Friday, December 21, 2007

On Victimhood

I used to read PostSecret almost religiously until I just grew tired of seeing how passive aggressive, victimhood-obsessed and downright unpleasant the masses are when they can get away with it. It started to look like just one long internet whine. (For a while, I flirted with the idea of attempting a gender analysis of the secrets. Have a look, see if you spot a bias.)

Fortunately, this happened before I sent my own card. Had it been published, I'd probably have felt perversely pleased with myself for a while, but eventually I'm sure I would have grown ashamed.

(Of course this same argument applies to anonymous blogs, just like this one. I try to fight that, my last post notwithstanding, for reasons we'll explore below.)

Victimhood is seductive. If life is unpleasant, if someone manages to climb up your back and tread you down, there's something in human nature which is more inclined to whine, lick its wounds and hide behind others than to fight back. Sure, there are people out there who are true victims and who need the support of the strong because they cannot fight for themselves. If that support were readily available, then there would be fewer victims around, to be a victim would make you genuinely strong. But that logic is easily hijacked. All you have to do is look like a victim.

Why do we try to protect victims anyway? The herd, attacked by a predator, doesn't try to protect the weak, the injured, the infirm, it just tries to get away. The victim is by definition compromised. The weakness in one is a weakness in the whole herd. Hence natural selection.

Could protecting the weak be a vehicle towards enhancing your own desirability? If you're seen to be heroic, risk your life even, are you showing the rest how virile and strong you are? Is the risk of weakening yourself so much that you become a victim yourself, worth the payoff that you get if you're successful? If so, then perhaps everyone wins. The weak are protected and the heroes are, well, heroes and all that goes with it. Bingo! Survival trait.

Any means to power will be abused.

The not-so-heroic will look askance and wonder if the hero can be exploited. Get him to stick his neck out, so I don't have to, eh? All to the better if the victim has something to offer, like, oh, I don't know, reproductive capability? 'Just have to look like a victim.

The best lie is one that is believed by the liar. Thus faux victims must convince themselves that they are true victims. While keeping their strength even from themselves, they must appear weak at the right time and in the right place. But don't be too blatant. Being a true victim implies true weakness and a true drain on the hero's resources. Better for the hero if you didn't weigh him down while he's actually being heroic. Once he's hooked, pick yourself up, but make it look like he's doing it, believe yourself that he is doing it. Even if he gets an inkling, if he knows what's good for him and you're good enough in your role, he'll play along.

It's sort of an unpleasant thought, really, the evil hero and his evil victim, conning you into believing the scam, cheering them on. Those words don't belong together: evil, victim, evil, hero. We feel a revulsion at the idea. Play acting for the crowd. Wolves in sheep's clothing. We're vigilant against them, which means they have to be all the more convincing, and you the more predisposed to believe them. The real victim, however, has to cope with being a genuine burden to a would be true hero, has to compete with the not-really-victims for his attention, and yours.

How would you identify a genuine victim? What are the characteristics? Besides the obvious. The faux won't be obvious. They don't want you to figure it out too easily, that gives them nowhere to hide.

True victims would be hard to spot too. If they were easy, they're also easy meat for the predator. Real victims wouldn't want to look like victims, they'd fight the label, wouldn't they?

(Perhaps all this falls down. I once got up close to a herd of wild horses. They were gathered around one of their elders, exhausted, lying on the ground. If he hadn't been prostrate, I'm sure I wouldn't have got so close. They used their safety in numbers to protect one of their own, even though it made them weaker than if they'd run off. Horses are smart.)

So, you can compete to be a hero, and go to war. And you can compete to be a victim, well back from the line.

But if you're a real victim, competition might be beyond your energies, so you'll use all your strength to blend in with the crowd. Especially if you were not the right kind, not politically correct.

Hence the secrets?

One of the PostSecrets read "I was molested when I was a child, but I didn't tell anyone. When I grew up, I found him and killed him, but I didn't tell anyone." This over a postcard of a particularly vulnerable looking child. Is this person a victim? The child was. But is a murderer (assuming it's true) a victim? Is he or she a hero?

I don't want to be a victim, I just want my son back. I'd like to be his hero.


Summer said...

The child is always the victim in the process of parental alienation. The child will grow up recognizing the alienating parent's actions as what is right, and will emulate as much as possible. Later, there's two scenarios- the child will either see the truth and hate himself for putting his alienated parent through such anguish, or the child will become just like the alienating in denial. I think the first scenario is much more common. It doesn't help to hear that now, when you are so far away from the future. But as long as you are there for him when reality comes crashing down, you will have the opportunity to play the hero in a very real and genuine way.

Anonymous said...

Portraying yourself as a victim has power in this society. It is in a persons vested self-interest to always be the "victim" even when there really hasn't been anything done wrong. I will note DV laws as one indicator of this "cult of victim hood" if you will.

A lot of victimhood is really denial of responsibility in my view. Husband beats you? Thats a sad story, however it is your responsibility to get yourself out of that situation if you don't want it to happen again. Don't stick around and complain about how bad it is.

I have been the victim of several injustices, however you don't hear me crying about it. I pick myself up and dust myself off, and move on all the while trying to DO something about it.

-Strength and Honor-