Author Topic: Victim mentality  (Read 38471 times)

Cain

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Victim mentality
« on: April 29, 2008, 01:36:26 pm »
“Once victim, always victim -- that's the law!”
- Thomas Hardy

“Danger lies in the writer becoming the victim of his own exaggeration, losing the exact notion of sincerity, and in the end coming to despise truth itself as something too cold, too blunt for his purpose -- as, in fact, not good enough for his insistent emotion.”

- Joseph Conrad


The victim mentality is a curious thing. 

Oh, I don't mean, as do the various proto-racist idiots do, talk about legitimate grievances experienced by a group of people.  For example, Jews or blacks in the USA.  There is both legitimate and ongoing discrimination against those groups, for starters.  Furthermore, their victim status is a matter of how other's treat them, it is not a label they generally accept willingly, and furthermore they try to rid themselves of the label as much as possible.

No, I'm interested in people who want to be victims, who identify themselves as such, who wish to be seen as oppressed and living in a world that is out to get them.  And most often, these people have actually experienced very little to actually warrant that status.  In many cases, it seems to be a one-off event that then colours their vision for the rest of their lives.

The most obvious example of this would be Emo 'culture'.  Once upon a time, as I'm sure you are all aware, emo was about music and, to a degree, a certain style of clothing.  However that is long gone and dead, replaced with music by middle-class white suburbanites whining about how bad their life is.  Its so very cliché, yet at the same time almost hilarious.  You may think I'm joking, but some deluded emo kids have seen fit to compare themselves to black slaves, or the persecution homosexuals suffer, and yet at the same time consider themselves part of 'social movement' based entirely on this shared, faked identity.

That's the most obvious example, but I believe this is just trickle down from another source – the body politic.  For quite a while now, the adoption of victimhood status has been a tool, one used by unscrupulous political organizations in order to promote and further their causes, as well as give their members a sense of grievance and anger any anyone not in their 'in-group'.  Hell, it even works on atheists, who you think would be more open to reasoning and trying to understand what makes people operate than most others.  The ethnocentric nature of it is useful for any aspiring leader.

Victimhood is a powerful tool, because it draws a group together and creates for them a collective experience which they interpret reality through.  Its even more powerful in this modern day and age because of the media, and especially the bottom up media that has been invented by the internet, blogging and Youtube in particular.  An individual can pick their media inputs based on their belonging to one social group or another, and if several of those inputs are spreading a victim discourse and memes, then the idea and acceptance of it will spread throughout that particular group. 

What is especially dangerous and worrying, however, is when a victim discourse becomes intertwined with a sense of humiliation.  Three prime examples of this are the three most powerful countries in the world right now, and their nationalist rhetoric.  China believes it has been humiliated by the western powers throughout its modern contact with them, and not without reason.  It has been invaded, had its people addicted to opium by Western dealers backed by huge national armies, had foreign powers support civil wars and has been ignored by the international system at large.  However, that has very little to do with why it is being criticized now, although most Chinese people would not believe that.

Equally, we have Russia.  After the inglorious end to the Cold War, they suffered the chaos of the Yeltsin years, where the government was run by gangsters and thugs of all colours, the assets of the nation were looted, and Russians were left to die in the streets or freeze to death at home – all while Western pundits lauded Boris Yeltsin and took advantage of Russia's weakness to humiliate them in the international sphere.  And now they have a stronger leader, one who evokes their Imperial and Soviet past, they again see him being villainized by the West.  As far as they are concerned, the West wants them weak and humiliated forever.

And finally, we have America.  American popular nationalism has been built very strongly on the events of 9/11, an event stronger than say the Chinese experience, as almost everyone saw the events of that day repeatedly, shared by cable news networks on repeat all day.  America had long believed its superpower status had somehow conferred invincibility upon it, and to be shown up by Arabs wielding box-cutters, who nonetheless inflicted incredible levels of damage on the country, was a humiliation unseen since Clinton's retreat from Somalia.

And the mix of victim and humiliation is a very bad one.  Because one identifies as the victim, yet at the same time, this identity only serves to remind you of what caused one to think of oneself this way, which brings rise to the feeling of humiliation.  Using this kind of victim status as a tool is a very, very dangerous one indeed.  Its like wearing a mail shirt to defend yourself from criticism of your actions, only to find that there are spikes on the inside of the amour.  It does defend, and help explain the action, but at the same time, it serves as a painful reminder, which only drives those who accept it to even more extreme actions to try and reverse that humiliation.

And therein lies the danger.  All the processes are internal, or take place at a vague sociological level where identity and discourse are more tangible than fact or action, yet it is precisely by action that this humiliated victim seeks to redress what they see as those who wronged them.  And should they fail even slightly, they go to ever more extreme and bloody ends in search of a cure they can never find.

Roo

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2008, 03:14:26 pm »
The victim mentality is indeed a curious thing.

It allows us to both deny and accept the bad things that happen in this world, and treat others as both things and persons.

It is a role we play. Yet it is also an identity and a belief system. Those Jews and Blacks, victims of so much persecution, have taken that persecution to heart. Their victim status is not just a matter of how others treat them, but of how they see themselves. It is a matter of self-perception, along with denial that the persecution is over. People who identify themselves as victims, are not wishing to be seen as oppressed and living in a world that is out to get them. They do, however, wish to feel heard and validated. They especially want their feelings to be validated.

Overcoming the victim mentality is often a matter of accepting that the defining event has stopped happening. Americans, with our "never forget" bumper stickers, are still holding on to the grievance of 9/11. We hold onto it like a dog with a chew toy. We have yet to reach the point of accepting that it's over and time to move on with our lives. Perhaps the same can be said of Russia and China.

Victimhood is a rusty tool, at best. If you spend enough time convincing people you are powerless, they will perceive you that way. Hence the continued persecution and victimhood of the Jews and blacks, and also why Feminism failed so mightily. Victimhood may draw people together, and create a collective reality, but it is, by its very nature, a state of fear and distrust. Its bonds are shaky, and easily broken. Any who attempt to break free risk the rejection of the group they've come to rely on and identify with. That said, all it takes is one individual to stand up and speak up, and the rest of the group can become empowered by their example.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 03:16:18 pm by Crazy Monkey »

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2008, 03:23:16 pm »
Wow, that was a pretty good analysis, Cain.

I'm pretty sure if you threw in a few citations, you could easily get that published.

Verbal Mike

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2008, 03:39:49 pm »
:mittens:
Interestingly enough, Israel in the last few years (or at least as far back as I can recall) has also taken on a major victim mentality. The vibe I get in Israel is that people think most of the world is out to get the Jews, and always has been. In diaspora I think these vibes take on a more sane, peaceful form. But in Israel these feelings are rooted in indignant anger and outright xenophobia. Rather than trying to shed this mentality, nationalist forces are enforcing it and using it to foster violence and isolationism.
I actually recently translated an excellent and very eloquent article about this, but I don't have the right to put the translation online.
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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2008, 09:40:46 am »
This is probably also why people compare scars or want to convince everybody that they had worse parents than you. Maybe we all just want a pity hug.
I posted that so hard.

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2008, 12:49:40 pm »
Comparing scars is ancient, primitive human behavior and is probably based on basic second-circuit male pecking-order politics more than anything else.
But trying to convince everyone you had it worse than they did, has imho more to do with Christian ethics than with wanting a hug. Christianity seems (in my very limited understanding thereof) to claim that suffering=virtue, and that if you've had a good life you're probably a sinner. I get the feeling this silly dichotomy is the kind of thing that saturates Western culture so deeply that it no longer even depends on religion for its continued existence.
A similar but distinct undercurrent exists in Jewish culture, where it has less to do with religion and more to do with history. There's a classic Jewish Mother joke that goes, four Jewish mothers are sitting in a restaurant, having a gourmet meal. A waiter comes by and asks, "is anything okay?". It's practically a tradition to whine and complain about things, to the point that it's become ironic. I think this is related to European Yiddish culture. The Jews of Europe suffered a lot in the dark and middle ages, when this culture emerged. The Yiddish language is so full of humor it might burst. When I think of a typical conversation between two Old World orthodox Jewish men, I see them complaining about everything and anything, in good humor. This cultural undercurrent is a natural host for the Christian suffering=virtue meme. Imagine, you make an art of complaining, and then come in contact with people who seem to believe the more you suffer, the better a person you are. Why wouldn't you play along? The combination can make you look good.
My guess is the personal victim mentality, of the holier-than-thou variety, is a distinctly Western element and would take on a very different form in Eurasian, Asian, and native cultures, if it is present in them at all.

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2008, 06:24:08 pm »
I tend to think that people who play the "eternal victim" role are essentially just attention-whoring, and they can't come up with anything positive or interesting to say or do so they whine about how terrible their life is/was.
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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2008, 12:07:10 am »
I tend to think that people who play the "eternal victim" role are essentially just attention-whoring, and they can't come up with anything positive or interesting to say or do so they whine about how terrible their life is/was.

That really reminded me of "that guy" in our circle of friends. You all know who that guy is. They always start a conversation with a complaint. Be it major or minor, it is something bad that has happened, without fail. Ever the victim. Yet while you realise that this is attention seeking there is this little part, deep down that feels a little sorry. I myself fully believe that is it just sympathy that victims want and by portraying themselves as so they get it.
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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2008, 12:39:36 am »
There's two different types of victims.  At the personal level, it's the attention-seeking you describe.  But when applied to groups it becomes a rallying cry for the in-group.  You can glorify being the underdog, and having to fight a long uphill battle against The System oppressing you.  At the same time you can blame some or all of your problems on the out-group.

I think a good example of this would be some elements of the Christian fundamentalists.  Y'know, the ones the government is oppressing by not allowing them to organize prayer in schools and academia is oppressing by alternately suppressing and ignoring creation science, and the media is oppressing by essentially declaring a war on values and trying to flood their homes with sex and depravity, and Wal-Mart is oppressing by saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and the gays are oppressing by indoctrinating their schoolchildren with the Day of Silence.
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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2008, 12:23:52 pm »
four Jewish mothers are sitting in a restaurant, having a gourmet meal. A waiter comes by and asks, "is anything okay?"

 :lol:

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Cain

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2008, 01:28:07 pm »
There's two different types of victims.  At the personal level, it's the attention-seeking you describe.  But when applied to groups it becomes a rallying cry for the in-group.  You can glorify being the underdog, and having to fight a long uphill battle against The System oppressing you.  At the same time you can blame some or all of your problems on the out-group.

I think a good example of this would be some elements of the Christian fundamentalists.  Y'know, the ones the government is oppressing by not allowing them to organize prayer in schools and academia is oppressing by alternately suppressing and ignoring creation science, and the media is oppressing by essentially declaring a war on values and trying to flood their homes with sex and depravity, and Wal-Mart is oppressing by saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and the gays are oppressing by indoctrinating their schoolchildren with the Day of Silence.

The second one is the problem, to me.  Attention whores are easily dealt with - you ignore them.  They use their status as a victim as a tool to achieve a particular goal and if it continues to fail, they will switch tactics.

Its the group identification, ethnocentrism that you describe that is the worrying one.  "We are all in this together and the world OUT THERE is trying to get at us".  The group dynamics of such thinking tend to express themselves dangerously.

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2008, 01:50:27 pm »
:mittens:
Interestingly enough, Israel in the last few years (or at least as far back as I can recall) has also taken on a major victim mentality. The vibe I get in Israel is that people think most of the world is out to get the Jews, and always has been. In diaspora I think these vibes take on a more sane, peaceful form. But in Israel these feelings are rooted in indignant anger and outright xenophobia. Rather than trying to shed this mentality, nationalist forces are enforcing it and using it to foster violence and isolationism.
I actually recently translated an excellent and very eloquent article about this, but I don't have the right to put the translation online.

The Jews really HAVE been a scapegoat for the world for a long time, though... to some degree their paranoia is justified, I think.

Cain

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2008, 01:52:23 pm »
Yeah, on that point I tend to think they may have a certain level of justification...same with blacks in America when it comes to the doings of the government etc

Of course, they can take it too far, but then so does everyone else.

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2008, 01:58:34 pm »
YUP.

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Re: Victim mentality
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2008, 04:14:34 pm »
I think a good example of this would be some elements of the Christian fundamentalists.  Y'know, the ones the government is oppressing by not allowing them to organize prayer in schools and academia is oppressing by alternately suppressing and ignoring creation science, and the media is oppressing by essentially declaring a war on values and trying to flood their homes with sex and depravity, and Wal-Mart is oppressing by saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and the gays are oppressing by indoctrinating their schoolchildren with the Day of Silence.