Politics, Community & Society > Power in Victim-hood

Power in Victim-hood

Published: January 1, 2012

"There is a lot of power in victim-hood, you know!"

I don't recall the author of that quote, it was a budding Hollywood actress. She was roughly 20 years old at the time The quote came out about 10 year ago, possibly before we saw the apex of the victim industry on the national stage. Since then we have had the multiple financial crisis (bail out firms too big to fail), the homeowner crisis (bail out low wage earners who "owned" million dollar properties) and it appears we are now basing an election on "the top 1% crisis" (we are all the victims of the rich who are hoarding money that really should be ours.)

The object of the governmental victim game is no different than the interpersonal victim game. Take the "victim" and make them the power monger through their victim-hood.

Here is how the game has played out over the past decade on the political side (cross post from new Sisyphus http://newsisyphus.blogspot.com/2005/04/new-popular-front-winning-war-on.html)

As Shelby Steele has so eloquently written about, one horrific side effect of the otherwise righteous movement for civil rights and black emancipation in the late 1950’s to the late 1960’s was conditioning the wider population to view victimization as a claim to moral authority and, through that authority, political power.

The result has been an ever-expanding culture of victimization, where every small interest pressure group fights to prove and establish facts that lay claim to its special victimization, its unique suffering, as a means to power. Environmentalists focus on the harm done to our forests, feminists on rape, homosexuals on hate crimes, and child advocates on child abuse. Only by demonstrating that the wider culture—consciously or unconsciously—has victimized the target group can that group lay claim to the power of modern liberal guilt; and, through that guilt, legislation designed to promote or protect that group’s perceived interests.

He goes on to argue that the key to countering the Islamic Fascist movement on the planet is to mobilize the ultimate victim group that comprises 51% of every country. Women. Especially women in America where women, at least legally, are no longer victims. It was an interesting thought. But the fact that the article was written 7 years ago and the fight is still on points in one of two directions. Either it didn't work or the women never got mobilized about the issue. I suspect it was the latter. Getting victims mobilized on a global basis may be too much to ask for. The victim persona appears to manifest itself more often as the lone assassin than as the army.

So that returns me to the original quote and my original question. Where exactly is the power in victim hood that the actress was talking about? I can see two ways to parse that quote. The most positive spin is that of genuine victim-hood. You are bullied in school for something you have no control over. Kids beat you up and take your lunch money because you wear glasses. In that situation, you can make the argument that part of life involves enduring injustice and hence you can carry away a powerful lesson. How to survive when you are outnumbered and persecuted for no good reason. But like most life lessons, you learn that once and you are good. I don't see that there is much else on the positive side of the victim lifestyle.

But oh, the downside. It is victim as bully. That is where the power truly emerges. The ability to control and manipulate those around your through your personal story of victim-hood.

So here I'll be paraphrasing an article by Tara Palmatier (http://mensnewsdaily.com/2009/10/26/the-power-of-professional-victimhood/)

She culled out four traits that she sees in the professional victim and comes up with what is I think the only effective strategy for dealing with such behavior.

Trait 1 is this "they never acknowledge hurting other, every situation is the result of someone or something else." In the most extreme cases, I have catalogued people who spend 80% of their day doing three things-they complain about the world in general, they criticize you, they take credit for anything that went right, no matter how small a part they played in it. The bottom line, if it went wrong, it wasn't them. If it went right, it was. This is the most extreme example of victim as hero. I have lived with this type of person for enough years, decades actually, to have been able to validate the behavior and to realize that it is not the sort of thing that heals itself over time. It degenerates.

Trait 2, the victim must be victimized. Constantly "picking fights" is the key here. My brother has affectionately nicknamed his wife "Picky Sue" on this account. He survival technique, as best as I can tell, is to smile and roll with a life that involves daily fights being picked...and him having to make up for simply being alive and sharing the same space. The role reversal here is the apparent goal. Victim as aggressor. Start the conflict, get the emotional outburst from the other party and then get the reparations.

Trait 3 is in my mind a variation on Trait 1. The complete rejection of personal responsibility. The honest answer that a professional victim would give to the question "what are responsible for?" would be one of two things. "Nothing" or "Making sure I get what I want in world where nothing ever goes my way!" While victims are not that hard to identify, this is one question that a person might want to use if they are in the field trying to identify a potential professional victim.

Trait 4 is one that I look at two ways. It is an internal aspect of the victim that I can't access, so I can't validate the way I can validate the external aspects. But it goes like this. Victims actually admire the people who abuse them. My only brush with this is to say treating victims "nice" has absolutely zero effect on them. The nicer you are, the more they play up traits 1 through 3. I haven't run any field trial on this trait, but it could be interesting as I do have two coworkers who use this approach exclusively to mismanage a classroom. The net of trait 4 is that in truth the "victim" really is the bully who uses the victim card to access any guilt there may be in the other party and use that get the healthy person to "behave" the way the victim wants them to behave.

In the end, the victim game is a successful method for sick people to manipulate otherwise healthy people into providing them a lifestyle they could never achieve legitimately. So as a guy who admires effective strategies for getting what you want in life, I do offer a brief salute to those who have turned victim hood into an alternate lifestyle that they have used to meet their needs.

But I tend to agree with Dr. Palmatier and her bottom line. These people are not something you want in your life.So as a guy who has no use for bullies, I have no interest in spending another second of my time on earth around bullies posing as victims.

Any Comments?


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