Preamble: As all three regular readers of this blog can attest, I’ve waged my humble war against the endless abstraction of human suffering and sin from the people doing the suffering and sinning. What I mean is that Hegelian and particularly Marxist compulsion to see the complete and final explanation of all things in gigantic impersonal forces, such a the Spirit or Capital or Power Dynamics, insisting that the division of everyone into Oppressed and Oppressors is the ultimate truth and lens to reality. The idea that the experiences and behaviors of actual people could overturn such an understanding is dismissed out of hand. If one insists that the reality of the personal experiences of real people trumps the fantasy of theory – well, at best one is guilty of trying to Turn Back the Clock from the Wrong Side of History. At best.
This Oppressor/Oppressed idea is just true enough often enough to encourage them. No sane person is denying that, for example, the Soviet Communists, as a matter of principle, interfered with the rights and happiness of their subjects by, say, murdering and enslaving them by the tens of millions. (At least for all meaningful values of ‘sane’.) Nobody is denying that there really were Robber Barons who manipulated and abused their workers and their power in the markets, and that principles of Capitalism, as understood by Social Darwinists, played at least the role of intellectual back-fill. (What is being challenged is the equating of Soviet totalitarianism with Walmart, except that Walmart is so much worse that we can forget all about the Communists. But that brings us back to what the meaning of ‘sane’ is.)
The competing fundamental ideas can be called Human Nature/Original Sin versus the Dialectic/Power Dynamics. The first view permits one to take the individual experiences of real people as data points, as it were, data points that can falsify our bigger theories. For example, the continued existence of happily married people with families is allowed to challenge the theory that marriage and families are merely a part of a structure of oppression created by elites for their own benefit. The second accepts only Marx’s miserable family life as a data point, and an unacknowledged on at that.
What this Oppressed/Oppressor framework encourages – indeed, insists on – is that we DO NOT look at the experiences of individuals except insofar as those experiences can be framed within the Power Dynamic du jour. Thus, again, that most women (and men!) all through history, and even most today, have found their greatest happiness and fulfillment in marriage and child rearing – well, they are only happy or most likely fooled into thinking they are happy because Power Dynamic! So, instead of acknowledging to our little girls and boys that, chances are, you’ll be most happy if you prepare yourself to be a good wife or husband and take great care in finding a mate and commit yourself wholly and permanently to them when you find them, we fret and wail over the lack of women astrophysicists, or female left tackles in the NFL. That vanishingly few kids of either sex will find future fulfillment as astrophysicists or left tackles is beside the ideological point – if little girls say they want to be mommies when they grow up, we have to set them straight and hold up ANY other goal as an ideal. Any little girl who grows up to be a wife and mommy has clearly betrayed the cause. If they only understood real happiness, they’d fight to be miserable. Or something.
On to what this post is really about. The elegantly behatted & Evil Legion of Evil promoter John C Wright writes here and links therein to an essay by Sarah Hoyt – both are well worth reading. The subject under discussion is the amazingly bad behavior of an entire class of people who claim victimhood as their defining characteristic, indeed, as the defining relationship of all humankind. People who may otherwise show signs of intelligence become, suddenly, absolute tantruming toddlers when exposed to any real or imagined challenge to their status as the greatest, most victimy victim ever victimized, even to the extent of cat-fights with other victimy victims over who is suffering the greatest victimization.
The comments section is worth perusing. I opined in the comboxes:
In an attempt at sympathy:
Having been involved in a K-12 school for most of the last couple decades, one thing is very clear: the world is full of furiously angry little boys and girls. Here I mean real chronological boys and girls. Their parents have betrayed them, first, by depriving them of a stable home with a mother an father in it, and second and far more evilly, by then refusing to take any responsibility for it. The child is left in the untenable position of being terribly hurt yet being told he can’t be hurt, nobody has hurt him – mommy and daddy just didn’t love each other anymore, and needed to move apart. No big deal – you’ll get over it, insofar as it’s anything you even need to get over.
Now, take these emotionally shattered children, who have just been told that mommy and daddy can stop loving somebody if they just don’t feel like it anymore, and stick ‘em day care for 10 hours a day to be raised up by minimum wage workers. Mommy or (occasionally) daddy will drop them off no matter how much they scream and cry. They’ll spend almost all of their waking hours in the care of people who may very well try to love them – but they got 10 other kids to look after, too.
Now, evolutionary biology and common sense say: a small child cannot hate his parents and survive. When we’r
e little, we are utterly dependent on adults – love is how we cling to them. So the child deals with the anger that comes from being deserted and having no consistent love by fixing that anger on something else. Most anything will serve, but it seems most commonly to be some authority figure or other. Makes school real fun.
We’ve had now 3 complete generations where a huge percentage of kids have grown up like this. Now, there are enough of them so that they can escape the feeble hold of sane culture, and flee into a large and growing group of people who say: all tradition is evil. All culture is oppressive:, All restrictions on what you want are evil.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen parents with furious children who have never entertained the idea for a moment that their own behavior is the source of the fury. Nope. They, themselves, as damaged little kids only older, cannot imagine they have failed their own children.
OF COURSE there are exception. But this happens a lot.
Now, we should hope that, at some point, people grow up, regardless of emotional trauma. I think in the past, where there were clear societal and religious expectations, it was perhaps more likely to happen. Now? Why? Nobody else in your crowd is acting like a grownup.
Finally, since not everybody can have their pouty little way all the time, a day of reckoning is coming, and traditionally cultured and religious people will have nothing to do with instigating it – the pouty will, like a barrel full of squid, start eating each other. It seems to already be starting here and there. It will not be pretty.
To expand on that last thought: well before the body of the last external enemy has stopped twitching, this modern incarnation of devotees to Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité will turn their sharp, sharp knives on each other – this increasingly bitter fight over who is the most victimized will grow into an all-out purity battle, with the losers consigned to the outside with the other oppressors. Thus, for example, the definitions of who, exactly, is white, will grow to include anyone who does not show adequate antipathy toward ‘white’ culture (whatever that may mean), regardless of their current ethnic or racial classification within the Power Dynamic. You see the problem: lots of South Americans and other putative victims don’t quite fit into the victim class, or, worse, fail to see all things as an effect of an evil Power Dynamic in the first place. This state of affairs is intolerable.
I don’t know how violent things will get – not too violent, one hopes. Perhaps it will stop with getting people fired and making them unemployable – bad, but not too bad, historically speaking. But you never know, and restraint and reason have hardly characterized things up to now.
What history, especially the history of the French Revolution, tells us: once victory in the larger battle seems assured, attention will turn toward who gets power in the new order. So we will see if Trotsky or Lenin is the truly-true communist – by seeing who can kill off the other without dying first. The guillotine will get broken in on the necks of plausibly guilty enemies, but will soon get a chance to work on the necks of the merely unenthusiastic, before really getting to work on the losers within the victors’ ranks. And a Stalin, he who is most uninhibited in the use of violence, will rise to the top.
The sad part: the mere whiners, those who think the world owes them compensation and revenge, will find out exactly how deep the supposed sympathy of the powerful for their cause runs. When push comes to shove, those in power will recognize that their devotion to the idea that they should be in power is far greater than their devotion to the causes of the oppressed. If the oppressed fail to get into line, by, for example, insisting on some real power for themselves to do what the powerful do not want done, they will see just how quickly they can become enemies of the revolution, and victims of the guillotine themselves.
I sincerely pray is does not come to that.