Although the title of this node is Fatalism in American Culture, I could also call it "Lack of Fatalism in American Culture", because it seems that Americans have a hard time accepting that bad things will happen, no matter how much is done to avoid them.

Before I write this, I would like to point that on the whole, American Culture is the only one I know, never having left my country. It is likely that the cultural attitudes that I describe here are just as bad, if not worse in other parts of the world. Be that as it may, I have identified a certain mindset as being irrational, and culturally created around me, so I am going to refer to it as a belief system of Americans.

When something bad happens, which it does every day, the immediate response on the part of the American media is "What went wrong?". This seems to be the first question asked in the case of a downed airliner, viral outbreak or school yard shooting, to name just a few. After this question is asked and thrown around, the next two questions that come up are "Who can we blame" and "How do we prevent this?".

The idea seems to be that every failure and accident is caused by someone doing something wrong, either because they are inept or malicious. If accidents are not caused by personal fault, they are caused by a technical fault, or perhaps by a less then complete technical knowledge of the situation. Which means that, whenever something bad happens in this country, there will sooner or later (and usually the former) be an outcry by the media, congress or special interests groups to either get someone in trouble or make new laws.

There are two possible problems with this. The first is philosophical and the second is practical. The philosophical problem is that we do not yet know if such a thing as a totally fail safe system can be designed. Why should we assume that, even if people were omniscient, that they could design a jet plane that would, never, ever, crash? What if even after all factors are accounted for, there is some hidden feature in the universe that breaks things? While this is a theoretical extreme, it is very possible that something as large and as complicated as an airplane could never be designed taking into account every possible thing that could happen to it. (Personally, I can only cook rice right about 1\2 the time).
The practical problem with trying to change things to prevent accidents is that these changes are often made out of emotional reactions, and before all the relevant data is collected, leading to knee jerk reactions that hurt more then they help. The largest example of this for me is the War on Drugs. While it is true that most, if not all drugs, are hazardous to people's health, and in a perfect world would not exist, the endless results to eradicate them has caused far more damage then the drugs themselves seem capable of doing.

I am not saying that this lack of fatalism is neccesarily a bad thing. Even though it might have been better to accept the fact that some people will use drugs, it is probably best that we didn't accept the fact that people will always drink and drive. All that I am proposing is that we examine the belief that all problems can be avoided through techinical solutions as we would examine any other preconcieved notion.