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We live in a coddled time. While many people in the world suffer the harsh realities of everyday life, in this country we fail to take responsibility for anything – especially our actions.
The world is dumbed down for us. Health and safety means we are warned that fire is hot and falling from great heights causes damage. Even supermarkets colour-code nutritional information, because we couldn’t be expected to look at, let alone understand, the table on the side that tells us the same thing.
Is it any wonder when ordinary people cannot look after themselves? Is it the individual or their environment that has caused this worrying rise in stupidity? So many cases hit the news where people sue companies for not preventing them doing something stupid, that we could practically name an “age” after it. This isn’t the Stone Age or the Iron Age; it is the Lawsuit Age.
Blame culture isn’t new, but in recent years it has become much worse. It is easy to dismiss this as an American trend, but while it may have started in the United States, it is now a global phenomenon.
In America, there is a special set of awards dedicated to exposing the most ridiculous lawsuits of each year; the Stella Awards. Created by Randy Cassingham, it is named after the famous case of the woman who sued McDonalds when her coffee burnt her. Another entry was the case of a man from Indiana who was hit by lightning in an amusement park car park and sued, claiming the amusement park had failed to warn him about the dangers of lightning. While it has been debated whether the specific cases mentioned in the awards actually happen, it is true that similar (if not as extreme) cases take place regularly.
This trend of suing leads to more dumbing down. Companies use labels like “Caution: hot” on steaming coffee and “May contain nuts” on packets of peanuts to cover themselves. The result is less individual thought, exacerbating blame culture.
Is it just us normal citizens? Or are governments as bad? Take global warming as an example: Britain had a period of huge industrial growth in the 1700s, pouring masses of coal smoke into the atmosphere, but fails to take the blame for global warming. In Brazil, the government allows the destruction of miles of rainforest, but no blame is taken. America and Australia refused to sign the Kyoto treaty (a promise to reduce emissions). China, despite being the world’s biggest consumer of coal, refuses to acknowledge the dangers of polluting the world, thinking that as a growing country, it has a right to cheap, dirty fuel. So it is no wonder that blame culture filters down to us. Who can hold United Airlines passenger Yoichi Shimamoto responsible for getting drunk and beating his wife? It is the fault of the airline serving him the drinks. We don’t need to think, because someone else will do it for us. So just remember: no matter what you do, it will never be your fault.