stripping them of the privileges they have abused is a logical step to stop them being able to wrong you or anyone else again. Even on a smaller, day-to-day scale, I believe apologies, open conversations and forgiveness are so important for healing and developing strong, steadfast relationships.
That is not what blame does. Justice and blame are not the same thing. Justice means the person/people who committed said crime/upset/hurt answer for what they did. Blame goes above and beyond this.
In our society, blame means that not only the guilty party answers for their actions, but also anybody else who could be considered in the same ‘group’ as them based on race, gender, sexuality, religion or otherwise. These other unwilling members of the group may never have met the guilty person, or share any beliefs or convictions with them, but unluckily for them they have ONE thing in common, so they must also be to blame. Right?
Blame also seeks to explain what we cannot or rather, what we’d rather not accept the consequences for ourselves. Thankfully, the majority of people on this planet find it difficult to comprehend atrocities such as rape, murder and abuse. We find it disgusting that one human could commit such acts against another. We just can’t get our heads around it. It’s heartbreaking and shocking. So our natural reaction? Look for something we don’t understand to explain the thing that we don’t understand.
So the left blame the right. The mentally stable blame the mentally ill. The west blame the east. The religious blame the secular. The straight blame the gay. And vice versa and so on. We blame ‘the other group’, the one we don’t understand, the one that is different to our own because it’s much easier than accepting that another human being, a living, breathing member of our own species, did what they did.
Perhaps because it means accepting that the fault lies not with one particular group or circle, but rather that it is a much larger issue with society as a whole. Maybe we, ourselves, are not doing enough.
We teach people not to get raped rather than not to rape. We claim the right to weapons but offer no asylum to those escaping war. We victim blame. We accuse. We enforce division based on an ‘us-and-them’ mentality. We pick and choose who to love and who to accept based on our own needs, rather than the needs of humanity as a collective. And all the while mankind craves nothing more than the end to the excessive number of man-made atrocities that are incidentally caused by all this hate, for which we only have ourselves to blame.
What I am trying to say is that things do not need to be this way.
Humans are intricate and complicated beings, even the baddies. Aside from all the important sciencey stuff about cells and organs, we are made up of a collection of experiences and choices. We all have our own belief systems, be that religious or secular. We all have a sexuality. We all have a favourite food, colour, drink, type of music and flavour of ice cream. We all experience heart break and difficult times. We all experience lies, deceit and hurt from those we love as well as those we aren’t so keen on. We can’t always choose our experiences.
What we can choose is how we react to those experiences.
To hate, to give up, to generalise, to lie, to cheat, to lash out, to break promises, to punish, to let down, to insult, to judge, to hurt, to ignore, to blame.
To be brave, to love, to accept, to move on, to live, to think, to believe, to try again, to seek justice, to lift up, to encourage, to understand, to start over, to say sorry, to forgive.
To be human.
Everything, the good, the bad and the not so pretty all come down to that final choice. To be human.
I call it a choice, not in the sense that we get to choose whether or not to be Homo sapiens, but rather because we ultimately get to define what that means. What do we want the history books to teach our children and our children’s children? I grew up learning of world wars and slavery in very recent history. That we had to have movements for people of colour to be considered equal to white people, for women to be considered equal to men, for gay people to have the same rights as straight people. Wouldn’t it be nice to teach about the end of oppression or division or hate instead? Wouldn’t it be incredible if those things were a given, that we didn’t have to fight every day for, so we could focus more of our efforts into protecting the planet we live on or preventing disease or writing our next novel?
‘Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived’
– Shane Claiborne
I know I’m being an idealist here. I know I’m not really saying anything profound or new and I know there’s no way of getting everyone on board. But I truly believe that there are enough of us that feel the same to start our own small ripples of difference that can eventually amount to something much more. A tidal wave of love, compassion and understanding may be idealistic but it would make an infinitely more beautiful cover on a history text book.
So stop blaming people just because you don’t understand. Scaling something as perplexing and fascinating as a human being down to just one aspect of their being is quite frankly insulting to the complexity of what makes us human. Stop scape-goating with blame and allowing politicians to tell you what to think. Stop pushing the blame onto anyone but yourself. We are all to blame. We all let things get this bad. Ignorance is no longer bliss and I am as guilty of complacency just as much as the next person. It’s about time that we all began understanding the world we live in, including our politics and the impact of our decisions. We are the only ones who can make things better.