A Culture of Blame is a Dead End

When we feel despair, we look to find whose fault it is. And these days, there is a lot of despair as we witness how our super technologies, in which we put so much faith, not only are not bringing the golden age we expected but are being put to the service of the basest human motivation. Text wars and cyber wars, “alternative facts”, the dark web, bubbles of wealth and corruption in a world of deepening crisis, military escalations, and rapid ecological degradation. So much to blame, so much to find fault with.

Marriages fall apart as people bypass the spiritual standard of bringing oneself into account and point fingers at each other, expecting that therapists will fix their partner. Families fall apart as adult children decide to pathologize their parents rather than carry the baton forward and find more thoughtful solutions to intergenerational struggles. When a society no longer works, each social group finds another one to blame for social injustice. Not that there are no personal and social injustices to be acknowledged and addressed, but all too often we seem to stop with blame and aggressive polarization.

We keep going with the blame game — on every level — from our families to our social media, to national culture, to world forums in which countries blame other countries for their own aggressive politics. Strangely, we do not seem to notice that this blame game is not producing qualitatively different results. And in the meantime, the planet is quickly becoming unsustainable with rapid climate change, pollution, and loss of species, to which continuing military build-ups seem oblivious.

U.S. culture, which most embodies this condition, has become a culture of litigation that permeates every level of relationships — from marriages to parent-adult-children’s relationships, to services, to education, to society. In the public discourse, conservative groups raise the war cry: “They are coming for your kids!”, while intellectuals blame liberal denial for the rapid public escalation into fascist attitudes.[1] And many of us blame greed, mindless consumerism, and crude materialism for the demise of planetary life.

Is there an alternative to blame? Have we lost our ability to listen to each other, to express pain without blame, to respond to our shared condition with thoughtfulness and humility? Have we not heard that projecting our shadows on others never works?

Apparently, in the fast-paced unreflective modern culture in which we live, blame is a convenient shortcut to replace deeper examination which requires a commitment to discernment and critical moral consciousness[2] and a historical perspective on social transformations.

If you just take an inventory of your life, you will most likely be shocked to realize for how many things you blame people and entities around you. It is so automatic a mindset that it permeates our thinking and ways of being.

Three spiritual principles offer concrete ways forward — the principle of moderation, the principle of self-reflection, and the principle of collaborative consultation. What do they mean? Every extreme position, every totalizing one-sided answer is, by definition, wrong. We are each responsible, and we co-create the problems we face, at least to some degree. So, the most constructive way is to begin by examining our own contributions and work our way out from there, toward constructive consultation with others who share responsibility.

Applying that to the political scene in the U.S. quickly reveals that our lack of spiritual self-reflection, moderation, and consultative orientation are a big part of every problem we face. With some self-reflection we might notice that the social system is not working for anyone because it does not place primary value on the sanctity of life and on the dignity of every person. Rather, it prizes short-term outcomes. And we participate in reproducing this short-sighted focus with our rushed and disgruntled ways. We might also notice that we each blame a particular social group for the fact that society is failing people. And it quickly becomes clear that there are no social spaces that encourage constructive in-depth consultation across differences until collaborative solutions emerge.

You can argue and attack others to prove yourself right and make your case. You can compete and grab resources if you do it in a slick way. You can blame other groups if you can create a following. This is our public culture — lobbies, special interests, debates, restlessness, and combativeness.

There are many indigenous and other prophecies[3] about this time we live in — this time of dead-end blame, when our aggressive animal nature still prevails, albeit in the disguise of sophisticated words and ideas, over our human consciousness which seeks to understand, uplift, and transform. The indigenous wisdom of the Fourth Way, which I quoted in my previous blog, offers a viable alternative: Starting from within, working in a circle, in a sacred manner, we develop and heal ourselves, our relationships, and our world.[4]

Healing circles are an ancient indigenous approach to counteract aggression. In contemporary times, this ancient understanding has evolved into the way of unity. Transitioning from a dead-end culture of blame into developing step by step a culture of unity is the urgent challenge of our times, in the context of code red for humanity.[5]

I will close here with the words of Wendell Berry:

When we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work and when

we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey.[6]

To learn more about the way of unity, read my recent book, Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation. And be sure to follow this blog as I continue to explore viable principled alternatives in the decade of disruptions.

[1] https://eand.co/the-pundits-are-wrong-americas-in-grave-danger-1d25b8410d92

[2] See Mustakova’s Critical Consciousness at https://author.amazon.com/books/editionsMaster?marketplace=ATVPDKIKX0DER&titleset=B000FPHPSA

[3] To hear Dr. Lee Brown’s excellent talk on these prophecies, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr_oLVMReHw

[4] Jon Ramer and Phil Lane Jr, Deep Social Networks and the Digital Fourth Way, September 21, 2009.

[5] UN Chief — Code Red for Humanity, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097362

[6] Jon Ramer, Tales of Synergy.

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