Politics has been reduced to victimhood advocacy and we are worse off for it.
Victims are not good people. Postmodern influencer culture conflates ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’, but they are two very different things. Survivors are people who pick themselves up and go on. Victims give up and spend the rest of their lives doing nothing except blaming everyone else.
After the slaves were freed, some made long journeys to major cities, others built families and worked hard to provide for them. They persevered despite lynchings and racism. Over 150 years later, some of their descendants claim that nothing can be expected from them because they’re suffering from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome even though the only place they’ve seen slavery is on television. That’s the difference between survivors and victims.
After the Holocaust, Jewish people who had seen their entire families killed in front of them remarried, had children and started their lives again. Often they didn’t even talk about what they had experienced until decades had passed. Others helped build a nation out of the desert sands. Now some of their great-grandchildren claim they’re so fragile they need safe spaces.
The same is true of all Americans. We are all the descendants of survivors. Our grandparents and great-grandparents fought in wars, persisted through economic turmoil and didn’t give up. Whatever happened to them, they didn’t see themselves as the victims. They were strong, not because they postured on social media, but because they got up whenever they were knocked down. They had their grievances and resentments, but they didn’t build their lives around them.
Survivors are motivated by love and duty. They understand that there is more to life than their own pain. They redeem their suffering by making their lives matter. That is the essence of the human ideal. It’s how nations and families are built. And it’s how our nation is coming apart.
Victims are driven by hate. Their pain is performance. It’s what makes them special and the only purpose left to them. The more they feel, the angrier they get. And they want to be angry. There are victims who have actually suffered, but the majority in our culture are ‘identity victims’ or ‘therapy victims’ whose victimhood is based on the terminology of academic Marxism or shrink sessions: who have suffered nothing except a lack of emotional fulfillment.
These creatures, who once handed out radical fliers at campus cafes and poisoned family reunions, went ‘viral’ through social media and generated legions of sympathetic followers. Their perpetual outrage at being victims drives our culture and our politics. Incapable of talking about anything other than themselves, they have ‘built their brand’ into the model for our society.
America went from a nation of courage, allegiance and responsibility where people made commitments to something larger than themselves, used their pain to build better things, to a society of wallowers competing over who has the biggest pain and the least responsibility.
The difference between survivors and victims is that survivors have a larger purpose, while victims have made victimhood into their purpose. And they want it to be our purpose.
Politics has become a dysfunctional therapy session, an intersectional debate over whose pain is superior, and who is just faking it, as if nations are defined by individual pain rather than cultures of aspiration. New victimhood causes proliferate every day while the old ones fight it out. Whose pain is superior, feminists or transgender men? Trauma is our national resource now and there’s only so much of it to go around. Those who have the most are at the top.
Victimhood grants a moral superiority that liberates the victim from moral responsibility.
If you’re an official victim, you can rampage around cities, looting, beating and burning, with few legal and certainly no moral consequences. Beyond economics, replacing ‘equality’ with ‘equity’ takes us from an equality of moral obligations to an equity of moral outcomes. And race riots, canceling people, and rigging college admissions are just ways of achieving ‘moral equity’.
Behavior that is objectively wrong, violence, hate, harassment and terrorism, becomes right if the perpetrators are victims who claim to be striving for a society of moral equity. But the truth about victims is that they never want to stop being what they are. If they did, they would become survivors. Victimhood is convenient and comforting. Victims never have to learn to do better. They spend all of their time telling others to do better so that xer’s feelings aren’t hurt again.
Victimhood views failure as a conspiracy, rather than a choice, and nations and societies that embrace victimhood quickly turn into failed states. America used to get things done. Now we no longer win wars or can even stock supermarkets. There are a thousand points of failure and they begin with a culture that is hostile to achievement and supportive of victimhood.
Our educational system promotes those who refuse to learn, government subsidizes professional victimhood and corporations overlook those who work in favor of those who don’t, but are more likely to sue or throw a public tantrum. Trillions are spent with no return and nothing gets done because the real product is the virtue signaling of victimhood.
Victimhood is an excuse for failure and so we’ve become an unserious society. Victims are incapable of thinking about anything except themselves and our culture has become stuck in the same narcissistic loop of personalities. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, to feel special, and to play the victim when the social media collective fails to give them the due that they deserve.
The loudest voices are those who complain rather than inspire, who give up rather than get ahead, who explain that the game is rigged so everyone should join them in staying home.
Victims make a fetish of their pain. They are ‘in touch with their emotions’ because they inhabit them all the time. They are so busy selfishly feeling their feelings that they can’t be bothered to care about the impact on anyone else. Just as eskimos have many words for ‘snow’, victims have many ways to describe their pain. Their unhappiness is ‘trauma’, talking to people is ‘unpaid emotional labor’ and they spend all their time ‘processing’ or feeling their feelings.. Watching Netflix is ‘self-care’ to recover from all the ‘trauma’ of all their ‘unpaid emotional labor’.
Even their most ordinary activities are part of the fantastic drama that is their existence. Every breath they take is a labored ‘resistance’ to a vast systemic conspiracy out to destroy them.
And while such woke performative antics are more common among social media millennials than in everyday life, the underlying conviction that our emotions matter more than our responsibilities, that anger exempts us from morality, and truth takes a backseat to ‘my truth’ has spread throughout our culture with disastrous results on our functioning and our future.
A society is inspired by its leading figures and its culture is shaped by its stories. Victimhood has become our story. It pervades our classrooms, our fiction, our new myths and our discourse. It has left us in a state of arrested development because we have become incapable of moving forward. Instead of building new things, we rehash past history, purge ‘problematic’ figures and assign blame for the failures of the present to the dead history of the past.
Victimhood is obsessed with the past. Unlike survivors, victims never want to move forward. They want to remain tethered to the moments that defined them. America was always a nation that looked forward, that imagined the impossible and then realized it. Now, like many backward societies, it has become stuck in the past, rewriting its history to make its founding more evil, churning out excuses for today’s failures in the endless root causes for infinite victimhood.
No wonder most Americans, for the first time in history, no longer believe in a better future.
America was a nation of survivors. It can only endure as a nation that looks to the future. A nation of victims is doomed to fail. It fails because that is the only way its victims can succeed.
Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.
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Thank you for reading.
America is finished. 10% of the population is there illegally and has come on the expectation of a free ride. When their bubbles burst they will rampage. Another 15% are bigots because they think because their ancestors of over 150yrs ago were held in slavery they are due a dividend. The remaining productive 60% are being squeezed and oppressed. If they have any sense they will leave the country. The corporate class and other elites make up the rest. They are going to preside over a failing economy. When the 25% grievance class get through with the place, whose border will they assault then?ReplyDelete
Great piece Daniel. Ties in a lot about the current moment. My Dad always said to me as a kid - “what do whiners get? Nothing!” WhileReplyDelete
this victimhood virus is introduced in schools and spreads on social; our govt that spends trillions a year it doesn’t have doesn’t help; I can see why many believe they’re owed
Trouble is the Left has built a society where whiners get everything while workers get nothing.Delete
I just want to point out that the word you were looking for is persevered, not perserved, which isn't a word.Delete
thanks for catching itDelete
That is one of the best articles you have written. Thank youReplyDelete
Reading this reminded me of how I've been traumatized my entire life. My parents came of age during the Great Depression. I was made to finish my meals, some of which I didn't like. There were rules of conduct and dad's belt when those rules were broken. Once I was treated cruelly and sent to my room without dinner. I don't think I ever got over that. The trauma continued in college, where professor's actually expected me to attend class. The Russian lit professor (yes, Anton Chekhov was his family's doctor!) forced us to read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy...men who raised suffering to an art form. And for the next 44 years in the financial services sector I endured much suffering. I was compelled to complete projects on time, manage others and produce results. After 44 years it became more than I could take. Now in retirement I'm a victim of inflation coupled with the declining stock market erasing what wealth is still on the books. I'm telling you, it ain't easy being me. But along the way I married, had two strong and able sons, owned homes and property, and was never unemployed for more than 72 hours. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's.ReplyDelete
For the life of me I can't recall people rampaging about claiming to be victims, demanding special treatment, special laws, demanding equity and justice, etc., prior to 2009. Maybe it's because I was still working then and had better things to occupy my days. Now we have a generation that would have benefited from the application of Dad's belt but never had it applied. And I suppose it's possible that many of the whiners never had a Dad either. Whatever, or whoever came up with the narrative and accompanying choreography deserves an Oscar.
We have a generation that never grew up and thinks that a sense of satisfaction comes from the government giving you things.Delete
Your life story is an antidote to that.
How refreshing, stimulating, inspiring to hearReplyDelete
another human voice these marvelous truths of
personal victory! Astonishing powers of creation
and accomplishment are ours to call up with our
courage and stamina. Love of Life and enthusiasm
turns it on.
Today's melancholy, from those who wish us ill,
is insubstantial; a powerless specter. Pay it
no mind and keep on being a Glorious American.
Many comments here got me thinking further intoDelete
this predicament. America's heritage was North
European Judeo-Christian Post-Renaissance,
Reformation. Seeds of Middle Class Capitalism
were sprouting. Most still could still only see
Kings and Pope as the focus of civilization.
We Others with energy, courage and little to lose
came here. This personality and a wide ocean
led to a Declaration, Revolution, Constitution,
and a nation of Liberty, Opportunity, Fulfilled
Dreams. Of course, we look to the future where
our enthusiasm leads us to new heights.
Europeans, etc. look back with spite at history,
but don't learn much from it, if Santayana is
any measure. We are much better off improving
ourselves daily than wallowing in shame, guilt,
excuses, resentment. --Thomas
The best article I ever read. All Daniel's articles are so apropos to the current political climate.ReplyDelete
Thank you, we're just watching what's going onDelete
Truth is a bitter pill but must be realized to survive.ReplyDelete