“It’s not their fault” is now the automatic response to all kinds of problems.
If you don’t agree with this response, you’re condemned as “uncaring” or worse.
But is it really caring to cram every problem into the not-your-fault mold?
Does it really help students to hear that their academic setbacks aren’t their fault? Does it really help an addict, a criminal, a homeless person, a bankrupt person, or a depressed person?
No, it doesn’t, because it makes them powerless. The not-your-fault mindset tells us to not try, because nothing we do makes a difference. But not trying makes things worse.
Why is this mindset popular if it makes things worse?
The simple answer is that it builds a strong coalition. It’s easy to recruit members into the not-my-fault club, and that makes the club powerful. You can share in its power and resources as long as you accept the “knife”—which is my nickname for the “Not Your Fault Ever” (NYFE) mindset. If you don’t accept the NYFE, you’re out.
You’re banished from the coalition if you even question the presumption that people aren’t responsible for their life outcomes. You lose access to the coalition’s resources and get branded as an enemy. It’s career suicide. It’s social suicide.
So you submit to the NYFE, even when it strikes you as patently false. You submit when you see evidence that a person would do better if they took responsibility for their choices. You say your NYFE serves the greater good, and no one challenges that because no one wants to risk career and social suicide. You repeat blame-shifting theories until they feel natural.
But then one day, you can’t.
You can’t violate your own sense of reality any longer. You aren’t sure what to say at that moment, when people are expecting to hear, “It’s not your fault,” but you just can’t repeat platitudes that feel false and detrimental. So you decide to embrace the evidence as you see it, whatever the consequences.
But why should there be heavy penalties for believing in personal responsibility? Why must we disavow personal responsibility in order to be considered good people? How did we get here?
I agonized over this for a decade while I struggled with the choice between social suicide and my own sense of reality. I spent a lot of time reading, because every minute reading was a minute not spent agonizing over that choice. That reading led to three big discoveries.
1. Marxism spread the not-your-fault mindset in the 1800s.
The word “Marxism” isn’t used much today, because believers in Marxism use new words, and non-believers are dismissed as “conspiracy nuts” for acknowledging the historical pattern.
Marxism spread around the world 150 years ago by replacing prior belief systems with the appealing proposition that everything wrong with your life is the fault of “the system.” Nothing is your fault, ever, according to Marxism, unless you’re categorized as an “oppressor.”
The NYFE has maintained popularity for 150 years because it offers power, resources, and moral superiority without your having to do anything except believe that oppression is the cause of all your problems.
2. Mammals seek safety in numbers.
Mammals often live in herds, packs, or troops because doing so promotes survival. A mammal would rather go its own way to avoid the horns of herdmates, but predators pick off isolated individuals. Mammals unite when they face a common enemy.
It’s easy to see how humans do this as well. Leaders know that fear of “enemies” keeps you in their herd, so they try hard to incite such fear. We pretend we’re motivated by loyalty and altruism as we follow the herd for our own safety.
3. Each brain is wired by its own past experience.
Each of us is born with billions of neurons, but very few connections between them. Our connections build from early experiences, so we’re easily wired to follow the herd. We’re deeply wired to see one flock as the “good guys” and another as the “bad guys,” even if the facts don’t fit.
My new knowledge helped me feel safe without following the Marxist herd. I learned how to feel like a good person, even when the Marxist herd defines me as a bad person.
It took a long time to rewire my early training with the NYFE and trust my own perceptions, so I wrote a book to help others do it faster: “How I Escaped Political Correctness, And You Can Too.”
Loretta G. Breuning, Ph.D., is founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay. She’s the author of many personal development books, including “Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels.” Dr. Breuning’s work has been translated into eight languages and is cited in major media. Before teaching, she worked for the U.N. in Africa. She’s a graduate of Cornell University and Tufts. Her website is InnerMammalInstitute.org.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.