Blaming the others

8 Jun

For those who haven’t been following current events in Europe, at this writing 22 people in nothern Europe, almost all of them in Germany, have died of a new strain of E.Coli. What was the first reaction in the media? “It’s probably the Spanish cucumbers.” When this statement could not be backed up by any evidence, the suspicion was switched to German soya sprouts, although there is currently no proof that it was the sprouts either.

This first assumption was made easier by the reputation Spanish veg has in northern Europe–dangerous because it contains high levels of pesticides and other chemicals. But the reaction–“They did it. They are responsible.” –is a very common reaction when something goes wrong. We don’t want to believe that our compatriots could be careless, incompetent, or dirty so we blame others, even if we have little evidence.

Blaming others is a natural reaction but not always a helpful one. That the vegetable industry has suffered as a result of the outbreaks (vegetable sales in Europe are down about 35% according to the International Herald Tribune) is perhaps inevitable, as people will try to protect themselves until there is some clarity. The fact that the Spanish farmers suffered disproprotionately shows one of the costs of this knee-jerk response, especially for Germany who may be required to pay compensation for that.

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