Fixing the Blame

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

I saw a commercial the other day on TV here. Let's just say, folks never fail to disappoint me. I had hoped for something more lucid coming from folks who work statistics, but then, if the question is wrong, or the input is wrong, the statistics will be skewed to support or discount the wrong question.

In the US, it has never failed to amuse me that folks don't see the illogic in the following: someone gets drunk, gets in their car, runs over a pedestrian; another someone (or perhaps the same someone) get drunk, picks up their handgun, shoots a pedestrian. In both cases we have two elements in common, the someone and the alcohol, but the cases differ in the instrument used to cause a death or injury. In the first case, most folks want to blame the drink, and in the second case, the handgun. Personally, I've never seen a bottle of whiskey drive a car or shoot a gun. I've also never seen either a car or a gun do anything unless operated by a person. So why are we blaming any of the car, the gun, or the liquor for the something obviously not their fault?

The commercial I watched blamed speed, alcohol, or talking on cell phones as the three leading causes of auto accidents here in Panama. Apparently, either the question or the input to answer the question is skewed. The real blame should be placed squarely on one of the following: arrogance, ignorance, or apathy resulting in a failure to abide by the traffic laws. The other day I found myself behind six other cars at a stop sign. Two signs, one below the stop sign which read (in Spanish) NO LEFT TURN, and a prior sign (about 20 feet before the stop sign) with an arrow showing a left turn and a big red slashed circle on top of it -- i.e., the international sign for no left turn. EVERY ONE of the six vehicles in front of me turned left. I don't know if the meaning of NO LEFT TURN has been changed to LEFT TURN ONLY or what (no I didn't turn left, but was wondering if I was the only one of the drivers about to get a ticket).

I have asked the question in previous postings what causes the apparently universal cultural attitude within the Latin community that laws are for everyone else, but for whatever reason don't apply to them. This includes the police who set only a bad example for drivers. I still don't have an answer to my question.

I can't compare this to anywhere else, as Panama is the only country where I've been to traffic court (on _way_ too many occasions), and even after the judge issues his findings explaining the point of law and everything, the offending party _always_ says they appeal. FACT: you ran the stop. FACT: you caused an accident. FACT: no mechanical failure caused you to not be able to stop. FACT: you've been charged with causing the accident based on the above and other facts. Why you ran the stop is irrelevant. So what are you appealing? Did the judge rule that you're ugly and you want another opinion?

Are any of the above transgressions fixable? Of course they are, but I don't expect to see it in my lifetime. First, folks need to stop blaming everything and everyone else (especially God) for their failures -- admit them. Second, recognize that you're NOT special/privileged/whatever. You have the same rights and responsibilites as everyone else, accept them rather than shirk them.

Will this ever happen? Will attitudes change? Will Ursus Americanus stop defecating in a stand of conifers? Stay tuned for updates (but don't hold your breath).

Meanwhile, let's see if we can stop blaming inanimate objects for actions they're not capable of. Then let's see if we can fix the problem rather than the blame.


Fixing the Blame

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