The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, October 16, 2015


Over the past few decades, we have moved into the era of the victim, exemplified by entire demographic groups and the activists who describe perceived or actual injustices suffered by them. In every case, the victim has been oppressed and therefore is given broad latitude to trumpet her victimhood, demanding redress from the powers that oppressed her. In most instances, it's the Left that champion the victims, offering (sometimes absurd) remedies for victimization and never stopping to consider the effects of the "help" that is provided.

Joseph Epstein comments:
In recent decades, vast numbers of people have clamored to establish themselves or the ethnic group or sexual identity or even gender to which they belong as victims of prejudice, oppression, and injustice generally. E. M. Forster wrote of “the aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky.” Owing to the spread of victimhood, we have today a large aristocracy of the suffering, the put-upon, and the unlucky. Blacks, gays, women, American Indians, Hispanics, the obese, Vietnam veterans, illegal immigrants, the handicapped, single parents, fast-food workers, the homeless, poets, and anyone else able to establish underdog bona fides can now claim to be victims. Many years ago, I watched a show on television that invited us to consider the plight of unwed fathers. We are, it sometimes seems, a nation of victims.

Victims of an earlier time viewed themselves as supplicants, throwing themselves on the conscience if not mercy of those in power to raise them from their downtrodden condition. The contemporary victim tends to be angry, suspicious, above all progress-denying. He or she is ever on the lookout for that touch of racism, sexism, homophobia, or insensitivity that might show up in a stray opinion, an odd locution, an uninformed misnomer. People who count themselves victims require enemies. Forces high and low block their progress: The economy disfavors them; society is organized against them; the malevolent, who are always in ample supply, conspire to keep them down; the system precludes them. Asked some years ago by an interviewer in Time magazine about violence in schools that are all-black—that is, violence by blacks against blacks—the novelist Toni Morrison, a connoisseur of victimhood whose novels deal with little else, replied, “None of those things can take place, you know, without the complicity of the people who run the schools and the city.”

Public pronouncements from victims can take on a slightly menacing quality, in which, somehow, the roles of victim and supposed antagonist are reversed. Today it is the victim who is doing the bullying—threatening boycott, riot, career-destroying social media condemnation—and frequently making good on their threats. Victims often seem actively to enjoy their victimhood—enjoy above all the moral advantage it gives them. Fueled by their own high sense of virtue, of feeling themselves absolutely in the right, what they take to be this moral advantage allows them to overstate their case, to absolve themselves from all responsibility for their condition, to ask the impossible and demand it now, and then to demonstrate virulently, sometimes violently, when it isn’t forthcoming.
It doesn't much matter whether the victim is a resident of a poor urban environment or a Hamas sympathizer living in Gaza, or an illegal immigrant, or a worker at a fast food restaurant, or a female college student. Activists for each group and the politicians who tend to sympathize with them will suggest that victimhood grants broad leeway in the behavior of the victim. The victim's narrative trumps actual facts on the ground, enabling the victim to rewrite history, make outrageous claims against those who he perceives as victimizers, and suggest this if there is no justice (a condition defined solely by the victim) there will be no peace. The victim's gaze is always outward, toward the perceived victimizer—never inward, toward the controllable actions that might lessen his sense of victimization. The victim rejects facts that don't fit her narrative, rejects rules that non-victims must follow, and rejects any suggestion that the victim herself might have some culpability for her situation.