There has been a lot written in recent years about the Victim Mentality. It’s based on the premise that others are to blame for all the bad things that happen to us and it keeps us from taking responsibility for our own actions. At least that’s the definition.
Those who go on about the Victim Mentality focus mainly on three groups: people of color, the poor, and feminists. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say that if blacks, the poor and women would stop focusing on their victimhood they could get on with the business of making something of their lives. As if recognizing all the ways that they’ve been discriminated against automatically makes them feel sorry for themselves and unwilling to do anything about it.
But what if it’s not self-pity but social awareness that makes a person see him or her self as a victim? After all, you know the saying, “You’re not paranoid if there really is someone after you.” Why are so many people so quick to label victims as paranoid when it’s clear that they are being victimized?
Yes, you can take being a victim too far. If it paralyzes you and destroys your self-esteem, it’s obviously not a useful mind-set. But rather than seeing it as a character defect, I see it as a positive thing. Because far to many of us don’t blame others enough for the hardships we encounter in life. We put ourselves down for not being strong enough, or clever enough, or hard-working enough to overcome our personal difficulties.
But if we do happen to express the thought that someone else may have “done us wrong,” watch out. There are plenty of people out there who will accuse us of playing the “poor me” card. “You’re just lazy,” they say. “You aren’t willing to work hard for what you want. You’re a baby.”
“They” want us to swallow that swill because they don’t want to face all the ways that they have contributed to our subjugation and our hardships. Whites don’t want to admit that they’re prejudiced. The rich don’t want to admit that they could care less what happens to the poor. Men don’t want to admit that they really do see women as inferior.
See, there’s no excuse in the good ole U.S. of A. for personal failure. So if a black, poor person or female has a hard time getting ahead, it must be his or her fault. Institutional or personal discrimination couldn’t possibly play a role in their less-than-stellar outcomes in life.
There are such things as racism, classism and sexism is this country. People do discriminate against others based on their own self-interest and biases. Human nature dictates that one way to keep yourself on top is to make sure that others stay down. Those who victimize others blame the victims for their own victimization. It’s a clever and insidious technique.
I think it’s important to see yourself as a victim. Because until you identify the ways you’ve been victimized, you’re never going to have enough fire in your belly to do anything about it. You need to be able to identify the people who have a vested interest in keeping you in your place and the processes they use to accomplish it.
And then you need to fight like hell to make sure they never victimize you again.