As promised in the previous entry, here's my theory for one of the most prevalent reasons people focus on what other people did wrong that led to them getting some kind of disease (lung cancer, diabetes, AIDS, etc.). I do agree with RegularGoy
's comment (on my other blog
that mirrors this one) that sometimes people just don't want to empathize. But I get on a soapbox about people's emotional laziness often enough already. So this theory goes in a bit of a different direction.
It boils down to a fear about the loss of control of death and disease (really, about our own mortality). I think there is something in us that wants death and disease to work logically--and we want to believe that life, death, illness, etc. is all in our realm of control. And if we can blame a person's illness/death on a risk factor we don't have, or if we can then decide we are going to remove that risk factor in ourselves, it can provide us with the illusion that we have power over death. Whereas, if you focus on someone's ultimate humanity in the face of death, you realize how easily it could be you (or any person, since we are all fragile, and we will all die).
Now, I'm not saying we have no power over our own death. Certainly there are choices we make that influence our health--and we also have the option to choose to end our life at any time. But really, if there's anything I saw working in the AIDS Clinic, it's that you die when you're gonna die. Some people did everything "right" and died within a year. Some people slipped up quite a bit, and lived with HIV/AIDS for over 15 years. There are people who smoke for a long time and never get cancer. There are people who never smoke and get cancer. There are people who are fit, exercise often, eat healthily, and die of a heart attack at 35. That doesn't mean we shouldn't live healthy lives, it just means that doing so doesn't guarantee longevity. Nothing does.
Yes, there are some aspects of life and death that seem to be in our power...but there is also a really real way that death is not in our hands at all.
However, if we focus all of our attention on blaming people who get illnesses for their bad habits, we can distance ourselves from their illness, and ultimately, get a false sense of control over our own life and death.
"Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all." Ecclesiastes 9:11
Anyway, that's the theory. Take it or leave it.