Identity politics and the influence of post-modernist thought on the left-leaning media and North American universities have created a new fetish: being a victim. Victim-hood is the new black and everyone wants to be the next sob story. If there’s no way that a person can ‘sell’ the legitimacy of their own victim-hood, she becomes a crusader for the oppressed and basks in the majesty of her own compassion and altruistic virtue. Of course, the heroic crusader inevitably invites oppression from the oppressive white patriarchal hierarchy, which allows the crusader to transform into the coveted victim – a Christ figure whose noble suffering invites adoration and praise.
Modern psychology and neuroscience has made it clear that human happiness, a sense of self-actualization and a feeling of purpose come from the adoption of responsibility and the achievement of goals. Blaming failures on the advantages of ‘privileged’ groups entails the abdication responsibility, not the adoption of it. Unfortunately, the victim fetish has created a climate where oppression (or the optics of oppression) is more attractive than success. When did this psychological vertigo start? Contrary to popular belief, it’s been developing for more than half a century.
The adoption of Neo-Marxist post-modernism has created an inverse relationship between privilege & power and oppression & victim-hood. People measure the ‘privilege’ or ‘oppression’ of the groups that they identify with in comparison to their peers, with the white male standing at the apex of power. Here’s how the theory goes: a white male has the ultimate degree of privilege. He is the epitome of oppressive power and the building block of the tyrannical patriarchal hierarchy that is said to rule over our society. A Hispanic male and an Asian male enjoy less privilege than the white man and have a higher quotient of victim-hood, but their genitalia affords them less privilege than their female counterparts. The further away an individual is from the oppressive white male power center, the less privilege he enjoys and, therefore, the more oppressed he is. A Black, trans-woman with a disability enjoys very little privilege and is essentially the LeBron James of victims.
Gone is the modernist optimism of objective truth. Post-modernist academics are highly cynical of any possible epistemic discovery, empirical or otherwise. The modernist faith in reason and rationality, as a source for enlightenment, is dimming. American society and education, like the post-modernist philosophy they’ve adopted, have become skeptical of the value of knowledge itself and whether there even is such a thing. It’s a pessimistic worldview, one that has a perverse desire to demand that reality is far worse than our past was, and will only become worse as time passes. Cognitive scientists, such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker, have provided a wealth of scholarship that unequivocally proves that this is not the case.
The post-modernist flirts with nihilism and copulates with moral relativism. There are no modernist meta-narratives, from a mile-high perspective, that can be derived through a systematic synthesis of information on a particular subject. The post-modernist believes that there are an infinite number of equally-valid perspectives that are all constructions of individuals’ culture and society. These thinkers believe that the human pursuit of power is the foundation of every belief. Thus, one person’s truth is their constructed belief on a particular subject that provides a pathway to the acquisition of power in their situation. This is rooted in the manner that modern psychology and neuroscience has determined that humans see the world: humans see the world by evaluating the function of objects. For example, a sharp stick can be a weapon, a log can be a chair, a river can be a bathtub, etc. Beliefs are a person’s culturally constructed blueprint to power. From there, every person’s belief can be deconstructed to show how their desire for power is shaping their motivation. There is no universal truth. Everyone is able to create their own truth according to the post-modernists.
Philosophers like Jacques Derrida, feminists like Judith Butler and other post-modern intellectuals can never explain what evidence or principles their theories are based on. That’s because there are none, which is fine with them because they believe evidence isn’t really objective and their perception of the world is their own unique truth, it’s their reality and its just as valid as any other perspective. These thinkers merely took the ideas of modernists and contorted them into cynical, abstract thought experiments that haven’t added anything to analytical or empirical understanding. Schools of analytical philosophy, including science and ethics, provide methodologies that can be applied to problems. Post-modern philosophy doesn’t offer tools to uncover truth, it merely provides logical dead end conclusions that can be memorized, but not utilized.
I don’t believe there is anything more dangerous than telling a person that truth is relative, that he or she can create or define the world around them however they’d like. Fortunately, not everyone has fully accepted this view. Some people still believe that there are objective truths and that reality isn’t dictated by the whims of disaffected minorities that seek to be coddled by society.
Those that want to create their own truths are too fragile to willingly engage in the brutal competition of life. We falsely believe that consciousness has freed us from the domain of natural selection. Humans are animals with the same biological hard-wiring as the millions of other organisms in the kingdom. Every single higher-order species orders themselves into hierarchies and our brain chemistry moderates our emotions in the same manner that animal brains do. Jordan Peterson made the lobster comparison famous, but primates are eerily close to humans in their structuring of hierarchies, as shown by the work of Jane Goodall. Anything in life worth having takes work and nothing is free. The status that comes from the top of the hierarchy requires fierce competition and a high degree of intelligence to attain.
The concept of hierarchies isn’t particularly palatable. It means that everyone isn’t the same, that there are differences and there are truths and there are falsities. More bluntly, it means that people aren’t good just the way that they are; everyone needs to work towards improvement to rise up the hierarchy. This means that a person must take responsibility for their failures and successes OR blame their plight on the oppression and privilege of others. Post-modernists want to believe that hierarchies are social constructions of tyranny and that everyone is okay…just the way they are.
Being okay just the way they are abdicates a lot of people from the societal and personal obligation to improve themselves, which is a consequence of the biological hierarchy. A prime example of this is the utterly ridiculous ‘fat acceptance’ movement. Obese women, without the motivation to diet and exercise, seek to teach ‘fat acceptance’ and educate peers on how the negative perception of fatness is due to the ‘privilege’ of thin people (the slide below is from a 2014 University of Massachusetts student lecture on fat acceptance).
Fat acceptance activists want to have their cake and eat it too. They want obesity to be classified as a protected disability so that they can get the same legal assistance that people with actual disabilities enjoy. However, they also want everyone to believe that there’s nothing wrong with being fat and that fat people are just as beautiful as skinny people are. The philosophical cynicism of post-modernism allows these people to create their own realities, irrespective of science or facts, and its characterization of hierarchies as tyrannical dominions of the oppressive white male allows them to become virtuous victims, persecuted by the privileged.
Post-modernists make the mistake of confusing tyrannical power with competence. The way to the top of any hierarchy is not, with a few extreme exceptions, accomplished by the use of tyrannical force. It takes competence to rise to the top of a hierarchy. Competence is a complex bundle of attributes that is optimized for a particular position. The best neurosurgeon in the world didn’t get there by blaming her difficulties on the privilege of her peers. Becoming a CEO is very difficult and there is only a small portion of the population that has the skills and qualities required for such a high position. Michael Phelps didn’t corruptly engineer his Olympic victories, he simply was the best swimmer due to his genetics and training regimen.
These examples showcase the concept of natural selection in human society. It’s survival of the fittest. It’s not a warm and fuzzy notion, but it’s the absolute truth. People have to work hard if they want to be successful. If they’re not strong in one skill or area, then they need to find other ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. Any parent that tells their children otherwise is shielding them from the harsh reality of the world, which will make them fragile and ultimately handicapped to deal with adult life. The post-modernists have made it acceptable to be a chronic victim. They’ve made it acceptable to abdicate responsibility for one’s own success and/or failure. Perhaps most disturbing, they’ve confused competence with abusive power and have conflated victim-hood with virtue. Fat-Acceptance activists, and the rest of their post-modernist nihilists, are certainly scared to death of responsibility. But, even more fundamental, they’re scared of not being good enough, because they don’t believe that they have what it takes to compete in this brutal world.