Blame and its illusions: an RSA Short by Brené Brown

Quite funny this:

This is from a talk at the RSA, in which the American sociologist and writer explains the toxicity of blame. Not only is blaming people not usually really about some right-minded demand for accountability, it tends towards the opposite. Seen for what it is:

Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain.

Her point is that our focus on finding someone responsible is really a way of avoiding the messy truth of events. We blame individuals because it gives us the illusion of things being more controllable than they really are – a fantasy most of us are hopelessly lost in most of the time. We need someone else to have ’caused’ our problem, because that’s a neat, wrapped-up thought that appears to do the job of providing an “answer” – which is really what we want.

Dr Brown’s website is worth a gander: “Maybe stories are just data with a soul,”  she says. I prefer to think of it the other way around. Maybe data are stories in search of a soul.

Sometimes there is an inverse proportionality between album sales and quality. Exhibit No1: the execrable "Soul Provider" by master long-hair-at-the-back exponent Bolton. See how I took the cold, raw data of album sales there and injected some soul into it?
Sometimes there is a direct, proportional relationship between album sales and the need to throw up over the recording artist. Exhibit No1: “Soul Provider” by master long-hair-at-the-back exponent Bolton. See how I took the cold, raw data of album sales there and injected some soul (and bits of my breakfast) into it?

Which is where qual comes in. Like barber-worrying soft crooner Michael Bolton, we are perhaps “soul providers”.

Actually, I hope nothing like Michael Bolton, as having analysed his work, I’ve found every last note of it to be total pants.

I seem to have lapsed into blame again. It is, as Chicago once put it, a hard habit to break.

Enough crap white soul for one day. I’ll give the final word to Mark E. Smith, in an onstage rant during The Fall’s “A Part of America Therein” tour in 1981. This line turns the tables on the blame-merchants with acid simplicity:

I am not here to cheer you up.

A line I never tire of repeating, if only in my head.

Published by Simon Riley

Qualitative researcher in the UK. I listen to people from all walks of life and think about what it all means. I work for leading brands, media companies and government.

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