Sunday, October 15, 2017

Today's Observation

Victimhood culture is “contagious.” Studies have shown that when one group is accused of causing harm to others, members of the accused group become more inclined to feel that their group is being discriminated against.

– Clay Routledge


G. Verloren said...

I'd argue that this instead suggests the culture of victimizing others is self-justifying.

Saying "Victimhood culture is 'contagious'” implies the fault is that of the victim. It's the sort of framing that a victimizer would employ to justify their actions and delegitimize the grievances of their victims.

The trouble is, the justification happens no matter what the victim does. Even if they remain silent, the victimizer will still rationalize away their unjust actions - they'll just do so in a different way.

A man who beats his wife, and who gets accused of victimizing her, turns around and claims he's the real victim. But the same man unaccused but troubled by a tinge of conscience still justifies or excuses his actions, albeit in a another manner. He'll blame anyone and everything else for his own vile actions, or downplay their signficance and normalize them as acceptable or natural. In his mind, either it's not his fault he beats his wife, or it's not a problem that he does so.

The exact tactic used to make the justification isn't important. What matters is the end goal of deflecting blame onto others.

That said, in the specific case of having the topic of victimhood brought up, a victimizer quite naturally will want to co-opt the argument of victimhood in their favor. They know that if they try to refute the claim outright, they often won't be successful. Instead, they muddy the waters and try to "even the field".

Hurting someone with no reason is pretty indefensible, but claiming that you only acted in "self defense", and only hurt them because they (or someone else) hurt you first, deflects responsbility for your actions onto others. When successful, this can reverse the blame of the two parties - the victim becomes the unjust aggressor and vice versa. It's the old "If she didn't make me so angry, I wouldn't have to beat her" defense, and disgustingly it actually works a significant amount of the time. It's been used all throughout history to justify all sorts of heinous acts by the strong against the weak, and still we fall for this trick over and over.

John said...

That's probably true, but in America today there is no agreement about who is oppressed and by whom. Most Americans feel disempowered and ignored.

G. Verloren said...


What do you mean by 'no agreement', exactly?

There are at least some pretty clear cut cases of victimization in this country. Women and minorities quite clearly continue to face widespread oppression on both a cultural and institutional scale.

At the same time, there are also some pretty clear cut cases of oppression in this country. Full fledged racists, sexists, xenophobes, white supremacists, holocaust deniers, "Christian" radicals, et cetera.

What qualifies as "no agreement"? Any amount of dissent at all? Because despite the fact that the KKK would quite naturally deny that they're oppressing and victimizing others, I think the rest of us most certainly can agree that they are. Thus, in many cases I don't find it particularly hard to sort out who is probably a real victim, and who is probably a self-justifying oppressor trying to co-opt victimhood for their own benefit.

I will concede that there is certainly a middle ground where it becomes a lot less cut and dry. And I will also concede that the tendency to claim victimhood has probably spread into this middle ground, making it difficult in many cases to really tell at a glance who is probably in the right and who is probably in the wrong.

But I still would hesitate to frame this recent increased willingness to claim the status of being a victim as something necessarily negative.

Or even if it can be shown to be innately negative in some ways, I would still feel compelled to point out the redeeming positive aspects to it as well. If more people are willing to publically claim victim status these days, that would seem to suggest that victims are not being driven to silence as much as they have been previously. Certainly that is my perception in relation to the rights and concerns of women, homosexuals, minorities, and others who have historically been marginalized and lacked a voice and a means to seek redress for grievances.

leif said...

@G, yep. you covered it.

@John, if you're saying that there is no clear-cut delineation about who carries the 'victim' name tag, all i can suggest is that everyone is hurt that they don't get their way, sometimes. trump plays the victim card *all the time*. this is in a different league entirely from people, as @G says, who are institutionally and systematically victimized.

any confusion over who is the victim when a rogue cop shoots a black man who is reaching for his wallet when told to show ID, is confusion sown by those in power, to obscure the obvious and perpetuate their hegemony. any confusion over who is the victim when a multi-billionaire man-child gripes that a system of checks and balances does exactly that, is simply confusion sown by those in power, to obscure the obvious and (you guessed it) perpetuate their hegemony.

now, to argue the point a different way, take a case related to me by a schoolmate decades ago. he was forced by a bully to whom he was a sometime-lackey, to sexually gratify that bully. a second schoolmate present at the time was subsequently forced to sexually gratify the sometime-lackey. who's the victim here? who are the victims here? one can argue that all three were, since the bully was probably victimized by his older brother or father or uncle or someone in power, and simply passed down the behavior to others.

to me the 'obvious' victims are the lackey and the third person. no one benefited from that sordid event, and they the least of all. the obvious perp is the bully (who incidentally i wished dead on many a day, and hearing of this only made my disgust worse). if we remove the direct actor from the equation and replace him with a police force that wields deadly force on unsuspecting citizens, how is there any doubt as to the victims here?