Friday, October 20, 2017

"Writer In The Sky -The Return (Home)"

I don’t know why I get such a kick out of this –“Writer in the Sky.”

I just sang it.  (As in “Riders in the Sky.”)

Writer in the sky…” 

“Doo-doo doo-doo doo.”

It feels so “Tomorrowland” to me.  Like playing ping-pong on the moon. 

(Note:  I am not sure that is scientifically accurate.  Perhaps I should add, “… if you can play ping-pong on the moon, which I am not certain you can.”  Yeah, that feels better.  I mean, for me.  I wouldn’t want you going on about playing ping-pong on the moon in front of some astronaut and have them laugh derisively in your face.  Then you think, “Who talked about playing ping-pong on the moon?” and you remember who it was and you blame me for getting you derisively laughed in the face and you track me down and hurt me.  You see the lengths I go to avoid hypothetical beatings?   That’s cautious.)

It also returns us to the subject of blame.  Just like I just defused the possibility of blame for leading you down an erroneous lunar possibility, that’s how – and to what extent – people will go to keep the spinning “Blame Arrow” from pointing accusatorily at them. 

Blame must be terrible. 

People will go to inordinate lengths to avoid it.


That was me.”


“Somebody else.”

I was talking yesterday about how the application of “blame” must serve some Darwinian purpose, hearkening back to at least biblical times (You think Adam and Eve said, “Let’s not talk ‘responsibility’ and just put on some of these clothes”?)  And arguably before even that.  See:  Blame-related cave paintings, featuring some sideways-looking person pointing a j’accusatory finger, and another whose one visible eye reflects serious concerns about their imminent wellbeing.  (And you can bet the unseen “back” eye feels similarly imperiled.)

What is the enduring value of “blame”, allowing it to remain around when nobody likes it if it’s them?

To begin our inquisitorial journey, consider the dictionarial definition of “blame”, the verb:

“To assign responsibility for a fault or a wrong”

In that way of looking at it, “blame” is a valuable remediative.  Something went faulty or wrong.  Assignment:   Who or what was responsible?  Why does that matter?  Because understanding why it happened will decrease its chances of happening again.

Faulty levees are blamed for increasing the damage during Hurricane Katrina?  Improve the levees.  (As opposed to the “Levys”, a Jewish family from New Orleans who are just dandy the way they are.) 

That’s the practical application of “blame.”   After that, however, it gets tricky.  When considering a tragedy, nobody likes “Uncontrollable Circumstances” for an answer.  “Uncontrolled Circumstances” makes people feel helpless, and keeps them sleeping comfortably in their beds.  

“Uncontrollable Circumstances” could happen again.  And at any time.  Try dropping off to “Slumberland” with that troubling your mind.

“Is it now?”  Or now?”  Or now?  Or now?  Or now?

You want to put the concern – sorry about this – to bed, any way you can.  Which invariably means blaming someone.  Even if was nobody to blame.  Or it means blaming the wrong people, a procedure that satisfactorily “kills two birds with one stone”

“We have determined why that ‘Terrible Thing’ happened.”  (Now we can all sleep comfortably in our beds.  The mystery has been definitively solved.  So “Phew!”) 

“It was the (INSERT NAME OF DESPISED MINORITY OF YOUR CHOICE HERE).”  (We have always suspected them, and now we have proof.  “Terrible People” – “Terrible Thing.”  Case Closed.  With the appropriate punishment.

Problem solved?

(INSINUATINGLY SING-SONGY)  Not if they didn’t do it.

(Yikes!  The passenger sitting in front of me just put his seat back.  My laptop is now embedded into my abdomen.  Please excuse me if my writing feels cramped.  And please blame the passenger sitting in front of me for the constriction.  You see how that works?  Now I am entirely in the clear.)

(A psycho-stratagem that was explained to me earlier.  “Blaming” projects the responsibility you are (consciously or unconsciously) feeling (of, say, possible substandard blog writing) onto, in this case, an innocent bystander who simply wanted to relax.  Does it work?  It’s the “Go-To” escape hatch for most people.  Except the congenitally guilty, who feel bad even thinking about it.  (But, in my case, using it anyway.)

Speaking of the congenitally guilty, “Blame” is also unhelpful (for seeking out ameliorative explanations) when someone reflexively shoulders responsibility, for reasons unrelatedly their own.   

“The town’s well has been poisoned, and we need to learn why?”


“’Guilty Larry?’”

I did it.”

“‘Yeah, okay…’”

“No.  This time, I’m really guilty.”

“Fine.  How did you poison the well, ‘Guilty Larry’?”

“I threw my gum in it.”

"And you think throwing your gum in is poisoned the well?" 

“Well, the next day people were drinking from it and dying, so, yeah.”

 “Just out of curiosity, ‘Guilty Larry’, why did you throw your gum into the well?”

“I was finished chewing it, and I didn’t want to throw it on the ground.”

“So you instead threw it into the well?”

“I do not litter.  And not because I’d feel guilty.  I believe littering is wrong.”

“Out of curiosity again, ‘Guilty Larry’, why is it less “wrong” to throw your gum into the well than it is to toss your gum onto the ground?”

“When you throw your gum into the well it doesn’t end up on the bottom of anybody’s shoe.  And the birds can’t choke on it.  I am sorry that my gum poisoned the well.  If I’d known, I’d have kept chewing it till I got home.  And if I couldn’t make it all the way, swallow it.”

Okay, so no help blaming the wrong people, and no help with the wrong people blaming themselves. 

Hold on.  I was just advised to put my own seat back, and now I suddenly have more room.  How many of you were screaming for me to do that for some time?  What can I tell you?  I am not a spontaneously “problem solver.”  I just hope the passenger behind me figures that out sooner.  I blame myself for their unnecessary…

Wait.  It just occurred to me.  I may well be the present-day  “Guilty Larry.”  I feel guilty about everything!  Including the length of this post.  I wonder.  Was I simply determined to keep writing till we reached Los Angeles?  I just heard, “Flight attendants, prepare for landing”, and I’m done.   So yeah.  Maybe I was.

And I did it!

With an Exclamation Point, no less.


Do I feel blame-worthy?


Al Melon said...

A bit off topic, no, completely off topic, but congrats to those effen Dodgers. I can't stand that franchise - I used to say I hate them but in fact I don't think there's any active player that I hate anymore, not since Paul O'Neill retired. But they do have a helluva team. Enjoy the WS.

JED said...

Earl mentioned "...[the extent to which] people will go to keep the spinning “Blame Arrow” from pointing accusatorily at them."

I know this wasn't your intention when you wrote about the "Blame Arrow" but the first thing that came to mind was a kind of kids game spinner where a random person or thing would be blamed. Then I realized that wasn't what you were talking about.

But the more I thought about it, I imagined that this is what happens sometimes. It's like those Law and Order episodes where the police and the district attorney come up with a suspect and charge him and then it looks like maybe he's not really guilty and is not going to be convicted. But people who knew the victim don't seem to care. They just want "justice" even if the wrong person might be convicted so they blame the District Attorney AND the defendant. You'd think they'd want the person who actually did the crime to be found but they seem like they'd just be satisfied if the "Blame Arrow" was spun and randomly picked someone to charge and convict for the crime. A little like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.

Then we get to a later section of your piece: " 'It was the (INSERT NAME OF DESPISED MINORITY OF YOUR CHOICE HERE).' (We have always suspected them, and now we have proof. “Terrible People” – “Terrible Thing.” Case Closed. With the appropriate punishment. Problem solved? (INSINUATINGLY SING-SONGY) Not if they didn’t do it."

Here we run into a situation where the "Blame Arrow" is broken and just always points to the same place. It might be a person, a group or something else. The people with the stuck blame arrow will be just as happy to blame where the arrow points over and over again. They may not get true justice but that's not what they are after. It cuts down on the effort and it just feels so comfortable.