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On Blaming Others, as Seen in a Humorous Video

November 6, 2015

in the CourtroomWe live in a litigious culture, especially here in America, where we think of most things in terms of the law and legislation. If there is a problem, one of our first thoughts is to have lawmakers or judges craft a solution.

This is also true with assessing blame for things. Not long ago, perhaps fifty years or so, we were more accepting of the fact that accidents sometimes happen, and that they are the fallout of many factors, including the involvement of human beings in the situation. I use the word “fallout” deliberately, since the word “accident” comes from the Latin accidens, meaning “that which ‘falls alongside’ of something.” Many unfortunate events have complex origins, a kind of witch’s brew or perfect storm of factors that come together. For example, an accident at a processing plant might involve a combination of human error, improper maintenance, lax safety precautions, poor training, a sleepy employee, a rush order, etc. It is almost never just one thing.

In the absence of malice or extreme negligence, we were once more willing to admit that sometimes accidents just happen and that we should concentrate on improving the situation. Today the more frequent response is to look for someone (hopefully someone with deep pockets) to blame so that lawsuits can be brought.

Further, there was more acceptance of so-called “acts of God” such as storms and earthquakes. These, too, were things we chalked up to unfortunate circumstances, which we all had to expect and factor in. For example, if it snowed everyone was expected to use caution by walking more carefully, discerning whether work or other activities should be cancelled, and generally factoring in the presence of snow and ice. Today, however, if someone slips and falls on my sidewalk it is assumed to be my fault for not shoveling it well enough. Even if I made some effort to clear it, if I didn’t achieve a perfect surface I might be sued.

I remember one bitter cold morning when an angry parishioner pointed to ice in the parking lot and said, “Look at your parking lot; it’s covered with ice!” I responded to her with some mirth, “I swear I didn’t do it!” She smiled, realizing that we all too often look for someone to blame. Sometimes ice just can’t reasonably be removed in time or even at all. So we all need to adjust and proceed with caution.

Today we frequently look for someone to blame; we expect comfort and a sort of perfection without any difficulties or dangers. Life is a little more complex than that.

In this post, I do not propose to find the definitive answer as to what should be punished/fined and what should be chalked up to unfortunate circumstances. This is more of a light-hearted reflection that occurred to me as I watched this video, which I hope you will enjoy.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Nhung nguyen says:

    Very funny video. Thank you!

  2. edraCRUZ says:

    We do look for anyone to blame, indeed and if he earned our ire sure he will have a day in court and be able to squeeze him money for the emotional injury/distress he has caused us. What with these prodigious lawyers we have, somethings gotta give monetarily, heh heh heh. If we can only sue GOD, we will and the lawyers will grab every opportunity to prove their mettle and consequently earn great amounts of cash for their pockets, that is, if they can. There oughta be a law and a lawyer to squeeze someone of his big bucks. GOD help us.

  3. Matt says:

    We are overly litigious. That said, the principle itself is not unreasonable, only abused.

    It is not a question of “blame,” but who should rightly bear the cost of an injury — the innocent person who is injured or the person whose actions caused or contributed to them?

    The good and kindly Monsignor is walking along the sidewalk, minding his own business and doing good, when a heavy dead tree branch comes crashing down on him, leading to several broken bones, which then leads to a medical bill of several thousand dollars to treat. The landowner knew that the branch was dead and knew that it was heavy and knew that there was a high probability that it would fall, but failed to take any measures to avert the danger, saying to himself, I’ll get to it next weekend.

    So who should bear the cost of those medical bills? Should we say, oh well, things happen, such that the money comes out of Monsignor’s pocket, adding financial injury to the physical ones? Should it come out of the Monsignor’s insurance or from the parish, expanding the number of innocent people who are forced to pay for something they had nothing to do with and taking money away from more worthy causes? Or should the person who allowed it all to happen be responsible for the thousands of dollars in medical bills? And if he does not want to bear the full cost, perhaps he might hedge against such things by insuring himself?

    Tort law is not about “blame” or “punishment” in the moral sense. It is about the rightful allocation of loss. Sure, the landowner is a nice and decent guy — no need or desire to beat him up over it. But a loss has occurred. Someone has to pay. And of all the possible payers, the bill most rightly should go to him because he was in the best position to prevent it from happening in the first place.

    If the system has been abused (and it has), then the answer is reform, not simply leaving the innocent to heal themselves.

  4. “Today the more frequent response is to look for someone (hopefully someone with deep pockets) to blame so that lawsuits can be brought.”
    While our modern approach to blaming a specific person, or legally recognized entity, is a very common motivator; there may also/alternatively be an inner motivator in place.
    An administrator, at a work place, may see a problem and look for a cause. The first likelyhood may be that some subordinate worker is at fault through such things as slacking off or becoming careless. If that’s not the case then the admin should look for other possibilities such as natural wear and tear has resulted in equipment decreasing in usefulness. Or, changing conditions at the work place that hadn’t been noticed (digging a trench and going from slight under-burden to concrete like hard-pan.
    Sometimes one might meet an administrator who always stops at “blame the worker” and is good at creating a false justification. This helps the admin person from being responsible enough to search for more imformation as self aggrandizement at the expense of the subordinates. Ego, prejudice, unfair judging, self limiting by jumping to an overly quick solution and sometimes even being motivated by jealousy to distract a qualified worker to actually create the problem so that they can blame another person.
    These people often are very good at getting into management and sticking to make themselves look good – often to avoid facing their own feeling their own feeling of self worth.