Friday, September 09, 2005

Playing the Blame Game

Mere Comments has a wonderful post about the desire of humans to be masters of all that they see.  Wilfred McClay makes some interesting observations about the reactions to Hurricane Katrina and the President’s, and others’, responsibility in the rescue and relief effort.

Check it out.

Again, I make no particular judgments about this particular event. We will know more about what really happened in a few weeks or so. But many people will not care about the specifics; the important thing will be that SOMEONE IS TO BLAME. This points to an increasingly familiar pattern of expectation, which only grows as our scientific knowledge and technological wizardry grow. It parallels our society's growing rage at a medical system, including the pharmaceutical industry, that has been remarkably skillful, and more skillful in each passing year, in successfully addressing a range of diseases and conditions that were formerly thought to be untreatable. But modern medicine cannot banish the existence of risk. Which is why the system is all too often a casualty of the very expectations it raises. There is a sense in which, the more things become mastered, the more intolerable are those remaining areas in which our mastery is not yet complete…

But I do think we would do well to recognize that much of the intense and free-floating anger and unhappiness that pervade so much of our prosperous world may derive precisely from the expectations that our successes in mastering our physical environment have generated. The effects of the hurricane would be much easier to live with, were we not so intent upon convincing ourselves that some human culprits caused it. We might want to pause and reflect upon how little mastery we really have---least of all, of ourselves.


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