Who’s Wrong, What’s Wrong?

Alan Rayner
2 min readMar 12, 2021


‘Reaping the Whirlwind’ (pen, ink and watercolour sketch on paper by Alan Rayner, 2017) A moody reflection on the vicious spiral of needless conflict caused by the abstract estrangement of human nature from Nature

When you hear someone call out in pain

Do you assume there’s something wrong with them

That needs to be put right?


A lack of resilience

A screw loose somewhere

A basic design fault

A deficient sense of humour

A failure to adapt,

Keep calm and carry on



Or do you wonder

What’s gone wrong for them

That calls for attention?


A good slave

In a good slave-owner’s eyes

Is one who does what they are told

Without complaint


So, who’s wrong, what’s wrong

When a slave calls out in pain?


Is it the slave,

The slave-owner,

Or a pervasive attitude of mind

That thinks there’s nothing wrong

With slavery?


Oppression comes in many guises

And disguises

That make what’s intolerable

Seem reasonable -

Just the way life is and has to be

For those who serve the Master

By decree


Until and unless someone can’t bear enough

And cares and dares enough

To call out in pain

From living this nightmare

So far adrift from ‘living the dream’ it promised to be

And new-found voices gather around

In spirited company

Questioning not who’s wrong, but what’s wrong


Underlying the above piece is a fundamental question about the nature of causality, and, in particular, the difference between superficial mechanical causality involving direct inter-actions between material bodies, and deep situational causality arising from the spatial and energetic circumstances in which those bodies are placed.

This is helpful when considering issues of personal responsibility. We need to always to recall that what we do and what happens to us as sentient beings both arises from and contributes to our situation, but is never in itself the sole cause of that situation. This is why, when something we regard as ‘bad’ happens, it is more realistic to ask ‘what’s wrong and how has it arisen?’ than ‘who’s wrong and what should be done with them?’ By the same token, when something regard as ‘good’ occurs, it’s more realistic to ask ‘what’s right and how come?’ than ‘who’s right and can take the credit?’

What we do and what happens to us is overwhelmingly context-dependent and so beyond our complete control. But the predominant way in which we have mostly been led to think solely in terms of mechanical causation can obsure this reality and expose us to distressing feelings of guilt, shame and blame for what we are ultimately not responsible.

For further exploration of this and other aspects of ‘the natural inclusion of self in neighbourhood’, please visit my personal website at http://www.spanglefish.com/exploringnaturalinclusion



Alan Rayner

Alan Rayner is an evolutionary ecologist, writer and artist, who is pioneering the philosophy of natural inclusion