I’m still enjoying Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series (and will be for quite a while, as there are at least 14 books, maybe more—this gal can write!). Today’s contemplation comes from The Darkest Pleasure, although my thought experiment reflects the premise of the entire series, so it is not specific to any one story. In the Lords’ world, Hunters seek to capture the Lords, enslave their demons back into Pandora’s Box, and rid the world once and for all of Pain, Misery, Disease, Death, Violence, etc. The Hunters believe that once the demons are no longer able to influence the world, then all will be utopia. I first thought that this particular aspect of the backstory was a little weak, because, really, who would believe something so stupid and patently false? But then I started thinking about the world today and even those in my own household, not to mention my family of origin. And while I cannot personally relate to playing the Blame Game, and making others responsible for my actions and my life, apparently, there are a lot of folks who can. Donald Trump supporters come to mind. Oops, did I say that out loud?
In the book, Reyes and Danika have an exchange about the Hunters and the philosophy of those who seek to inter the Lords of the Underworld and incapacitate their demons. Reyes says, “As long as humans have free will, the world will never be perfect. We do not force them to do bad things, they do them of their own volition… Hunters are disinclined to consider that truth, however. It’s far easier to simply blame all their problems on that which they do not understand.” Amen, brother. You got that right.
Before I continue, I need to disclose that I’m virulent on the subject of playing the blame game. There is no personality trait I despise more than not taking responsibility for our own shit. I hate excuses and I particularly loathe the idea that we are a victim of unlucky circumstance or other people’s bad behavior. Makes me insane and reminds me of my mother, of whom I have few fond memories. So this is a topic near and dear to my heart and about which I have strong opinions (truth be told, I have strong opinions on lots of things).
So back to Reyes and his conviction that humans are disinclined to acknowledge their own agency in any bad behavior they exhibit and their tendency to point the finger at others as the source of any sort of unpleasantness. Kids excel at this game; in my house, it’s never clear who’s at fault for any given transgression. One twin will blame the other who will blame his brother in return. Reasonable doubt abounds and the little stinkers get away with murder as a result.
The most dangerous version of the blame game isn’t the one we play with others, however. It’s the one we play with ourselves. And I’m not taking about onanism. I’m talking about the stories we tell ourselves about why we haven’t succeeded or achieved or received. What we tell ourselves—and others—about how we got screwed out of the job, the promotion, the good grade, the championship, the girl, the guy, and the lottery ticket. Because it’s always someone else’s fault. It’s someone else’s stubbornness, or malfeasance or stupidity or whatever. There is no way that any of this was my fault or my doing. It happened to me, and isn’t that grossly unfair?
And, as we know, the blame game leads quickly to a rousing round of the “If Only” game. If only that other schlub hadn’t won the race, or dunked the ball or raised his hand first or arrived before me. Then, I would have won. I find this particular version of the blame game especially infuriating. As my mother used to say, “If only my grandmother had balls, she’d be my grandfather.” Quite. If “Just this once” are the three most dangerous words in the English language, then “If Only” are the two most dangerous ones. These two little works reflect one of the most tragic lines in cinematic history, when the late, great Marlon Brando said with such anguish, “I coulda been a contender.” Perhaps. If only. But it didn’t, and you weren’t. And blaming something or someone else not only means we’re a failure, at whatever it was, but we’re also a victim, which is the worst thing of all to be.
So, what’s the solution here? Easy peasy. Don’t blame others. Grow a pair and own your own shit. We must admit our mistakes and learn from them. Nelson Mandela said, “Don’t judge me by how many times I fell down. Judge me by how many times I got back up.” Ain’t that the truth? We all fail. And mostly, it’s our own fault. And that is OK, because sometimes we need to fall down so that when we get back up, we can rise higher than before and we can become winners. No one who plays the blame game ever wins. That’s a game for losers. Reyes knows this, and his judgment of the Hunters is obvious. And I know it, and my judgment is the same. So, let’s be winners. Let’s abandon the blame game and leave it to the losers. They’ll blame it all on us anyway.