The COVID blame game

Anna Grummitt on the latest COVID lockdowns across Australia - and what might be a better response than blaming others.

Here we are again. Millions of people across Sydney, Darwin, Perth, and Queensland are locked down amidst growing COVID outbreaks. State borders have slammed shut, the trans-Tasman travel bubble is on hold, and school holiday plans are in disarray. As a friend put it glumly, the past week has had a “distinctly 2020 vibe”.

And as case numbers rise, so does the desire to pinpoint exactly who is responsible. The unvaccinated and possibly mask-less limo driver? The federal government’s vaccine rollout and quarantine failures? The NSW government for locking down too slowly – or too quickly? Or are AstraZeneca-hesitant Boomers the problem?

Blaming others seems to be a defining feature of the human condition. The Bible’s origin story for humanity sees the first humans not only stuff up but also try to pass the buck for it, justify themselves, and find fault with the way those in authority set things up (“the woman YOU put here with me, she gave me fruit from the tree”). This blame game sets a pattern for the rest of the biblical narrative – one clearly alive and well today.

But while there are legitimate questions to be asked, can we really pin the responsibility for Australia’s COVID-19 woes on particular individuals or groups? Would we really have made better decisions, had we been in charge? And where does the blame game get us, anyway? While it feels natural – and, briefly, satisfying – to join in, it’s more likely to fuel resentment than actual solutions.

Instead, what if this latest crisis offers us an opportunity – not to lay the blame at someone else’s feet, but to “carry one another’s burdens”, as the Apostle Paul famously said? As we mask up once more, those words call us to something more difficult, but much more rewarding.