The need to “blame” holds back humanity

I wrote a piece this day last week on the ongoing process of redeveloping the area around the McKee Clock in Bangor.

The very first response to it, on Facebook, was objectively astonishing:

– Bangor was a great seaside resort pre-Troubles [How is this relevant? Most people didn’t even have private transport then!]

– It’s all the fault of the people who allowed Bloomfield and Springhill to be built [Leaving aside that this was decades ago (in fact Springhill was built before I was born!) and even assuming this was a bad thing, who cares? They were built!]

– We should go back through Council minutes to look at who was to blame for the mess at Queen’s Parade (the seafront) [What exactly does this achieve? Even if someone was “to blame” (and it is unclear for what), we are now at such a remove from the decisions that they would in all probability no longer be with us.]

There seems to me to be a remarkable human bias at play here, which is essentially nostalgia. Everything was, apparently, better 50 years ago, so we should essentially turn the clock back and not forward. This is apparent everywhere, of course – its most noteworthy form in Europe is probably the Ostalgie exhibited by many Eastern Germans. This bias has, however, been a constant factor through human history.

However, there is another remarkable and often even more unreal and damaging human instinct at play here: the need to blame.

As another correspondent noted recently, whenever any terrible event happens, we tend to find the reporting of it soon focuses, remarkably quickly from an objective point of view, on determining who was to blame (rather than on what actions should be taken to make things better).

As in the case of Bangor “town centre” (a debatable case anyway), in fact the ascribing of blame often simply does not matter. However, in the end the process of ascribing it takes up so much time and effort, that no time is left over to solve the problem, make progress, or assist those who need assistance.

It is a very human peculiarity. Should we not, however, apply some effort to trying to shift our focus a little – away from blame and towards action, and indeed away from the past and towards the future?

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One thought on “The need to “blame” holds back humanity

  1. William Allen says:

    Indeed the ‘need’ to blame someone for every negative thing that happens is an increasing problem. We no longer have accidents, as every time something which in the past would have been considered an accident happens, it is treated as criminal or professional (or both) negligence. Even minor road accidents nearly always end up with someone in court now. In the UK every time you get behind the wheel you are risking your ‘clean record’ and even increasingly your freedom. Demands are made for drivers who have been in an accident that kills some one to be charged with murder. That is not justice it is simply seeking revenge through the legal system. We have got to the point were the police and courts are so busy investigating and prosecuting the trivial (such as a bit of puxhing or shoving in a pub) that actual serious crime gets past simply because it can not be investigated and wrapped up quickly.

    Here in Northern Ireland the future of a functional and peaceful society is put at risk by those who can not move beyond wanting to blame and punish people for what some see as crimes. Wanting to re-open cases about things that happened 30, 40 or more years ago. It sickens me.

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