The verb, ‘to blame’, is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘to feel or declare that someone or something is responsible for a fault or wrong’. Therefore it would appear on the face of it that the concept of ‘blaming’ requires two conditions: a blameworthy action has occurred, and a belief or motive to accuse another of that action.
But delving deeper, first let us consider the blameworthy act. In order to assign blame then it has often proved sufficient for an accuser to simply BELIEVE that a blameworthy act has been committed not that it has actually taken place ie blame based on suspicion or belief rather than hard evidence. Furthermore, who is to judge what constitutes a blameworthy act. What is considered an act worthy of blame by one individual may not be looked at in the same way by another person. Morals, ethics, social issues and religious views may all come into play. This blaming could be in the form of a verbal accusation, or be merely a thought.In order to verbalise the thought one would assume that the conviction of belief of blame is stronger than merely thinking that someone is to blame or that there are ulterior motives in play.
So, behind each accusation, there must be motives which led the accuser to think or say who is to blame. It may be down to them ‘feeling’ that blame should be laid at someone’s door but it may be that by blaming someone else they hide their own personal involvement in the blameworthy act. The accuser may have a personal motive in that they wish to inflict problems on the person that they accuse or there may be emotions of paranoia on their own behalf. Additionally, there is the concept of self-blame where an individual indulges in moral self-flagellation over what they did or omitted to do.
From another perspective, there could be several suspects for the blameworthy act and the dispute revolves around who is to blame. In this circumstance, the blaming could come down to which person was most likely to be ‘responsible’. This would require a different perspective from if the individual was faced in isolation as to if they committed it or not. A problem would arise here if the party wasn’t actually a suspect, thus leading to someone else then becoming wrongly accused, leaving the actual perpetrator free and not blamed. This prompts the question of if blame can be reversed, and how this impacts on the individuals involved.
This impact would depend on the degree of blaming – is the blame absolute, shared or just suspected? An absolute blame is one which places the action and all of its impacts on the person being blamed. Shared blame involves accusing more than one person of something, and doesn’t have to be split equally.
Thus, to ‘blame’ one needs an accuser and an accused. One also requires motive; this might be conviction that a blameworthy act has been carried out or, more darkly, a personal need to accuse someone of that. In the latter case, there doesn’t even need to be a blameworthy act.
written by Rachel Stanley