There are lot of victims in the world, especially in the United States. Donald Trump was elected by a mob of angry victims, unemployed, uneducated and convinced that they’d been forgotten by the system. So, in retaliation, they elected the man who promised to destroy that system. Conservative commentators are even claiming that white men are oppressed and require restitution for their treatment. The all-time, most prolific purveyor of victimhood is, unquestionably, Christianity. Christians have relished victimization ever sense Nero sent a few early Christians to the lions (albeit, much less than churches claim). Martyrdom has always been their best recruitment tool. The more that they supposedly suffer, the more power that they demand as penance for their plight.
Some people have been atrociously victimized and their grievances aren’t even remotely hyperbolic. Black citizens have been profiled and oppressed ever since Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant. Sexual predators dressed as priests have engineered an industrial molestation machine, which has produced an epidemic of child rape. Undeterred by the blood of thousands on their hands, spineless legislators have killed any potential solution to gun violence. Women have to endure sexual violence while they’re in college and then have to put up with misogyny and sexual harassment while they’re at work. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are chastised and denigrated by private citizens and government officials for manifesting their true identities. This is not an exhaustive list. Make no mistake, their are countless victims who are absolutely justified in their feelings of despair and outrage. The question is, does the mindset of victimhood do them any good?
American politics have made victimhood into a coveted asset. It provides emotional currency that can be leveraged during politically advantageous moments. Victimhood allows people to abdicate responsibility for their own success and happiness. Life often seems simpler when there’s someone else to blame for our problems. Our President is an expert at finding new ways to feign victimization. We all prefer things to be black and white, but most of life’s events transpire in the mercurial gray zone.
Tragically, many people live their entire lives with the victim mentality. They’ll perceive wrongdoing by others, sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally, and will then they’ll try to erase the offenders from their lives. If they keep this petty behavior up, they’ll end up dying alone. There are perks of victimhood. It relieves a person from having to consider what his role was in unfortunate situations. If he decides that the world was cruel to him and he did nothing, he doesn’t have to go through the painful process of evaluating his own actions and character. Unfortunately, for him, this type of self-evaluation is how humans grow and develop, socially and emotionally. If someone can’t learn how to play nice in the sandbox with others, he’s in for a miserable existence.
Life is suffering. Suffering means getting hurt. We extract meaning out of life by allowing tragedy to refine us through self-reflection, responsible adaptations and an optimistic outlook. Science has proven that people with an external locus of control (believe external events determine their fate) are less happy than individuals with an internal locus of control (believe that they determine their fate). If a woman believes that her less than ideal situation is a result of her oppression by other people, she’s boiling her existence down to mere chance, a roll of the dice; her destiny is determined by forces outside of her control. It almost seems that she believes that choice doesn’t have any meaning. If choice doesn’t have any meaning, life doesn’t have any meaning.
There are no inspirational movies that have victim protagonists. Many of these characters are victimized, but despite tragedies, they’re able to become masters of their fates. Unbroken, tells the true story of a WWII POW that survived Japanese prison camps and then won an Olympic medal. Erin Brockovich showed us how an uneducated secretary helped save a community and then became a national icon for environmental protection. Heroic black leaders, such as Rep. John Lewis, that fought for equality and civil rights didn’t allow their horrendous abuse to deter them from their aim. They weren’t victims. They were (and still are) heroes.
Admitting that you’re wrong is painful. Sometimes it can make a person ask fundamental questions about her identity. If someone is fired from a job, it’s easier to lay all of the blame on the employer. Then the fired employee gets to have the satisfaction of righteous anger, of oppression, of victimhood. If the employee doesn’t evaluate what her role was in the situation, the only thing she’ll get from the experience is anger. But if she is able to honestly reflect on the situation, she could get something far better: growth as a person. The only person that victimhood hurts is the victim. If the employee was legitimately wronged, then at the very least she shouldn’t let the wrongdoer make her a victim. Fuck that.