The Blame Game
One thing I’ve observed in life is that people are quick to place blame. They forget that some things are just accidents or bad luck. In their zeal for justice, they will assign responsibility to people who are completely innocent. Even in cases wherein the accused were in fact a cause of the misfortune, objections that there was no reason for them to have known or acted differently fall on deaf ears. Honest mistakes are not allowed.
I once received a ball as a present and promptly brought it outside to play. My friend and I took turns kicking it up the driveway and letting it roll back down. We had little control over its exact arc, but no reason to be concerned of where it might fall. After a while, my friend kicked the ball and it landed just the right way on the top of a barbed-wire fence, where it deflated and hung. It was an obvious accident that could just as easily have been made by me and I knew that balls kept in the safety of my closet are no fun at all. I was more amused by the event than anything. However, in my experience most people in my position would have blamed my friend. Most people in my friend’s position would have blamed the one who put up the fence. Those with the means to do so might have sued.
Sometimes there is also some human negligence involved. I loaned my bicycle to a different friend of mine who rode it around the corner where he collided with another friend of mine on his bike. One of the gears bent and my bike never worked after that. It was clear he was not as careful as he could have been, but how careful should he have been and what percentage of the blame was really his? If he had immediately come to a complete stop upon seeing my other friend, he likely could have avoided the accident, but there was no way to know for certain that he couldn’t dodge or that the other couldn’t dodge (they both dodged in the same direction – into each other) and he had only a fraction of a second to decide. Who among us hasn’t made mistakes of this nature? How many times have I been distracted by a bird or bug and taken my eyes off the road for a second, but nothing happened because no one else was around? Stopping our bike or car every time there is the slightest question of safety would mean we would never drive anywhere at all. Merging into traffic would be very much impossible. There is a such thing as being too careful.
In any case, some of the blame was also on the one my friend collided with. Neither of them were as careful as they could have been going around that corner. Some of the blame could also be placed on the manufacturer. The gear should not have bent like that in such a low-speed collision (they were both going just over walking speed). I’ve had my bike fall over before at similar speeds and nothing happened, but this one time something did. Sometimes it’s just bad luck.
As children, it seems we understand this. We can tell the difference between accidents and genuine malice. Sometime along the way to adulthood, we learn that we can hire a lawyer to trick a judge/jury and win a lot of money. It’s like the lottery! To protect themselves, companies print warning labels that make us laugh. Some make us sign waivers we worry will protect them from even legitimate grievances. Restaurants salt steps that aren’t even icy and put up signs to warn of puddles. I’ve always thought that anyone unable to see the puddle is likely to also be unable to see the sign. They could trip over it. Among my peers it was considered proof that all adults were crazy.
Property owners become very protective of their borders. One guy in the neighborhood was terrified that children playing in his yard might get hurt and their parents sue, yet he had rented out the downstairs apartment to a family with children. What was he thinking? The church next door was terrified that some of their shrubbery might be damaged and also attempted to crack down on play – even though many of their members were children. Where were we supposed to play? In the middle of the street?
There is no life worth living that is safe. The only life free of change is called death. Everybody has different levels of tolerance and I do not wish to impose my way of life on anybody; I just wish they would stop imposing on me.
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My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.