Queen D has decamped for sunnier climes in Cape Town. But don’t be too jealous, Shinies. Think of her as you dowse yourselves in Springtime showers while she dampens a small flannel for her morning ablutions.
You’ve probably heard about the water crisis in this beautiful city, now perhaps heading for the dubious distinction of being the first city in modern times to run out of water.
Infamy is not a desirable trait unless you’re Russell Brand, but despite the eyes of the world resting on them, the city’s politicians aspire to be famously stupid with lots of shouting and finger pointing. Blaming is not pretty.
When things go wrong, we naturally want to find out why and whose fault it is. So listen up everyone! It’s time to play the Blame Game! You must have played it before. It’s really popular. You can play it anywhere – in the office, at home, with friends and family. Here’s the board and the dicey dice. First, pick a problem. The lost document, stain on the carpet or huge row after a night out. Then choose a charm. My favourite is the pointy finger, but there’s the duck or the diver, the soapbox and the glaring eyeball. Win by finding a likely culprit to dump in the giant cart of manure in the sin bin.
Throw a paddy to begin. Land on a fault and pick a card from the accusation pack with handy phrases like “why didn’t you” and “you should have”. Opt for the cast iron excuse box, but don’t land on the revolving door. Everything turns around and you become the fall guy. Obscurity beckons, loser!
It’s no fun playing the blame game in real life. Where blame dominates, fear follows. At work, performance plummets. At home, it saps trust.
My sister was born to blame. While I lurched through teen hell she could rap out “it was her!” in her sleep. Even when she was awake, she’d spit it out before I’d taken the first swig, bite or drag. Her nickname at school was Nonstick. Attaching blame to her was like trying to nail jelly to a wall.
Some people slip slide away when there’s trouble, never taking a share of the blame. They melt into walls and slither under doors when fan and shit meet. If they have to stick around, self justification is as instinctive to them as breathing.
Blaming others is an insidious treacherous trait, stealthily slithering up on its unwary victim. Spot the strike of the marketing puff adder. “Unfortunately, her report wasn’t in on time.”
It’s so easy to blame someone or something else for our shortcomings. A, B or C has made us vile tempered/irritable/ineffective. Women blame PMT, nannies and sleepless nights. Men blame Antonio Conte, tight underpants and the dog. But it’s one thing to blame the ninth Mojito for our night on the bathroom floor, quite another to blame the person who bought it for us.
Blame fertilizes discontent. “If you weren’t so tired” grows into “you’re always tired,” then bursts into bloom with “you’re no fun, it’s no wonder I had an affair.” Blame frees us from responsibility. If it’s someone else’s fault, it can’t be ours.
Mothers are great at it. When Harper smacks Amelia round the head, it’s because he’s tired or got a cold, not because he’s a badly brought up little shit. Alcohol’s good fuel for blaming too. “I told her she was fat and no one likes her because I was pissed.” Oh that’s all right then.
Some people turn blaming into an art form. Forget the Baftas. Let Queen D take you to the Blame Game Academy Awards ceremony, where the top prize of a diamond-encrusted pointy gold finger has just been handed to Melinda Mindless.
“Oh gosh! I’m so grateful for this award for Best Blamer. Thank you, Academy! Thank you! It’s taken me decades of blaming to get here, but every accusation, every minute of being a victim has been worth it. First, I’d like to blame my mother for loving my brother more than me, my father for playing golf, and my sister for being happy. I want to heap blame on my teacher in year 10 who made me fail geography and maths and the bitch in HR for failing to recognise my talents as an astronaut and forcing me to remain head of stationery. Finally, and most sincerely of all, I’d like to blame my bastard of a husband for screwing up my life. Thank you so much!”
We’re all at it. Queen D is as god-fearing as a pebble, but comes from Bible-bashing stock so knows the old book quite well. “First remove the beam of wood out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of sawdust out of your brother’s eye.”
My sister has an entire rain forest in one eye, but mea culpa, I’ve been known to find tiny splinters of fault in other’s orbs while peering through my own optical timber yard.
Maybe we are born to blame, or we pick it up at school, or catch it like a virus if we rub up against someone infected with rash accusations. But we can cure it if we have good parents and mentors, or by suffering a painful but beneficial dose of self-examination. If we heal ourselves of the fear of being wrong, we develop ways to shoulder a fair share of blame and take responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings.
Not that sometimes blame isn’t gloriously justified. The blame heaped on the head of Jacob Zuma by a furious nation last week is more fetching than a pack of gun dogs. But Queen D isn’t dancing for joy over Zuma’s ruin, she’s dancing for rain.
Here in the Mother City, every citizen is learning blame doesn’t pay. It’s too late to blame anyone for the lack of vision and dearth of infrastructure for water. The crisis is upon us and no amount of shouting and pointing will stop the taps running dry. Only residents washing in eggcups, the skill of engineers working round the clock and the whims of the weather gods can do that.
Last night, the heavens opened and Cape Town rejoiced. So please join Queen D and raise a glass of the world’s greatest treasure – fresh clean water. Blame-free cheers, everyone!