A Really Cool Game: Blame-the-Victim

By | January 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

 

Coyote with “legitimate grievances” against cats

In most of the world, people play soccer, which they call football. In America, we also play our own brand of football. But everywhere, people play blame-the-victim. Anyone can play – no skill or knowledge is required. It’s easy to play – there are no rules.
Most of all, it’s satisfying. It makes us feel good about ourselves while doing absolutely nothing. It relieves us of responsibility to do anything for the victims, or even to feel sorry for them. It makes us feel superior to them without having to demonstrate superiority. It makes us feel safe without having to do anything to make us safe.
Animal attacks.
Some time ago, a 350-pound Siberian tiger, largest of the big cats, jumped the moat at the San Francisco Zoo, then roamed the visitor area, killing a 17-year-old and mauling two other young men. Later it was learned that the wall was four feel lower than recommended. But soon rumors began to spread on the Web. The three were said to be drunk. In fact, only one was. The dead boy had a level of 0.02, which is barely detectable. Then they were accused of using marijuana. But it remains in the body for days to weeks − a positive urine test cannot prove recent use, so even if reports were correct, this is irrelevant.
Next the three were said to be throwing objects at the tiger. There is no evidence of this, except an eight-pound rock in the tiger’s enclosure. Anyone who can throw an eight-pound rock more than 20 feet should try out for the Olympic shot-put team. Then they were accused of attacking the tiger with a slingshot, which the police denied. Of course, accusations do not need to be true − they only need to be made, thereby shifting blame to the victims.
Finally critics were reduced to charging that the three were yelling at the tiger and “taunting” her. This may be true, but so what? Anyone who has ever visited a zoo has seen people, usually boys, yelling at animals in an attempt to get them to wake up and move around. This may be juvenile, but it is not illegal, and it surely does not deserve the death penalty.
The lack of sympathy for the three young men and their families is striking, but not surprising. This generation was taught to respect animal life more than human life. When joggers are attacked by mountain lions, or when pet dogs and cats are carried off by coyotes, someone is sure to say, “They were here first.” In fact, the coyote’s range has increased markedly since humans arrived. In fact, in many places we were here before they were. In fact, single-celled organisms were here first. Everything and everyone else is an invader.
Criminal attacks.
When we hear that a man was robbed at gunpoint, we tend to ask, “What was he doing in that part of town?” When we hear that a woman was raped, we tend to say, “I’ll bet she was wearing skimpy clothes and going to cheap bars.” When we hear of domestic violence, we tend to speculate, “There probably were three families living in one apartment.”
True, we can reduce our risk of violent crime by avoiding dangerous situations. But some people can’t − they are forced by circumstances to live or work in high-crime areas. Our response should not be to feel superior, but to try to reduce the crime rate in all parts of town.
Besides, our risk is only somewhat less. Domestic violence and home-invasion robberies occur in the “best” parts of town. Thoughtful people would search their own hearts for the bitterness and anger that can be the basis of violence, rather than sit in smug self-righteousness while looking down on the violent “others.”
If we live in gated communities and work in security buildings, we may feel no need to own a gun. But that does not give us the right to tell those who must live or work in high-crime areas that they cannot own a gun. Lack of empathy for the less fortunate is a poor qualification to be called “liberal” and “progressive.” It sounds a lot more like elitist and snobbish.
Terrorist attacks.
Some anti-American fanatics blame the office workers in the World Trade Center for their own deaths, comparing them to “Nazis.” Even if the stock brokers had been doing something wrong, what about the hundreds of maintenance workers and visitors, not to mention the firefighters and police who died rescuing others? Were they “Nazis,” too?
Less fanatic, but equally illogical, are those who blame all Americans for 9/11. We “brought it on ourselves” because of our “meddling” foreign policy. According to this theory, Muslims are justified in crashing airliners filled with passengers into buildings filled with workers, if the Muslims disagree with our foreign policy. History shows that this notion is incorrect. Muslim hostility is based not on our foreign policy; it is based on the fundamental incompatibility of Muslim and Western cultures.
But the notion is also racist. For decades, Americans have been irritated by French foreign policy. Yet no one suggests that this would justify our crashing Air France airliners into Paris office buildings. And Mexicans suffer from widespread poverty and government corruption. Yet no one expects Mexicans to blow themselves up in hotels, nightclubs, and pizzerias.
Of course not. Americans and Mexicans are far too civilized to commit such atrocities to avenge our “legitimate grievances.”
But Muslims? Do they have such touchy hair-triggers, and so little self-control, that a policy with which they disagree turns them into homicidal maniacs? Really? People who believe that are racists. They, not the workers in the Twin Towers, resemble Nazis. They are so eager to blame the victims and exonerate the terrorists that they fail to realize the racist implications of what they are saying.
Blame-the-victim is a really entertaining, satisfying game:
● It requires no exertion, so it pleases the lazy.
● It requires no skill, so it pleases the clumsy.
● It requires no knowledge, so it pleases the ignorant.
● It has no rules, so it pleases the undisciplined.
● It requires us to do nothing to increase our safety, but merely to feel safer.
● All it requires is egotism, which elevates us above the victims − not by real achievements, but merely by imagining ourselves to be superior.
● All it requires is lack of empathy, which allows us to attribute imaginary faults to the victims. So we need not feel sorry for them, much less try to help them or to prevent future victimization.
● All it requires is subconscious admiration for predators, whether they are ordinary criminals, terrorists, or wild animals. Some people envy their ruthlessness and strength.
● All it requires is subconscious fear of being like the victims. Some people despise their vulnerability and weakness.
● All it requires is moral idiocy, which prevents us from distinguishing terrorist from activist, aggressor from defender, guilty from innocent, predator from prey, or criminal from victim.
● All it requires is apathy in the presence of evil. And that is easiest of all.
What a deal! Where else can you find a game that is so satisfying, yet so easy to play? Plus it’s really cool, in both senses. It’s popular with the trendy, self-anointed “elite.” And it demonstrates cold indifference to the problems of the innocent and the vulnerable.
Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.
www.stolinsky.com

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