J. T. Glover (jtglover) wrote,
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Blame, Fault, and Responsibility

Lately I've been thinking about the nuances of fault, blame, and responsibility. Not generally, but in the context of the BP oil spill. Who is at fault, and who is to blame, and who is responsible are three different things, I think.

"Blame" strikes me as largely useless. It's the natural predecessor to killing the sacrificial goat, not because the goat offended the gods, but because everyone feels that some goat needs to be sacrificed. Much like revenge, it's not very useful in solving problems, merely in feeling better about them. BP executives say stupid things? Well, yes. They're an oil company. BP executives are going to be the people who (a) have no trouble working for oil companies (but see below) and (b) seek power. We thought they were going to be sensitive angels? (Note: I say this despite having been very, very angry with some of their public responses to the situation.)

"Fault" is somewhat more neutral, and it's a reasonable term to use in describing the people who were asleep at the switch (physically, morally, intellectually) in the series of events that led to the spill. Corners were cut during this process, and people need to be held accountable for what they did. Both as a warning to future violators and because it's the right thing to do. The level of damage caused by this accident is such that the responsible parties ought, in my opinion, to be eligible for some sort of felony charges. The damage to life and property caused goes far, far beyond what any civil award can ever cover. Can I do anything to ensure the guilty are brought to justice? I have doubts. Maybe via letters to the editor, contacting congressmen, that sort of thing, but I think the outrage is already reaching the proportions it needs to reach for that to happen.

But.

But, but, but.

"Responsibility."

That's an interesting word to conjure with. It seems to express the most neutral, yet factual, degree of associated-with-this-thing that I can think of. Might could replace it with "contributory," but I don't think that one's quite right.

"Responsibility" feels to me (at least in this situation) like something that one can choose to accept. BP and Transocean wouldn't have been out there in the first place if, like, the entirety of industrialized civilization weren't tied up in fossil fuels. If there were not a massive, grasping, overwhelming demand for it, people wouldn't be trying to locate the supply in ever-more treacherous and unprofitable areas. And it's been that way, effectively speaking, forever. Nobody now living knows of a time when it wasn't; older people might have lived in less industrialized areas, but it was happening. None of us created the situation--the people responsible for that are long gone--but we can choose to minimize the overuse, the waste, the reliance on Earth-destroying chemicals and processes. It's not about one person trying to save the world, but one person trying to take responsibility for their own impact on it. (Put please, oh please, without being smug about it.)

As I said above, I'm thinking less and less that blaming does any good. And it sure as hell doesn't do anything for the totally, 100% not responsible victims of the BP oil spill. The mosquitoes, pelicans, and shrimp don't care who goes down for it. They would just like to live.

Partly as a result of my last post and some of the comments on it, I am nursing a scheme. A Secret Plan for a better world. I shall reveal it on the seventh day down the road.

In the meanwhile, if you have a few bucks to spare and have not donated to the relief efforts, please consider sending a couple dollars to the National Wildlife Federation to help ameliorate the effects of the BP oil spill...
Tags: caring, environment
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