I’ve been thinking about blame over the past few days. When horrible things happen, or when people want to get things done quickly, we often blame others – and in the process feel quite a bit better.
Take Jeremy Corbyn. He’s taking a lot of flak at the moment (I’ve engaged in it myself to a certain degree) (more here) for simply saying the kind of things that the disadvantaged have been looking to hear said for at least five years, maybe considerably longer.
That is to say:
- they are not to blame for the situation of poverty in which they find themselves
- they are not to blame for the state of economic injustice and corruption which surrounds them – nor, more importantly, are they deserving of it
- they are not to blame for the violent conflicts of reason and logic which a casual media rhetoric has been raising
- they are not to blame for the incoherences of a collapsing early 21st century capitalism
Corbyn himself has gone so far as to create a webpage where people can proclaim their desire for a unified Labour – a collaborating Labour too, is that? Definitely not a blaming one … – even as Blairites and some left-wingers proceed to spit hairballs at each other.
And whilst I’ve been thinking around the subject of politics, society and blame, I can’t help wondering that maybe the main tool of multiple policymakers and governors everywhere – not just our own bewilderingly bad Tories of the last five years – is this concept of culpability as applied to the business of organising society.
Would a politics which didn’t blame even work?
Could we make a broader existence work without its intervention?
And where blame doesn’t exist at the moment, is it really true that it doesn’t? Couldn’t we equally argue that its apparent absence indicates only a desire to cover up what is an unavoidable and intrinsically human way of behaving?
I’m not sure if the latter has to be the case. I think blame culture, the prevalence of which has a lot to do with leaders who borrow easy resources to get their own ways, is one of the most learned processes on the planet. And as it is so widely learned, so it could be just as widely unlearned.
What, then, would a society without a blame culture look like? For starters:
- we wouldn’t focus on wasting our energies on internecine battles and debate
- we could focus, instead, on external goals we could share, promote and gather forces to achieve
- in the absence of possessiveness, those external goals would then easily internalise themselves as they quickly & seamlessly become intricate parts of ourselves and our communities
- groups and communities of all sorts would hopefully lose their exclusivities and jealousies, so allowing their members and inhabitants to become more generous beings
Just imagine an IDS who could enthuse the participation of citizens in the grand reshaping of welfare governance over the next Parliament. Just imagine a Grayling capable of getting evidence-based professionals and lawyerly folk to praise his attention to detail and grasp of the broader picture. Just imagine a Hunt able to generate and engender morale-boosting cooperation from a myriad of workers in the complex hierarchies that make up our treasured health services.
A politics without blame?
Now that really would be something, wouldn’t it?
And so, finally, onto the Labour leadership campaign itself.
Is such a politics the goal of Corbynism? That is to say, essentially what Corbyn might be – even where only implicitly – promising. And more significantly, if it were, would he be able to actually deliver – particularly where no one else (at least once in power) has really consistently cared to?
If it were what he was looking to serve up, and I felt he had the necessary skillsets, I tell you I’d vote for him without a second’s thought.
However, as I see it right now, an irritating second’s thought does raise its tiresome profile.
Is it actually possible that any politician, however well-grounded in the grassroots of trades unionist defences, could ever properly resist the temptation to use blame as a device to channel, organise and fight what could very soon become a barely figurative battle to the political death?
I’m not talking about Labour here.
I mean the wider political spectrum.
It’s a thought, anyway.
Myself meanwhile, barely an activist at all, I’ll be looking in the autumn to lever a new kind of hyperlocal, where the jealousies and exclusivities of politics can hopefully be engineered by design out of the system.
So any of you out there want to join the party? (Oh, and when I say party, I’m not actually saying Party …!)