I have been thinking a lot about blame lately. Casting blame. People seem to have a very strong need for doing that. Finding a scapegoat. If something goes wrong, when terrible things happen, there has to be someone to blame.
I first got to thinking about this through something that happened to a friend of mine. A terrible, tragic thing happened and hence there was a need for a scapegoat. There just had to be someone to blame for it all, because people cannot simply accept that yes, sometimes very bad things happen and it’s not always possible to find that one person whose fault it is. So blame was cast. And this is what made me think.
Blame is a heavy burden to carry. And it’s all about pain relief. You need to ease your pain, to relieve your guilt, so you hand it all over to someone else in an attempt to reduce your own suffering. If you can only find someone else to blame for everything that went wrong the pain will be easier to bear. Identify the cause and that is half the cure, right? Only problem is that’s not usually true in cases like this. And the only thing you accomplish is to increase the total amount of pain and suffering, you spread it out and add feelings of hurt.
Not only does there seem to be a profound need for finding a scapegoat, there are also certain qualities you look for when finding this scapegoat. First of all the person has to be an easy target, someone who stands out from the crowd in one way or another. Someone who is perceived as controversial. Usually this has to do with lifestyle and or appearance. The scapegoat has to be easily identified as someone who is deviant, someone who is not like everybody else. And when those qualities are in place very little else seem to matter. They way the person actually is or thinks is of no relevance. The only important thing is that this person is easily distinguished as being different. Because it is always easier to blame someone than to accept that there is more to the issue. It is easier to unload all the feelings of hurt and loss on a particular someone than to accept that life is usually a lot more complicated than that. Bad things rarely happen due to the influence of one person, there is usually a chain of events that lead up to a tragedy. And that chain of events involves a lot of people; there is almost never just one person to blame, no matter how deviant and different that person is perceived to be.
This is something that happens frequently, on all levels. In general society a good example is how music is being blamed for all kinds of violent acts executed by teenagers. “It was listening to all that horrible rock and roll music that made him do it.” No, it was not the horrible rock and roll music that made him do it, what ever it was he did. It’s just not that simple. Real life is not that simple. And of course it’s easier to blame Judas Priest or Marilyn Manson or who ever when your child takes a gun and shoots his classmates or himself, a lot easier than to look at yourself as a parent and see where you might have gone wrong, at what point you should have noticed that something was terribly wrong with your child. It is easier for teachers to blame drugs and loud music when their pupils take a gun and blasts someone’s brains out, a lot easier than to ask the question what made them feel that alienated, that frustrated, to begin with.
Yes, our society seem to have a desperate need for scapegoats, someone just has to take the blame for everything that goes wrong. We simply cannot accept that sometimes a chain of events, involving a lot of people, lead to disaster without it being one person’s fault. Sometimes the shit just hits the fan and it’s no ones fault. A lot of bad decisions and wrongful actions by a lot of people just lead up to a disaster and usually there is more than one person responsible. But that is too complex, that offers no easy way out, no quick fix. Add to this the group mentality. If we find that certain someone against whom we can all unite, that makes us feel less vulnerable and more in control. We shun confusion more than anything.. We want to understand, so we look for the easy explanation, the scapegoat. And it is a lot easier to blame Marilyn Manson for Columbine than to dig in to all the reasons why a couple of teenage boys became that messed up. In the case of my friend it was also a lot easier to find a scapegoat than to accept all the different factors that lead up to that particular tragedy. Fortunately not everyone jumped on the bandwagon because in spite of everything I have said above, there are still people out there who are willing to accept that life is complex and casting blame is not really a solution. There are no quick fixes to be found in the real world.