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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Victims and Vegeance

The majority of the stories we tell ourselves, and pay to read, hear, or see, are about victims who triumph by avenging themselves on others responsible for their humiliation. We are reliably hooked by witnessing, in fiction or film, someone who is injured by another person or group. Then we can identify with the victim. And we look forward to enjoying either the victim's success in "paying back" the perpetrators, or else someone taking the victim's side to avenge the wrong. When sad or afraid we want to blame something for causing our feelings. We'd rather feel angry. * So none are more apt to be vicious than those who believe themselves victims. It's not by chance that old white people populated the "tea party" reaction after the election of President Obama in 2008. The black president was unavoidable evidence that the dominance of "white" people in the U.S. was waning. The reaction was like Hitler's when Germany lost the war they'd started against the French, also known as World War One. * From childhood Hitler blamed others for his perceived failures, as we all are inclined to do. Later he found his vocation in telling audiences that their failures or losses were not their fault. They were all of them victims of a conspiracy. Blaming others for what we feel we're suffering both relieves us of responsibility and justifies whatever we do to get even. We even become good by inflicting harm on the "bad."Movies that don't fairly clearly identify the "good guys" and caricature the "bad" ones confuse the majority of the audience and are rarely popular. The bad guys must also be visibly vicious or at least characterized only by their crimes, because then the types of injury and death they suffer are deserved. * We enjoy our rage and resentment being justified. Despite the specific profiles of each of the terrorists--the majority of them Saudi arabs--who carried out the attacks on 9/ll, it was easy to get not only a majority of our legislators but of Americans as a whole to support going to war against Iraq. * This pattern is unlikely to change. The best we can do is to attend to the sources of our own feelings and so cultivate the habit of not blaming. I can't even blame the Republicans for my fury over the present
political obstruction. They're just old white people, after all...