Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Culture of Victimhood?

My friend Malcolm Pollack has recently noted a scholarly article on some topics he has long blogged about, so I went to the article itself, "Microaggression and Moral Cultures," written by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, published in Comparative Sociology (Volume 13, Issue 6, pages 692-726), and available online (through my university, anyway). I have skimmed the article and found the following interesting passage under the heading "A Culture of Victimhood":
A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization . . . . [The culture of victimhood] emerges in contemporary settings, such as college campuses, that increasingly lack the intimacy and cultural homogeneity that once characterized towns and suburbs, but in which organized authority and public opinion remain as powerful sanctions. Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood because the moral status of the victim . . . has risen to new heights.
Those embedded in a culture of victimhood thus seek to emphasize their weakness and therefore appeal to a powerful authority to guarantee justice, even for what are called microaggressions. But where do we find this culture of victimhood?
The culture of victimhood is currently most entrenched on college campuses, where microaggression complaints are most prevalent. Other ways of campaigning for support from third parties and emphasizing one's own oppression . . . . [T]he narrative of oppression and victimization is especially congenial to the leftist worldview . . . . But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well . . . . Naturally, whenever victimhood . . . confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it. As clinical psychologist David J. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to "assert that they are a victim as well." Thus, "men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization" . . . . An example of the latter can be seen in an essay in The Princeton Tory by student Tal Fortgang, who, responding to the phrase "check your privilege," which he says "floats around college campuses," recounts his own family's many victimizations - a grandfather who did hard labor in Siberia, a grandmother who survived a death march through Poland, and others shot in an open grave.
I have a point of disagreement on the authors about Tal Fortgang. They maintain that he "recounts his own family's many victimizations," presumably so that he might gain the moral status of victimhood. I disagree. Mr. Fortgang was pointing to the hardships his family endured, but not to attain the status of victimbood. Rather, he wanted to emphasize the strength that characterized his family and that motivated them to overcome hardship. His message? Stop claiming victimhood and start seeking victory on your merits.

At least, that's how I read things . . .



At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Tom Ball said...

Stop trying to force your interpretation of Tal Fortgang down my throat! My views would have validity if you didn't belittle them at every turn!

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And you, sirrah, are strangling my free speech, so I say, "Shut your trap!"

Jeffery Hodges

@ @ @


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