I first came across the idea of victim culture in an article about sociology where the basic idea was that at various points in human history there have been different ways of dealing with interpersonal relations within the culture group.
One culture is the honor culture. In honor cultures, if someone offends against you by attacking you, stealing your property, or insulting you, you respond by defending yourself, often physically. You fight a duel, or ambush your attacker, or otherwise take your revenge. This is the culture of the family feud, and if you want to see examples of the honor culture in the modern world, I recommend Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
Another culture is the dignity culture. In dignity cultures, an offender is dealt with by social institutions, such as the law. For personal attacks there are libel or slander suits, for physical injury, there are suits for damages, and for the more serious crimes, the police investigate and the state or city prosecute. The plaintiff demands restitution, or the society as a whole demands punishment. For small infractions, well…. don’t sweat the small stuff.
The honor culture often demands violent responses for small offences. The dignity culture tends to ignore small offences (micro-aggressions) as being “beneath my dignity.”
And then there is the victim culture.
In the victim culture, any offence, no matter how small, is paraded before the wide public of the Internet in hopes of gaining sympathy for the victim and attacks against the perpetrator. Any attempt on the part of the perpetrator to defend themselves is met with escalation and increasingly violent language. This is in part due to the medium. On the Internet, people can become offensive much more quickly than they would in a face-to-face (honor culture) confrontation. Because instead of actual violence, the most they face is the threat of violence. So, safe behind their screens, they turn nasty.
In short, they act like dicks.
This is not the honor culture, because the presumed victims are not defending themselves, they are calling upon the Internet to take up their cause. It is not the dignity culture, because the presumed victims do not rely on social institutions to defend them. They go directly to the Court of Public Opinion. Please note that regardless of whether you approve of the honor culture or the dignity culture, both resolve problems. The victim culture never resolves problems. It only amplifies them.
The victim culture encourages people to act like dicks. It is the natural breeding ground for trolls. It invites people who have no actual stake in …whatever it was… to get involved at a distance without any personal risk or responsibility.
But what’s worse, is that victim culture encourages people to take offence over anything. It invites people to look for reasons to be offended. Victim culture encourages people to set out the terms under which they will disagree with you, attack you, censure you, and insult you.
“No matter how left you think you are, if you don’t believe x, you are still a Nazi!”
“No matter how conservative you claim to be, if you believe in y, you are a tree-hugging Libtard!”
“No matter how Christian you call yourself, if you don’t go batshit crazy over z, you are a spawn of satan!”
“No matter how much you accept science, if you still believe in the religious claptrap of n, you are a thumb-sucking loony!”
I’ve seen pretty much all of these.
When I first arrived in Seattle, I got a job serving behind the counter in a small shop. There I quickly realized that there are people in the world who go around looking for something to be angry about. It can be anything. The price of a first-class stamp. The length of a girl’s skirt. The color of a boy’s hair. The color of someone’s skin. Anything. Everything. And they take these things personally. Never mind that everyone has to pay the same price for a stamp, they shouldn’t be treated this way. It’s outrageous! And so they live their lives in a constant state of outrage.
Well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the universe doesn’t give a crap about your outrage.
And looking for something to be offended by on the Internet is an admission that you are a dick, because you think your opinions, feelings, and needs are more important than anyone else’s, and they should pay for the effrontery of thinking, feeling, or looking different from you.
It is the attitude of the child who says you have to play by their rules or you can’t use their ball. The only thing is, they don’t actually have a ball. They just expect you to play by their rules, or they will tell the Twitterscape on you.
There are real victims out there. People who are denied human dignity and honor because of the color of their skin, the length of their skirt, the people they love, their religion, or lack of it, how much money they have. Pre-existing conditions.
Social structures can take care of the most important offences. Essentially, we live in a dignity culture. But the social structures can be the offenders too. Black lives have to matter to the police or no lives matter to anyone. If we are going to change the social structures and institutions of the state to protect all of our dignities equally, we have to work together, not squabble over our personal demands for special treatment.
Victim culture only creates more victims and more dicks. It never solves anything.
2 thoughts on “Victim Culture”
It also creates a climate where it becomes difficult to point out microaggressions and ask politely for the perpetrator to stop. People who act like dicks embrace the message of “the universe doesn’t care if you’re offended” and use it as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for being knowingly offensive.
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This is certainly true. In fact, one might say that dickish people regularly confuse themselves with the universe at large. Their opinions, feelings and ideas are worth more than yours or mine. It is the hallmark of being a dick.
One of the things we seem to have thrown away in the search for personal freedom is the little codes of behavior that stood in the way of dickish people and treating people badly. You know…. Manners?
Of course, the steady drip, drip, drip of people disrespecting you is painful in the extreme. There is nothing we can do about an uncaring universe, but we can aim at a respectful society. I’d go so far as to say that the fact that the universe doesn’t care is all the more reason for us to take care of each other. In both the big things and the small things.