Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, many in the U.S. wanted to ascribe blame and get revenge.
A “preventive war” is different than a “preemptive war.” Both however, are preceded by either fear, revenge or perceived “self-defense.” A preventive war is launched in an effort to destroy a perceived potential threat by the targeted party, even when such an attack is “not imminent or known to be planned.” It is usually justified by anger or a desire for revenge. The most recent example of one is the war in Afghanistan.
A preemptive war is launched in anticipation of immediate aggression by another party, and is initiated even without a clear incentive for either party to attack the other. It is simply based upon the fear-born and irrational belief that one party is about to engage, or has engaged in an aggressive action against the initiator of the war. Such a belief usually “justifies” the preemptive action because the initiating party’s fear is diminished and therefore termed to be “defensive.” The war in Iraq is an example of a preemptive war.
Both fear-based “defensive” aggression and anger-based vengeful (spiteful) aggression have proven to be quite effective at reducing the perpetrator’s fear or anger, but always increases the fear and anger in the victims of a “successful” war.
In his book, Justifying Preventive War, Alan Buchanan concluded: “I wish to end however, on a note of caution. Nothing I have said suggests that any preventive war that has been waged in the past, including the…US invasion of Iraq, has been morally justified.” Both preventive and preemptive wars are based upon a single dynamic belief: If I believe that you believe something that I find offensive or frightening, that gives me the right to aggress against you. For thousands of years, such a belief has been the justification for waging war.
We seem to be living in a time when governments, nations and individuals are always blaming others for their mistakes, beliefs and weaknesses. It appears that blaming others has become a national habit. When we cannot identify a single person to blame, we spread the blame around to others, to fate, to Mother Nature, to God, to other nations or to anybody who isn’t us.
The dynamic of blaming others is a consequence of our personal fear of our genuine inability to control or even influence events or others. It probably begins when we were children and asked to control our own behavior (like bowel and bladder control) and couldn’t…leading to parental disapproval or punishment. When we are afraid of being “out of control,” we usually are fearful most of the time.
There is a psychological downside to blaming. It inadvertently gives the “blamee” unwarranted power over the blamer. After all, if it is always somebody else’s fault, then the blamer has no power to modify that for which he is blaming somebody else. Blaming is always assigned to events or actions that have occurred in the past. And we are all helpless to change anything that is already history. So, blaming always increases the blamer’s sense of powerlessness and helplessness. A sense of helplessness is one element in psychological depression. It is no wonder that blamers are often depressed. They also blame anybody or anything for their depression.
An alternative to blaming is “accountability.” When we are genuinely seeking accountability, we want to discover the specific cause(s) of events or actions. We ask ourselves the question: “What accounts for this event?” When we become genuinely curious about what causes events or actions, we are open to new learning. When we actually discover and understand the causes of things like disease, violence, disasters, war, and tragedies, we position ourselves to take preventative measures. If we would hold ourselves able to account for (account-able) such occurrences, we empower ourselves to do something about them now and in the future. Genuine accountability does not result in feelings of guilt. Rather, it frees us to become responsible.
Do you hold yourself accountable for the nature and quality of your life? Are you able to account for those things for which you would like to blame others? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you will feel much more powerful and able to respond appropriately to anything that “happens” in your life. You become response-able.
When you feel accountable for the quality of your life, and for everything that happens to you, you then become responsible for everything that impacts it. When you take on the responsibility for your mistakes, and even the mistakes of others, you learn from them. If you feel accountable and responsible for an explosion that occurred in someone else’s house, you will seek to discover the causes of the explosion (e.g. your neighbor was building rockets or creating methamphetamine), and you may learn what not to do to avoid explosions in your own house. If you observe and learn the responses to the explosion of others (e.g. firemen), you empower yourself to address any explosion you experience now and in the future. You become response-able for prevention and extinguishing future explosions.
Instead of blaming others or circumstance(s) for our life; instead of feeling helpless to do anything about it; instead of feeling guilty about the negative things that “just happen;” instead of blaming yourself or others (or fate); become accountable and responsible for everything that you experience in your life. When you stop blaming and start being accountable and responsible, you become more powerful, more aware, more capable, more confident, more knowledgeable and hopefully, more wise. Is there anyone who wouldn’t like to develop these qualities? Stop blaming, and you increase your chances of creating a life of your dreams.