Whom to Blame

When you feel compelled to start railing against something, screaming and yelling about how things really ought to change, consider for a moment whom you are addressing. Are you directing your remarks toward someone who is in a position to do something about it?

An example: You’re really chapped about the chemical company that keeps dumping raw sewage into the stream you swam in as a kid, and which is now too polluted for you to take your own kids swimming there.

Your target is obvious: it’s whoever is running the company, and you can identify that person and raise a little righteous hell.

But suppose you abhor, say, the free market system, or at least some aspects of it. You think it an outrage that every time unemployment drops, the bond market goes all to hell because bond traders lose money when more people find jobs. Or you find it unconscionable that the one and only guaranteed way for a company to instantly increase its stock price is to lay off workers, while the one sure way to depress its stock price is to announce an acquisition or some bold new, long-term initiative.

So you start yelling and screaming at cocktail parties about how unjust it all is, getting progressively more angry and agitated, dead convinced that somebody somewhere is at fault and, damnit, somebody ought to do something about it.

Okay. Now think for a second.

Who, exactly, are you mad at?

And what, exactly, would you like them to do about it?

And how, exactly, do you suppose those poor people whose buttonholes you’re grabbing at cocktail parties are supposed to react?

You’ve only got so much energy.

Pick your battles carefully.

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