We have seen the future, and it sucks.

The Joys of Victimhood

1st February 2018

Joseph Epstein penned this classic in 1989.

Victims have never been in short supply in the world, but the rush to identify oneself as a victim is rather a new feature of modern life. Why this should be so isn’t very complicated: to position oneself as a victim is to position oneself for sympathy, special treatment, even victory. It’s not only individuals who benefit. In international politics, one sees the deliberate strategy of positioning for victimhood played out in the Middle East. Although Israel is a country of fewer than four million Jewish people surrounded by Arab nations numbering some 200 million people, very few of whom mean the Israelis well, the Arabs have somehow been able to make themselves – or at least the Palestinians as their representatives – seem the great victims in the Middle East. Every time a woman or a small child is injured in the organized riots known as the intifada – one might ask why small children are allowed anywhere near such danger – the victimhood of the Palestinians is reinforced and their cause, as victims, made all the stronger.

Gandhi was the great teacher of the art of victimhood, of setting one’s victimization on full public display. Part of the genius of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to recognize the value of Gandhi’s lessons for the American civil rights movement, and most especially the lesson of nonviolent resistance, which not only highlights victimhood but gives it, in a good cause, a genuinely moral aura. Their moral and physical courage lent civil rights workers in the South an appeal that was irresistible to all but the most hard-hearted of segregationists. Americans, all of whose families began in this country as immigrants, have a built-in tradition of having known victimhood, at least historically, and hence a strong tendency toward sympathy for victims.

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