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Simon Parke: Why not just give it a rest?

17 August 2011

IT IS good for the politicians to go away on holiday in August. It gives them a rest from politics, and it gives us a rest from the dullest show on earth: the blame game.

I was talking to an elderly neigh­bour recently who wants me to write her life story. I asked what would be the highlight if I did. “Evacuation,” she said, without hesitation. Georgie was evacuated from London in1941, when she was three years old. The bombs were falling — a Blitz far worse than recent events in the capital — and she was sent to Hitchin, where her aunt and uncle lived. This was good news for Georgie; for, despite her age, she knew she did not like it at home.

She was happy in Hitchin, where she chose to live even after the war was over, hoping that she would be adopted; but her aunt and uncle were strict. She had to go to church every Sunday, although the smell of the incense made her feel sick. And, if she had a tantrum, she had to sit on the stairs. This felt very harsh.

If the stairs did not work, she was sent outside. She had to go down to the bottom of the garden, standby the shed, and “shake Hitler offher back”. Her aunt and uncle would watch from the window as she walked. When she reached the shed, she had to shake herself, as if trying to dislodge a clinging man from her back. With Hitler dis­patchedto the nettles, she would then return to the house, her tantrum subsiding.

On the Day of Judgement, Hitler must take responsibility for many things, but Georgie’s tantrums will not be among them. Insisting that Hitler takes the rap for these is to mimic the Nazis in their absurd blaming of the Jews for 1930s Germany. Blame, however, is far too primal to be concerned about such niceties. Blame is born out of panic and fear; so do not expect it to be reasonable.

The opposite of apportioning blame is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility is a strong river of energy in us, driving our truest self. When we blame someone else, we direct water away from this big river and, like a mill in a drought, our true self is enfeebled.

If blaming others is our normal way, our powerful waterway within is reduced to a weak trickle, with no energy to drive life, virtue, or good action.

Taking responsibility is the act of the fearless; blaming others is the act of the frightened, and there is no pure energy there. This is why it is good for politicans to get away on holiday. It gives them a rest from diverting water from their river of life; and gives us a rest from role-models who, in always blaming the other party, bring out the fearful and primal worst in us.


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