I don’t think it’s going to shock anyone if I declare a steep incline in personal accountability over the last few decades.
Given this conclusion i’m going to skip the argument of that conclusions truth and go straight to how we got there.
America likes to blame people. We blame our government, we blame the weather, we blame our schools. We blame other parents, we blame society. There’s been a distinct lack of social responsibility. Why?
A long time ago (in this exact galaxy, as it were) news was reported for an hour a day. The essentials were told, the radio or television changed to music, or another program. Filler was not required.
When twenty four hour news became “a thing” it became essential to scour for any interesting stories we could find. A network’s survival banked on ratings not one hour a day, but now twenty four of them.
There just wasn’t enough news to go around those twenty three extra hours.
So, America got into a habit of human interest stories, fluff, filler etc. At first it was harmless. Squirrel rides jet ski! Pitbull sings (an actual dog, not the talentless rapper). Woman fends off robber using a plunger.
One day, however, news networks discovered something: Fear and righteous indignation sell ratings. Almost overnight the news turned from information that facilitated you going out into the world and making the most of your day into information that made you afraid to leave your home. Over a long cycle Americans have become convinced the world is a place filled to the brim with child molesters, rapists, murderers, psychopaths, AIDS, Crack Pitbulls and sexual deviation.
Now, in a time where the world is safer a place than it ever has been, we’re too afraid to let our children play outside. Once this fear machine was fueled, naturally, more pressure was placed on who was responsible for our invisible war zone. Who let these AIDS infected crack smoking pitbulls onto our street, and what are they going to do about it? It started with the politicians, the war on drugs and the like. Once we tasted the succulent flavor of a politicians downfall we wanted more.
We developed the hunger.
Soon, celebrities, the media, the gays, religions and corporations were on the menu: not because we had a legitimate qualm but because we wanted more. We wanted that delicious shadenfreude. Humans blame others to cover their own inadequacies and hide from their own shortcomings. We delight in tearing others down because we want a level playing field. We, in our ego, have confused ourselves to being entitled to what everyone else has. This isn’t a matter of our fair share, no, this is a matter of what we desire. This isn’t a qualm about the one percent, but rather a social reaction. So, please don’t misinterpret this as a defense for the penny pinching scum at the top of the tallest tower. This isn’t about whether the blame is rightful, or not as well. It’s about our motive in playing the blame game to begin with.
Blame gives us unique opportunities to move on without reform psychologically. Billy gets a D on a paper and he says that his teacher hates him. Jack gets overlooked for a promotion and dismisses it for another associate’s brown nosing. Deep down we know these aren’t legitimate reasons but they’re just enough to let us forget it and move on, or bury shame.
The problem is we’ve been listening to the news blame people on our behalf for so long now that it’s become internalized. We instantly believe everyone is guilty of something if they’re famous and we instantly react to hard situations by blaming people. It has become ingrained in our culture.
In addition, I propose generation after generation of underage drinking has contributed significantly to the issue. Drinking before the age of four stunts the growth of the frontal lobe. In doing so it affects a region of the brain very important for forming personal responsibility, among other developmental skills. Time and time again studies have shown adults who drank before twenty four have a harder time developing these skills. I argue that the subsequential parenting these adults provide is lackluster in forming that maturity required for owning up behavior. In short we’ve created a cycle much reminiscent of Mike Judge’s Film, idiocracy, where each generation becomes increasingly less developed, purile and less responsible for their own actions. If we don’t address the issue now I fear that may very well be our future.