The Blame rests with all of us

    As the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina became increasingly clear on our televisions, the faces of the reporters staring back at us loved asking that one pivotal question: Why? The question would always lead to an awkward discussion about God with a visiting religious guest often explaining that we mustn’t blame God, but do what we can to reduce human suffering.

    Riley Salant-Pearce/Guardian

    If the media can’t pin responsibility on God for the hurricane, you best believe they can try to pin the outcome on somebody: that somebody being, most popularly, the federal government. Whether it is President George W. Bush or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Americans — or the media that informs them — have an acute need to point fingers. They assign blame as if the world is a very simple place where almost any event, no matter how complex or diverse, can be attributed to a fairly narrow set of perpetrators.

    Such reasoning is ridiculous, but even more so in a nation like ours. For whatever reason, it seems that most of the American population has forgotten that our government is a federalist one; the states having been given a certain amount of autonomy in the U.S. Constitution, there are a series of governments with intertwining authority, from the federal, to the state, all the way down to local city governments.

    Everyone seems to like this idea just fine — even the most loyal lovers of big government want the citizens to be able to run the show on their own terms — but we hit a rock when it comes to its partner, responsibility. Authority implies responsibility, yet Americans apparently want plenty of the former and none of the latter. If any seminational crisis occurs, a million cries of negligence, callousness and incompetence rise up with fingers all pointed in one direction: That of the federal government. Even if the federal government were the sole authority, it is still a democratically elected authority, involving at least a minimal amount of participation from the masses. But politically, the American citizenry does not seem to realize this — they want W to be held accountable for everything. Yet being able to blame everything on the guy at the top is a trait of an authoritarian regime, not a federalist republic such as ours.

    The politics on campus mirror this tendency. Listening to fellow students go on tirades about the worthlessness of all individuals in student government, it appears that a simple change of office holders would make all the world right again on campus. And of course, when parking fees do not go down, when student organizations are not blandly inoffensive, and when the hot water in the dormitory goes out, it is necessary to vote the morons out come next election. What’s that? No one has ever been able to really fix these things? Well then, the world is full of idiots save you. What a pitiful fate.

    The lesson is not new: If you want to complain about how something is being done, then you best try to show that you can do better. Judging from the dismal participation in campus politics at UCSD, it’s fair to say that the student body has completely forgotten that maxim. Those who are politically active can almost be split into two groups: one group that does, and one group that ridicules what is done.

    Even when there is blame to be laid, the alacrity with which we go about assigning it is almost equally as disturbing. Obviously, the chaos of Katrina could have been prevented or eased if several groups and individuals had behaved differently. But politics finds the honest answer of “human error” unacceptable. Mudslingers often assume they’ll never be worthy of getting hit; apparently they themselves have never made a mistake, and are omniscient in the matter of all things, weather and social science included.

    Is it simply that we cannot make sense of this world without morons and weasels? If you note the rhetoric flung around campus during election time, people of all sorts are not only incompetent, apparently, but pernicious as well. There’s nothing like having someone to knock down, and it’s horrible to have a woe without a perpetrator.

    College students in particular are awful about this. There is a collective ethos among many that if only we were in charge of things, everything that’s wrong would be right.

    Truly, how long can one be involved in campus life without hearing one of these tirades against everyone save the speaker and their group — and how many of us have also somewhat embarrassingly found ourselves spouting the same?

    We rarely look at things from a distance; we never stop and notice that there are a million threads twisted together to create an event, and their relations and influences on each other are equally tangled. Perhaps it is our anger that our problems cannot be so simply ascribed to a single, insidious source that drives us all so mad, and makes us insist on the only conclusion we can come to with our short vision: Someone has done us wrong, and were we only in charge, we would not have been so mistaken.

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