With our shared heritage and language, it is no surprise to find that American practices, language and music have crossed the Atlantic and affected the British way of life. That vibrant and energetic society, aided by the powerful Hollywood movie industry has made inroads into our life style.
Some of it has been beneficial and invigorating, but not all.
A recent development from the USA has been the rise of a public attitude which has been named “the Compensation Culture”, based on the premise that all misfortunes are someone else’s fault and suffering should be marked by the receipt of money; therefore, someone has to be sued.
An aggressive and persuasive legal profession has pushed this practice to some ridiculous limits, with an epidemic of such cases as these :-
- A seasick traveller lost his dentures over the side and claimed “loss of Baggage.”
- A victim of an allergic reaction sued the airline for providing free peanuts.
- A dating agency client claimed for “humiliation at being provided with an unsatisfactory partner.”
- Claimed for falling over negotiating a revolving door.
- If you have been in a car accident “go to your GP to see if you can claim for whiplash injury.”
There is a whole catalogue of similar claims, some even more trivial than these, some true, but others probably made up by over-enthusiastic journalists.
All this spurious litigation has spawned a whole new industry in the UK with a spate of telephone calls offering to get you a refund for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance; TV commercials offering to get you compensation for “accidents that were not your fault – no win, no fee.”
Insurance companies are covering themselves by passing on the cost of claims by increasing premiums for everybody else; surgeons insure themselves against the increasing chance of clinical negligence claims; and local authorities setting aside large funds for the astronomic number of claims for pavement falls.
To defend themselves against possible compensation claims, manufacturers label their products with warnings, some of which are statements of the blindingly obvious, while Health and Safety legislation produces some strange prohibitions.
- A packet of peanuts carries the warning “contains nuts”
- Poppy and flag sellers not to supply pins.
- Graduating students not to throw mortar-boards in the air.
- Sack races banned from school sports
- Sleeping tablet packet – “may cause drowsiness”
- Ready meal packet – “product gets hot after heating”
Before we criticise our American cousins let us remind ourselves that the blame culture is as old as mankind; when God asked Adam why he had eaten the forbidden fruit he replied “the woman told me”: and when He asked Eve why she had done it she said “the serpent beguiled me.”
One cannot help wondering what became of our parents’ admonishment to us with “look where you are going” – “pick your feet up” – “look right and left when crossing the road” – “don’t play with matches” and what has happened to our personal duty of responsibility and care ?
What advice does Scripture offer us ? We are presented with a choice; we can follow Mosaic Law –
“if anyone injures his neighbour, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” (Leviticus 24 : 19)
Or, as Jesus taught –
“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him, the other also.” (Matthew 5 : 39)
What’s that I hear ? – you’ve tripped over a paving stone – you’ve cut your finger on a corned beef tin – or fallen down an escalator !
Tough – deal with it – get over it – that’s life !