"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, September 7, 2023

He Did It! How Blame And Whodunnit Trickery Always Win The Day

Any married man knows what it's like to be hectored about who dunnit. Women have a need to know who did what to whom even though they know perfectly well who did it.  Something to do with female pride, vestiges of a not-so-distant past where husbands ruled the roost; more than just fingering the culprit  - no one really cares who broke the dish if the pieces are picked up; but dishes are not meant to be broken, there is now one fewer on the shelf, and the house itself has been disordered.  Shards showing up in the trash without attribution are offensive. 

Men, on the other hand, are indifferent.  A broken dish is no more than a plate that once was, and half the stack could disappear without notice unless two were left for dinner.  

Blame gets more serious than a few hours of sulking in the boardroom or on the cubicle floor.  Missed financial targets are cause for concern; and because corporate culture is more and more of a collaborative one, shunting responsibility is far easier than it ever was. The base tables were not completed on time.  The projections by the front office were overly optimistic, the competitive environment had sharpened, key staff had been let go. With a deft touch the savvy employee can not only avoid being fingered but shift the focus to others without notice. 

A vice-president whose decisions are arbitrary, subjective, and given to personal likes, favors, and vendettas and who cannot be blamed for inefficiency because of higher-up favoritism can still be cashiered with the right moves.  Blame can be applied in primers, light shades, darker ones, and finally bold colors of guilt.  He can be left swinging in the wind without knowing who hanged him in the gibbet.  

Blame is necessary for survival in an aggressive, competitive world where zero-sum is the only game in town. Workers never work together because of a notion of participatory, congenial, mutually rewarding enterprise.  No engine will run a car without wheels.  Life is an assembly line of necessary collaboration.  The idea is to sideline your competitors, clear your decks for running, and make way alone.

Blame is the modus operandi of politics.  The democratic system is set to blame the other side, to spread lies, disinformation, and disreputability to gain political traction.  "The Honorable So-And-So and his claques are responsible for falling wages, persistent poverty, racial injustice, and economic tyranny.  His policies, his political convictions, his very actions are to blame for the erosion of comity, probity, and good sense in America" banged the Senate colleague of the attacked.  "A worthless laggard, a social miscreant, a guilty party in the downfall of American values"

Squalid electioneering? No, nothing scurrilous could ever pass among gentlemen, only civil disagreement. 

Worse yet is politicians' barefaced, shameless refusal to take the fall.  Senators, Congressmen, and Governors all have no sense of mea culpa. They bang in the bushes, cover their tracks with red herrings, insist on rectitude, and blame the press for invasion of personal privacy and individual rights. Who needs to know about paramours, cinq-a-septs or peccadilloes? And what difference do they make to good governance anyway?

The reason for one candidate's drop in the polls is not because of his doing, but the deceit and chicanery of his opponents.  News outlets are notorious for taking up the electoral cudgel - hammering and banging away at political enemies without a word in defense of their candidate.  Joe Biden gets a bye from MSNBC and CNN while Donald Trump is blamed for all ills - he is responsible for the seething racism, homophobia, and misogyny in the country.   Fox News portrays Joe Biden as a doddering, drooling idiot who gives away the store.  He is to blame for America's international weakness and loss of respect. 

Negative advertising for commercial products and politicians has always been more effective than nice-guy promotion.  Consumers and the electorate first and foremost remember who is to blame for bad teeth, body odor, or declining wages.  It pays to be nasty and to finger blame. Culprits and villains sell newspapers and get votes.  The idea is to hate Trump for his corruption and deceit or to laugh at Biden the incompetent, mumbling supposed President.  Touting values, objective indicators of success, historical lessons, or moral principles are nothing compared to perfidy.  Having a go at someone is far easier than organizing your thoughts. 

Children learn quickly how to pin the blame on siblings. In a constantly squabbling household it is impossible to know exactly what happened in the playroom. "He did it" was the best opening of defense, for the first one out of the gate is always the one remembered. Getting away with it is the meme and ethos of childhood before any firm moral principles are set. By the time Piaget's developmental cycle is completed, everyone has learned how to cheat, like, steal, and get away with it.  Our maturity has only assured inhibition of the worst kind of lying blame. The instinct to go Scot free has been hardwired since conception. 

Jefferson and his co-writers of the Bill of Rights designed the architecture of the new republic to be one which housed individuals working for the common weal - individualism tapped the best instincts of human nature, but only if individual enterprise was carried out with respect for others' labors would the national prosper.  Idealist at best, but honestly derived.  The Founding Fathers were men of principle, philosophical appreciation, and intellectual character.  

Only Hamilton understood the nature of those to be governed - gullible, credulous, and selfish, and not to be trusted.  The rationality of the Enlightenment embedded in the Constitution was beyond them.  They would always act in their own self interest and bugger all everyone else.  A buffer was needed between the civil and the uncivil, and so the Senate was born 

That inspiration, of course, changed nothing.  The Senate has become as venal, self-serving, retributive, and blaming as anything or anyone else.  Democracy is the worst political system ever, said Winston Churchill, except for all others - and the carbuncles, boils, and suppurating sores on his beloved body politic have never more been in such display. 

So be it, said Epictetus; and no one but American progressives believe that human society can progress beyond the divisive, contentious, hostile place in which it finds itself today.  

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