Thursday, June 9, 2016

Directing blame

When I talk about politics, I usually prefer to discuss a general principle that can be widely applied to many situations rather than the details of a specific issue. A while ago, I heard someone on a podcast quote a statement that resonated with me. I can't remember or find the source of the quotation (if you know, please let me know in the comments), but the idea expressed was something like this:

People should direct blame upwards and inwards instead of downwards and outwards.

This idea seems relevant to a lot of things in Israeli politics, and also to discussions surrounding the referendum in the UK about remaining in the EU or leaving it (I hate the compound word "Brexit"!). It is also worth applying to the statements and attitudes of various candidates in the US presidential race. Readers are welcome to see how this idea can be relevant to various situations in their countries.

"Upwards" means that the people who are to blame for what is wrong are those who have power and wealth: the politicians, business leaders, and the wealthy in general. They shape our economy and society through their political and economic influence, through lobbying for their interests, and for constantly increasing the wealth gap to benefit themselves. They have brainwashed much of the public to believe the following ideology: that the rich deserve their wealth because they "worked hard"; that everyone could improve their circumstances; that the wealth "trickles down"; that the business sector benefits society by creating jobs; and that any centralized regulation aimed at increasing equality and providing care for the less privileged is a violation of basic freedoms.

Meanwhile, "downwards" in this statement refers to the tendency of many politicians to blame the poor for their own situation. This is often expressed in terms like "lazy" and "entitled", when in fact these could be more accurately applied to those at the top of the scale. Poor people are poor firstly because they did not inherit wealth, secondly because they did not receive the sort of education that would get them well-paying jobs, and thirdly because the entire economy is based on "reducing costs" and "improving efficiency", which often means finding employees willing (or forced) to work for less, sometimes moving whole industries into third-world countries at the expense of the local poor. Also, people are increasingly accused of being "exploiters" if they claim benefits such as unemployment or disability. This is a classic case of blaming the victim and even of psychological projection, where the wealthy must be subconsciously aware of knowing they are getting money they don't deserve and instead of admitting it they prefer to accuse the poor of doing this.

"Outwards" refers to the tendency to accuse "outsiders" of destroying society. Politicians often blame minorities and immigrants for all society's troubles, and this issue is becoming heightened by the struggle between Islamism and western society. While it is true that it is preferable for a society if those who join it become assimilated, at least to some extent, rather than insisting on maintaining their foreign way of life, this sort of accusation ignores the contributions of immigrant communities to the economy and to culture. There are confused statements from those who want to believe that immigrants are both "claiming benefits" and "taking our jobs", when in fact many immigrants are taking jobs that locals no longer wish to do and are contributing to the economy, and it's highly unlikely that anyone moves to another country out of a burning desire to live off benefits, which are increasingly difficult to obtain and are being cut by many governments.

Finally, directing the blame "inwards" is the most difficult part of the quotation. It asks people to consider that their own actions or inactions are partly responsible for the situation they find themselves in. People who don't vote and then complain about the policies enacted in their names are a prime example of avoiding responsibility and not looking inwards. Those who claim to be "not interested in politics" and so avoid learning about the reality in which they live, and are then easy to sway with cheap demagoguery, fail to realize that they could and should acquaint themselves with the relevant facts and think beyond populist slogans. I am always in favour of individuals taking responsibility for their actions and educating themselves, and in a democracy it is in the voters' interest to know what they are voting about.

I call upon voters everywhere to seek out the truth, to shed their apathy and complacency, to have sympathy for the less privileged, to question the motivations of politicians, and to blame the rich and powerful for what has happened in society as a result of their greed.

1 comment:

Ivor Ludlam said...

You ask about the source of the upwards and inwards quote. I don't know about that, but it sounds similar to something in Saving Private Ryan - Tom Hanks explains that his men complain to him, and he complains up to his commanding officer.