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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Victim Myth and The Damage It Does

Each person is responsible for him or herself.  That may seem shocking to some, but it is the basic narrative of human history.  It doesn't take a village to earn a living; it takes an individual.  It doesn't take a city to keep crime from happening; it takes individuals who know better than to do it.  The things that happen to people usually happen because of something that person did.

In modern America, however, we have come to believe the myth of the victim.  We teach it in our schools.  We express it in our laws.  We pass it into our politics.  If something bad happens to a person, that person is likely a victim.  He or she may be a victim of someone else; he may be a victim of some group; or she may be a victim of society as a whole.  The one thing many accept, however, is that no matter what bad happened, it was not the fault of the person to whom it happened.

The victim myth is a very dangerous thing.  It always means that there is someone else to be blamed when things go wrong.  No one need take responsibility because he or she is just a victim.  Think about it.  When the IRS illegally persecuted conservatives and Christians, president Obama did not need to take responsibility; he was just a victim of a few "rogue" agents in Cincinnati (or so the story went.)  When Omar Mateen shot up a gay club in a terror attack and killed 50, he was also a victim of the gun lobby or Islamophobia or something else.  If a black man is killed by police, of course, he is a victim of racism by the police.  There's no need for proof; he must be a victim.  Just look at Freddie Gray.  Gray died in a police van and, after nights of rioting, six police were charge with criminal conduct.  It had to be police racism and Gray was just a victim.  But was he?  The state has now failed to convict the first three police to go to trial.  It sounds like the claims of victimhood are crumbling.

The truth is that the cult of the victim is perhaps the most destructive force in America today.  There is no reason to work hard to improve oneself because, as a victim, it won't matter; the system will keep you down.  That defeatist BS, however, is one of the big reasons why there are so many problems.  People need to take responsibility for themselves.  Even worse, the victims -- of whom there seem to be countless numbers--are consistently angry.  It's anger that leads to destructive behavior.  When a racist terrorist kills police in Dallas it is because he is angry at all the supposed black victims of misbehavior by other police. 

If we are to recover as a country from our current malaise, we need to jettison victimhood.  Sure, sometimes bad things happen to undeserving people.  That is not what is important, however.  It is how people respond to bad things that matter.

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