I was reading the newspaper the other day and came across a couple of stories that caught my eye, not because the stories themselves were particularly fascinating but because what they say about us as a society is particularly sad.
One was about a lawsuit filed by the Oglala Sioux tribe against some of the biggest beer brewers in the world, blaming them for the problems with alcoholism on the reservation. The tribe is asking for $500 million in damages to cover the costs of dealing with crime and social problems brought on by excessive drinking among its members.
The other was a court case involving the driver of a Muni transit bus in San Francisco who ran over and killed a pedestrian. The driver’s lawyer says the accident wasn’t the fault of the driver, it was the fault of Muni for sending him out to drive a bus in a neighborhood he didn’t know. The fact that the pedestrian was in a crosswalk, that she had the right of way, that it was a clear day, none of that matters. It wasn’t the driver’s fault. It was the fault of the people who told him to drive it.
It reminded me of the people suing McDonald’s saying the company was to blame for them being fat because they ate so many Big Macs over the years.
Why are our problems always someone else’s fault
How come people never sue Nike for making them exercise too much? “Your honor, I was helpless in the face of all those ads featuring people working out and sweating. They made me just do it.”
How come people don’t sue Whole Foods for making them eat too many organic fresh fruits and vegetables? How come it’s only the ads that encourage us to take up bad habits that are to blame for our problems. Makers of Big Macs or beer or cigarettes, they’re clearly to blame for the fact that we are overweight, or have a drinking problem or have lung cancer.
No one made you do it
Now, I don’t doubt that excessive alcohol is causing havoc on the Oglala Sioux reservation but did no one in the Oglala tribe ever put down a can of beer and say “you know, maybe drinking another five of these before breakfast isn’t such a good idea.”
Did the driver of that San Francisco bus not stop to think, “hey, I’m driving a 40 foot long piece of metal through a neighborhood I don’t know very well, maybe I ought to look out for unexpected things, like people walking across the street.”
Obviously not. When someone else screws up it’s their fault – they weren’t doing it right, they weren’t paying attention, they were being stupid. But when we screw up it’s always someone else’s fault and somehow we want to make them pay for it.
Maybe Nike has influenced them after all. Because after they just do it, they’re next thought seems to be to just sue it.