By Helena Hanson
I am a self-confessed blame shifter. I like to blame other people for things that are essentially my own fault. There is likely to be some sort of psychological analysis that could be done that would explain my blame shifting. Perhaps it is the consequence of some significant childhood trauma that I have repressed throughout my life or something equally as dire. But this is a start. Hello everybody, my name is Helena Hanson, and I am a blame shifter.
There is a simple way to discover whether or not you also are a blame shifter. When I look in the cupboard and find that I have no chocolate digestives, when I thought I had at least a couple left over, I automatically assume somebody else must have eaten them. It does not occur to me to think back to the night previous, and consider that I may have potentially eaten the whole packet by myself within the space of an hour while I watched The Apprentice.
A few days ago my favourite mug disappeared. It was only after hours of forcefully cross-examining my flatmates and accusing every human to have set foot in our house since September of smashing it and surreptitiously throwing it away behind my back, that I discovered it on my bedroom windowsill, behind three other mugs. Oops. If any of the above sound familiar, it is with regret that I inform you, you too are a blame shifter. Welcome. *sympathetic applause*
Late for work? Bloody traffic lights! Got no money? Bloody don’t get paid enough. Bad day? Bloody horoscope. Tired? Bloody neighbours. Tripped over in those ankle boots that I knew were two sizes too big when I bought them but they were in the sale so I couldn’t resist and took them anyway even though I knew I would trip myself up? BLOODY CARDIFF COUNCIL AND THEIR BLOODY UNEVEN BLOODY PAVEMENTS I TELL YOU.
We do it every day. We blame that guy who bumped his car for causing a traffic jam and making us late for work. We blame our flat mates that we’re poor this month, because they always have the heating on. We blame our lecturers, because we’re failing and our deadlines are too close. Really we know it’s not their fault. We are late because we snoozed our alarm too many times and didn’t leave the house on time. We are skint because we bought that £75 Zara coat that we didn’t really need. We are failing because we go out too much and can’t be arsed to organise ourselves appropriately.
There’s a dark side to blame shifting though. A depth that is more frightening than the triviality of forgetting you’ve eaten all your snacks, or swearing at a grey cloud. The blame game extends further than our own little lives. It magnifies and multiplies over borders and generations and populations. It grows and teaches and preaches and spreads like wildfire. Until one day the blame no longer feels like just an accusation, it becomes actuality. It becomes fact.
Because the Islamic community did 9/11 right? With the help of Bush of course! And black people are responsible for America’s gun crime right? And the Mexicans keep raping the women of America, but it’s definitely the girl’s own fault too ’cause you know like she had a skirt on and some slutty eyeshadow. Oh, don’t even get me started on the gays! Did you know that they invented heart disease? Yeh! Just like Beyonce murdered Whitney and Mickey Mouse shot Biggy! Global warming? That’s the polar bears own fault mate!
Stop blaming refugees and migrants for the fact you can’t get a job, Steve. You haven’t got a job because you only have four GCSE’s and deal drugs. Those that you say are stealing your jobs work in education, law, medicine, Steve. They aren’t stealing your job in Poundland. Even if they were, it’s not ‘stealing’ unless they take what belongs to you, and it never did belong to you really, did it Steve?
It has been proven that you are more likely to be crushed to death by a sofa than killed by a Muslim. A sofa. Yet, we still blame the Islamic community for terrorism. Imagine trying to live your life, and every day being expected to account for, or apologise for the actions or beliefs of others. Even if it’s just a minuscule few that have no connection to you- other than that they claim to practice the same religion, or speak the same language, or have the same skin colour, or bloody don’t even have the same skin colour.
I have a privilege that I can acknowledge. Whilst I cannot claim to understand how it feels to be blamed every day just for being who I am, the closest I imagine I will ever experience to this feeling is at work. If you have ever worked in hospitality, or even retail, you will know how it feels to be blamed for something that you have absolutely no control over. Things you are always expected to apologise for, that have absolutely nothing to do with you.
“This food doesn’t taste nice.” I’m sorry, I didn’t cook it. “Well I had money on my card yesterday!” “You used to accept these loyalty cards!” “The prices have gone up!” “It’s too expensive here!” “This ice cream is overpriced!” “Your prices are ridiculous!” “I can’t afford to eat here!”. I’m sorry, I didn’t make the prices. I don’t even know who did make the prices. I can’t change the prices. In fact, you know what, I agree with you that the ice cream is too expensive, but I don’t have any control over somebody else in a different position to me, somewhere else in the world, who decides to make the prices. I WOULDN’T PAY THOSE PRICES EITHER. I DON’T AGREE WITH INCREASING PRICES. I AM JUST AS APPALLED AS YOU ARE. I HAVE THE SAME PRINCIPLES AS YOU DO. I AM JUST TRYING TO GET BY LIKE YOU ARE. I JUST FUCKING WORK HERE.
Imagine that feeling you get, of grievance and frustration, of injustice. Multiply it by a million. Then by another million. Even then, it’s not even close to as damning because you can complain to a manager if you want to. You can quit that job if you have to. You can leave that company if you need to. You can’t just quit where you come from, or what you look like, or your religion.
Blame your flatmates, blame your horoscopes, blame the weather. Don’t blame nations, religions, innocent people who are being blamed every day for things that they didn’t do.
Just blame the blamers, it wont effect them. They’re too busy blaming the Mexican’s anyway.