Dan Kennedy

Here’s a new-favorite New Yorker cartoon: guy in shirt and tie at his desk, on the phone, with the caption: “I would have gotten that report to you sooner but I wasn’t held enough as a child.” A football player who dropped the pass that would have won the game actually said, “The field was muddy, it was raining, and the ball was slippery.” News flash: same conditions existed for the guys who caught balls.

America has gone from the land of personal responsibility to the land of pathetic excuse-making, from top down, bottom up; and worse, to accepting of excuses – and the entire thing should be a cause for visceral disgust. The ‘culture of excuse acceptability’ has led us to this point, and if we don’t reverse it, it will doom us.

Examples are everywhere: A whole clown car full of government incompetents damn near got 200+ people blown out of the sky on Christmas Day and not one has stepped up to say, “I screwed up, and I resign – and I’m giving back my pay for the past year as I go out the door, my head hung in shame.” The watchdogs that for years let Madoff go on defrauding people of millions all have. Why haven’t they all been fired? Or had the honor to throw themselves on their swords?

And when will something – anything – be Obama’s responsibility? (An Associated Press report in the Sunday newspapers says that the Democrats’ mid-term 2010 strategy will be to blame Bush. Maybe by the end of Obama’s third term, he’ll take ownership of something.)

The media goes along with all this rather cheerfully. I believe I’ve caught talking-heads on every network pondering the Christmas terrorist’s motivations. He comes from an affluent family, he has a good education; why, oh why, would he hate us so? What have we done to him? Well, perhaps he just wasn’t held enough as a child.

How ‘bout all those folks who bought homes they couldn’t possibly afford by taking out mortgages without bothering to read or make sure they understood the documents? Well, that’s the bankers’ fault, of course. And the obese waddling about? Fast food industry devils. People who knew the industry in which they were employed was shrinking and inevitably dying, and who had years to prepare themselves financially, educationally and professionally to adapt are just the victims of evil out-sourcers. I cringe even when my local TV news describes somebody assaulted at 3:00 A.M. in a dark public park known as a drug dealing mart, across the street from a night-club famous for after-hours violence, as a “victim.” Seems to me he was more of a “volunteer.” And we all might be better served by identifying him as such.

Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and contributor to the Business & Media Institute.