There is a problem that has plagued societies across the globe for as long as we have been able to organise and communicate. This is the problem of blame. We see throughout history that blame is more often than not the root of conflict and, on a larger scale, war.
It is blame that ends marriages, and blame that sours friendships. It is blame that sends soldiers to battle. Blame has been, and still is, used to justify just about any unjustifiable action taken against another.
To blame is to hold someone accountable for an action. Revenge is a reaction so that the one to blame is punished for the action. We see this in all complex animals. A dog when kicked will snarl and bite at the kicker in the hopes of stopping this action reoccurring. What a dog fails to consider is that this reaction in no way reduces the pain felt at the time and is not an efficient method of stopping the kicking occurring once more. Of course, as with most things in nature, it is a short term solution. The kick may not happen again in the same hour, for the kicker will be in fear of the dog. But this only marginally reduces the risk of it happening in the future and in fact, sometimes, given the nature of the kicker, could increase the chances of it reoccurring.
This very logic is what our prison system is built on. We put people in prison to punish them; exact revenge for an act they have committed. This does not stop the punished committing the act again, it would seem they are more likely to recommit an offence once been put in prison. It also does not lessen the pain of the person who is affected by the act committed. This prompts the question: What exactly are the prisons for then? It seems that their primary function is blame. This is a societally acceptable blame but in no way serves anyone involved nor the society of which they are apart.
I find blame’s redundancy within society a product of the fact that it, as a concept, is fundamentally redundant. I must ask you now reader to consider the following concept with an open mind. I must also ask you to consider what little importance there is in whether or not what I purpose is true.
To put it simply: One does not have control over one’s choices. A person’s choice in any situation is governed by two factors: the context and the character. The context refers to the situation a person is in and all the previous situations they have experienced from the moment of birth up until the point of decision. A person’s context is constantly changing as they move through time. This is an important to remember. The second factor, the character, refers to the physical entity that is the person themselves: their brain, its chemistry and make up, and the wider body. This is constantly changing and developing from moment to moment as a result of the person’s experiences up until this point. This too is important. These two factors combine to govern one’s choices in any situation. Therefore, examining a person at the moment of choice will lead us to conclude that the choice that was made was made so because of the unique combination of context and character. No matter how many times we place that very specific marriage of context and character at a choice, the same choice will always be made. To extend it further, if you were placed at that same choice armed with identical context and character to the person we mentioned before, you would make the same choice.
One does not have control over one’s choices. One’s choices are governed by two distinct factors: the context and the character; both of which are the result of all previous iterations of themselves and are constantly changing and therefore can be cultivated. Most importantly: one does not have any control over them.
We must therefore call into question the very nature of blame. How can one being blame another when said being has had no choice over their actions? When we banish blame and choice from our minds the focus must then shift to a more empathetic area. Instead of punishing, we logically move to improving; specifically, improving one’s context and character so to prevent the negative action occurring or reoccurring. The purpose of the prison system shifts from punishing those who are at blame to rehabilitating and improving those people whose context and characteristics have lead them to this point. As I asked you to bear in mind, neither of these factors are set in stone, both are ever changing and therefore can be cultivated.
I ask you now to attempt to consider the world from this point of view. Consider the actions of your friends and family through this lens. Do we not do it to some extent already? Do we not make excuses for a relative’s outlandish behaviour on the basis that we know what he’s been through, what has lead him to this point? You will find yourself moving away from the impulse to blame and seek vengeance, and instead attempting to empathise and understand the people around you. The importance in this lies in what an acceptance of the statement means for how one views the people with which they share this world.