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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Heart of Structure and Hearts of Blame

It is intensely bizarre the extent to which we often gain much satisfaction out of sitting in judgment and placing blame.  Not infrequently we completely overlook structural causes for mishaps and freight the victims of those structures with blame.  It's much like if I had a guest in my home.  I summarily took all his socks and shoes and locked them up in an inaccessible place.  The next day, my guest must walk to town so must do so barefoot.  On his return, because of injuries to his feet during the walk, he tracks blood on my new carpet--whereupon I roundly reprimand him for soiling my carpet and being careless.  The eagerness with which I place blame upon him suggests I gain much pleasure and a remarkable ego boost from feelings of superiority.  One way of understanding this is to say that I suffer from myopia.  I focus entirely on symptoms and not more indirect causes.  The symptoms are very concrete and immediate—even sensational—while the causes are more indirect and remote and require some complexity and abstraction to understand.  Something in this way happens countless times daily in human affairs.  We often count as character defects (again from a highly superior perch) what actually have structural causes.  For example, in the absence of democracy, people too often become despots and we heap opprobrium upon them for it—never seeming to realize without the blessings of our form and structure of government the same could happen here—that despotism is the result of the absence of a structure favorable to good government.   In this regard structure is much more important than rules.  One can have codes of ethics that stack a mile high, but if the organizational structural is not favorable to ethical behavior, no amount of rules will compensate for it.

Today I find America cruel in many ways.  It seems to be inherent and we look to character degeneration and decay to explain it.  I think our focus is misdirected and should instead be raising questions as to root causes in basic organizational structures (the handful of umbrella institutions that are the fundamental building blocks of society).  I am no scientist—that's for sure—but even I realize that atomic and chemical structure forms the genesis of stability and integrity in elements and compounds and without such structural integrity no other ramifications of it would be tenable or even conceivable.

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