One of the more notable changes in life these days is the disappearance of accidents and/or taking blame for something. Today "an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause" is always someone's or something's fault.
It's amazing how human beings automatically devise "reasons" to explain wrong-headed actions, incompetence and plain old goofs, including "accidents."
Somewhere along the line, the it-wasn't-my-fault syndrome took root. It flowers incessantly everywhere on Maui. Shifting the blame is the name of the game, shifting it anywhere but where it belongs, which is generally at the feet of whoever is making the excuse.
The excuse as a personal defense was probably invented about the same time rocks began being used for tools and weapons. A couple of cave dudes were out to score dinner and one was supposed to chunk supper in the head but missed.
"Hey, it wasn't my fault," the inventor of the excuse and its collateral blame-game, grunted to companions. "He gave me the wrong rock. I'm used to a 6-pounder and he gave me a 9-pounder."
The other hunters probably didn't buy the "reason" for going hungry but shifting blame seemed a good way to avoid being banished to the back of the cave.
Excuse crafting falls naturally into three categories, each directly related to the age of the crafter.
Children are masters of both the transparent excuse and wildly imaginative pettifoggery. An example of the former is the blank-faced "I dunno" when questioned about how the cat happened to end up inside the refrigerator while he or she was alone in the kitchen. An example of the imaginary might be devised by a child confronted with a Magic Marker design on the living room wall. "The wind did it. I put my markers on the table by the window. A wind blew in. The curtains knocked the markers against the wall."
Teenagers overlay the child's approach with a veneer of sophistication. The reason for failing a school test? "I lost the textbook and the battery went dead on my smart phone. The class is right after PE and I'm always too tired to think straight. Besides, the teacher doesn't like me." Or:
"I was late getting home because we had a flat tire. Then the spare was flat and we didn't have any quarters for the air machine. We finally used a tire from Loki's car but he lost a contact lens. Have you ever tried to find a contact lens on the parking lot at Treats & Sweets?" This sort of cumulative excuse has been known to continue until the excuser was hoarse and the excusee is reminded irritation is a parent's lot.
Once we reach the adult category of excuse-making the only thing limiting the excuse is imagination and a capacity for self-deception. The most convincing excuses are those the excusers believe. Local politicians are past-masters of self-deception, aided and abetted by voters most comfortable with the devils they know.
In this time of pressing demands, complex situations and inexplicable forces elsewhere, there has been an erosion of creative excuses. Well, not entirely. Just sit through a civil lawsuit case in court to get your fill of creative legalities. Among the general public, there has been a trend to substitute snap phrases.
Here are a few of the most common excuses making the rounds of Maui today. You supply the situation calling for the "reason." There's not enough water. It's the economy. HC&S just doesn't want to change. No one wants to work anymore. It's the humidity. No one will use a bus or train. It's the economy. All the council members are pro-development. We need the jobs. Big-box stores have cheap stuff. Local food is too expensive. She doesn't understand me. He won't talk to me. They just don't seem to understand English. It's the economy. I'm a woman. I'm a man. I'm haole, Filipino, Portuguese, local, Hawaiian, fresh-from-California, etc. Pick one. It's the economy. We've always done it that way. Newcomers want stuff just like "back home." What can you do when Washington is so screwed up? The banks are just sitting on the money. It's the economy.
The cause gets lost in the effect. It's likely a lot of time has gone by since you heard anyone, particularly someone in a position to make a difference, say "I made a mistake." Play the blame game. File a lawsuit. Order an investigation. Point your finger and hope it doesn't go off in your face.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.