Other countries that have not done so well on the pandemic are further down the list. The US is 37th and Brazil is 74th.
When done in the right way, casting blame also has an important social function. Holding perceived transgressors, including those in positions of power, to account for their failures and mistakes reinforces society’s rules and acts as a deterrent against those who would flout them.
Blame can alleviate stress, grief and guilt
Blaming is also a normal psychological process that allows individuals to manage stress and fear when faced with life-threatening upheavals.
One of the most powerful human needs is to feel we have some sense of control over our environment – and COVID-19 has undermined this in spectacular fashion.
Control includes the ability to explain why things happen. And pointing fingers at an easy scapegoat, such as the government, can sometimes provide the answers we need to regain control.
Read more: Can Victorians stick to the stage 4 rules? Our perception of what others are doing might be the key
Loss of control is also frequently accompanied by grief. In psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ famous “five stages of grief” from the 1960s, anger is identified as one of the emotions people need to confront in the grieving process. And anger is often associated with finger pointing.
As Kübler-Ross’s collaborator, David Kessler, said this year, people are grieving in a completely new way due to the coronavirus, and part of this is manifested through anger at authority figures, as in, “you’re making me stay home and taking away my activities”.
This is a normal emotion, but one that people need to get past:
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbour is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands.
Some people may also feel partly responsible for Australia’s inability to contain COVID-19, yet unable to personally make a difference.
Blame helps reconcile these feelings. If someone else is at fault for the pandemic spiralling out of control — for instance, our leaders — that absolves the rest of us from blame and the burden of responsibility.