On Blaming the Victim

From Jennifer Armstrong:

Blaming the victim is quite common on the part of the far right. However, in Australia, it is far more common to succumb to an ideology that overestimates the power of “the individual”. Thus, directly out of this ideology comes the notion that whatever happens to one is somehow directly related to one’s “personal responsibility” — except for very extreme things like a death in the family or the contraction of cancer or something. The blaming of the victim, in the latter case, is an outcome of confused thinking more than it is necessarily an outcome of malice. The assumption that we are all rational individuals who control our destinies is far from true — and hard work does not make it true. Hard work is more likely to assure material prosperity, but to equate material prosperity with “controlling one’s destiny” is a huge mistake, and is also a form of confused thinking.

From my own notebooks:

Earlier in November I wrote this and now I want to stick to it a little better. As you can surely tell by now, that post does not mean I will go on blog hiatus. But I keep hoping work will make me less tired and that I will not have to give up as much of myself to it, so that in turn, I will not need to draw so heavily for my continued existence on the repository of self I have created here.

I will repeat my refrain: Reeducation said that to lead an adult life was “controlling,” that to be happy and successful was “denial,” and that to be an intellectual was a “coping mechanism” which must be renounced. One had to bend and bend for Reeducation’s sake, and give and give. One more try and you’ll have it right. I realized at last that if I gave it one more try I would have no self at all left. And it has taken me this long to see what Reeducation was really saying, and I still have to do anti-Reeducation exercises several times a day.

The aspect of Jennifer Armstrong’s comment I like for personal reasons is the insistence that one does not control one’s destiny. Reeducation criticized me because I had control of my weeks and days. That was too much control, it claimed. Yet at the same time, it thought I ought to be able to control my destiny.

Whenever I reenter the savage zone or the view of life I held before Reeducation, taking hold once again of the power to control days and embrace destiny, I feel lifted from me a great weight.

Axé.

About these ads

18 Comments

Filed under Banes, Resources, Theories

18 responses to “On Blaming the Victim

  1. So, in a way you’re kind of saying that realising the practical limits of controlling is a way of getting actual control?

    I think there may be a certain paradoxical truth in this. In my own sense, I see it this way: To give in to a destiny that is larger than oneself is to relinquish only very petty forms of control, anyway. One never had that much control to begin with, so one is not giving up so much as one would be conditioned to think one was.

    This is what I get from Bataille and his “Lord Chance”.

  2. “So, in a way you’re kind of saying that realising the practical limits of controlling is a way of getting actual control?”

    I’d agree with this and I agree with that reading of Bataille. But I am saying less – just that one of the ways Reeducation had the world 180 degrees wrong was that it thought one should control outcomes but not process, big things but not little ones.

    Still under the ideological influence of Reeducation at some hours, I feel guilty exercising control over little things and giving up on big ones. I always need to remember it really is all right to exercise control over small things, and that there really is nothing morally wrong with me that I cannot control big things.

  3. Reeducation had the world 180 degrees wrong was that it thought one should control outcomes but not process

    This sounds like a recipe for the abuse that I received whilst working at the Financial Sector Union. Perhaps. There was a certain sense of “we have certain expectations of you and we are going to abuse you after the fact if you fail to meet up with them. But we’re not going to tell you what they are.”

  4. The Financial Sector Union sounds downright Kafkaesque.

    But you’re right, it’s part of the general abuse paradigm. You should put up with abuse, but your level of achievement should not reflect its effects.

    So Reeducation was abusive, and did not know how to live life … and it was also bourgeois. If things did not go well it was because one was imperfect, not because sometimes things do not go well.

  5. Yeah, I was thinking about the nature of abuse, today, and how much it is based upon forcing people to relate to things on the basis of a particular paradigm universally (or at least bureaucratically) proclaimed True, and yet for all that untrue.

    I remember sitting with some poor, decrepit soul, in one of the Australian Liberal party’s subtender organisation’s offices. We were unemployed, and my poor acquantaince was pointing out something quite logically — “They say that there’s a problem with you if there’s a gap in your resume, but that’s just the way reality works, because you can’t always find work.”

    Yes. But the manner in which bourgeois ideology acts punitively to degrade and humiliate those who have fallen upon hard times is to compel a person to account for the complexities and unevenness of reality through the narrow lens of rational individualism. So anything vulgar or abusive, or even simply irregular that happens to you has to be treated as if it came about through one’s “own free will”. To speak about it in other terms is seen as “making excuses”. Yet it is not making excuses — it is telling the truth.

    And what the bourgeois ideologues do when they prevent someone from telling their truth is a human rights abuse. It’s torture.

  6. Z

    “So anything vulgar or abusive, or even simply irregular that happens to you has to be treated as if it came about through one’s ‘own free will’. To speak about it in other terms is seen as ‘making excuses’. Yet it is not making excuses — it is telling the truth.”

    “And what the bourgeois ideologues do when they prevent someone from telling their truth is a human rights abuse. It’s torture.”

    Yes. And I just watched this film, which is somewhat predictable and sappy, but does make that point:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0288719/
    http://www.cineismo.com/criticas/pasos-perdidos-los.htm

    And the whole point of torture is to get someone to submit to an alien power and an alternate reality.

  7. I haven’t seen the movie. But the corruption of the human spirit I’m describing is appalling to see. Not so much the working class boy who saw what was going on and at least to that degree perhaps resisted it. But those who allow themselves to be trained to see that which their eyes do not see and which their memories do not relate to them — that is, that notion that whatever has happened to them has been out of their own “free will” (although it is still acceptable to deflect blame and resentment towards those even weaker than oneself).

    This is the making of bourgeois consciousness — and it is an illness. And it produces further mental torment — and more illness.

  8. And bourgeois consciousness looks like Fascism “lite,” or at least in my current mood it does. (And naturally, I have to say that Reeducation was an attempt to inculcate bourgeois consciousness.)

  9. I think it is a fascism lite — and why would it not be?

  10. It is a fascism lite.

  11. It is a fascism lite….at a reduced price! ready to wear! your friends will envy!

  12. ;-) Funny but also too true.

  13. But you know, or at least I see it because I feel like I am very perceptive to abuse, the people who claim to be the anti-racists, the anti-sexist, and the anti-big oppressors utilise bourgeois ideologues in their approach and in the process are very abusive and then when called on it label you (the general you) as the fascist/bigot/sexist. It is as if simply because they are fighting the good fight, their heart is in the right place they can free themselves from bourgeois ideologues even though it is evident that they are drowning in that very ideology.

  14. Kitty – yes, and I think this is key. It is a problem for activism as well because it plays right into the hands of those who say activists are mean.

  15. the people who claim to be the anti-racists, the anti-sexist, and the anti-big oppressors utilise bourgeois ideologues in their approach and in the process are very abusive

    Yes. The problem seems to be their philosophical Idealism, and their inability to see that the hoc est corpus of pronouncing something (themselves) pure does not make it so.

  16. v

    Im just about following all of this, and the articles on unsaneandsafe. I just wanted to say, im finding all of these discussions really interesting, finding myself nodding where i do understand, and wanting to understand and read further where I don’t.

    And I’m really glad thats these discussions are taking place and these articles are getting written, because i’ve been finding myself increasingly alienated and confused by supposed social justice activists who do not have room for someone like me, who might not fit into the boxes they require me to fit into. I wonder that if they do not have room for my reality, then surely they cant be representing anyone else very well either.

    I hope that makes some sort of sense. In short, im really getting a lot out of all these posts. And thats what I wanted to say.

  17. “I wonder that if they do not have room for my reality, then surely they can’t be representing anyone else very well either.”

    I think it has to do with some people thinking they have everything all figured out and are above it all.

  18. And also, some of these social justice activists are fairly recent converts from extreme conservatism. It is sort of like dealing with recent religious converts who assume that everyone else is wallowing in sin and only they see the truth, and so on. The thing is that *everyone* has much more to learn and they do not realize this yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s