Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'm A Victim, Are You A Victim Too?

There is power in victimhood.  Whether it be blaming one's parents, society-at-large, immigrants, other races, conservatives, liberals, the religious, atheists, Christians, non-Catholics, or whoever, victimhood is a hot commodity on today's market.  Turn on Fox News and you never hear the end about how non-white liberals like Obama are out to destroy the country for God fearing good white Christians.  Or turn on MSNBC to learn about how Tea Party members are hell bent on turning America back into the segregated South of 1952.  Whether or not your are a member of the majority in this country, you can feel good about your victim status.

People like to be victims.  It gives them a sense of power in a world that makes the individual feel powerless.  When the financial system and economy is rigged to outsource jobs, destroy financial security and eradicate the middle class, it feels good to have someone to blame.  If you can point your finger at Obama, the liberal elite, Tea Party members, atheists, Catholics, immigrants, or whoever, at least you know your enemy.

The problem is that our nation's declining economy is much more complex and nuanced.  If it were simply a matter of securing the border or more prayer in schools, fixing our problems would be easy.  I wish it were that simple.  To really fix our economy, however, we need to make fundamental changes in the way the system works.  This means the kind of change that would make your average person very uncomfortable.  It would mean reforming our election laws and the Constitution to have publicly funded elections so special interests won't dominate political ads.  It might even mean changing the government itself to a parliamentary system.  The reason for this is because our current system was designed by Madison to limit the public's ability to make real change.  The purpose of the Senate is to slow down powerful and system changing legislation coming from the House.  Needing a supermajority to pass anything, the Senate is the wet blanket for the kinds of real change that might benefit the public.

Focusing on being a victim and blaming others works well for those in control.  It allows them to scapegoat others while avoiding real responsibility.  While the Wall Street bankers who designed the housing bubble walk away with their profits, people spend all their time pointing fingers at immigrant children.  Solving our problems is systemic.  It is not just a matter of getting nicer people to be CEOs and investment bankers.  The way the system is designed, if you are a CEO and you do something that is ethical but doesn't bring in short term profits, then you are removed by the board of directors.  These people are elected by shareholders who want profits at all costs.  If this means a company like GM not telling people about defective car parts and people die, oh well.  If it means polluting a river to avoid expensive clean up costs, oh well.  You don't have to pay for the medical bills of children who get cancer.  These costs aren't part of the corporate bottom line so they don't count.

Blaming the poor is a popular one.  The American myth is that if you work hard, you can achieve anything.  If only this were true.  What if the only thing you are good at is something not valued by our society?  If LeBron James lived in Africa 100 years ago, he wouldn't have been rich.  If Jonas Salk were a Navajo Indian, he wouldn't have developed the polio vaccine.  And there are some people who simply aren't good at anything, no matter how hard they try.  Does this mean they should starve?

What is fascinating to me are the people who feel comfortable beating their chests like gorillas about how hard they work and how everyone else are a bunch of moochers hell-bent on living off others.  It's an interesting psychological projection because they seem obsessed with how much work others do.  They must really hate working to project this onto others.  If not, they wouldn't be so bitter about it.  The truth is that they want to do less work and live the way they believe these folks do.  And why not?  The way our system is designed, many jobs do suck.  Why would anyone want to go to work for an organization where the boss has near total control over your life.  He gets to say what you wear, how you conduct your time, what you say, even what kind of health care coverage you get.  This is hardly democratic.  If the company makes profits, you don't get any.  You are renting your time to some else's little tyranny.  People are naturally freedom loving.  No one loves to work under such conditions.  Hating it is natural, except in the U.S., where you are made to feel guilty if you don't think this type of repressive system is awesome.  After all, you might theoretically own Wal Mart one day, right?  Such organization isn't a law of nature.  We could have worker cooperatives, profit sharing, and co-ownership of businesses.  If everyone had a bigger stake in the game, then things might be very different.

The most detestable to me are the folks who use victimhood to abuse others.  This is despicable because it takes the good natured empathy of others and uses it against them.  It is psychotic, cruel, and a fundamental destroyer of society.  It leads to increased callousness and bitterness.  Israel is this way.  Whenever you criticize those in charge, you are labeled an anti-Semite.  When Israel commits acts of terror, it is "defending itself."  Because of the Holocaust, Israel can do no wrong.  Because labels are more important than actual deeds in American society, this means Israel gets a free pass.  Confronting our real problems would mean systemic change, which isn't going to happen.  Instead we focus on whether someone is politically incorrect or not.  Sorry but using the word "nigger" isn't the ultimate crime.  Putting millions of black boys in prison each year for petty drug crimes and stealing their futures is.  Cutting food stamps so poor black children go hungry to punish their mothers is a crime, yet we applaud these things each day.  We are a nation of hypocrites.

I make no illusions about being a victim.  By normal standards I have done fairly well in life.  I graduated from law school, am married, and live a fairly middle class life.  I acknowledge I am no Ayn Rand superhero.  I worked very hard studying, working, and trying to make it through school while my mother was dying from cancer, I went through a divorce, fought through debilitating pain with autoimmune arthritis, and helping to care for my disabled father.  I acknowledge that while I have had difficulties, I have also been blessed with advantages.  I came from a home that valued learning.  My mother taught me to think critically.  My family supported me in my academic ventures.  I didn't come home to a father that was a drunk.  I lived in a safe neighborhood.  I didn't face discrimination based on the color of my skin.  In many ways, although I did work hard, I also had many advantages that others have not.  That is why I don't believe that simple hard work will bring everyone up to the same level.  We all start at different points.  Pointing to one or two ghetto children who later become doctors or lawyers through hard work does not mean that our system is designed to be just for most people.  Hard work can get you very far, indeed, but it isn't everything.

I believe in efficiency.  America has the talent, resources, and ability to solve most if its most serious problems.  It is not a matter of ability, it is a matter of organization.  We have millions of people who are homeless and millions of homes that are empty.  We have millions of people with talent who cannot find work while our cities are decaying.  A system that cannot connect the two is one that has failed.  It is interesting that a small country like Cuba has an economy that is a fraction of the size of the U.S.  Yet it finds the money to educate its citizens and provide health care to all.  And this is not a matter of opinion.  Cuban health outcomes are better than those in the U.S. given the amount of money spent.  This is also true for many other countries.  Yet we act like it is a law of nature such as gravity that health care costs have to bankrupt an entire nation.

We get wrapped up in smokescreens.  Instead of rolling out renewable energy, we invest trillions of dollars in wars with Iraq to secure oil supplies.  We focus on the short term instead of the long term.  What ISIS does shouldn't matter to us.  If it weren't for oil, we wouldn't care.  We aren't going to war to fight Boko Haram in Africa, even though they are worse.  Why not?  Because oil isn't at stake.  If we put our energy into getting away from oil, we wouldn't need to waste money on wars in the Middle East.  As an American, I shouldn't have to worry about what goes on in the Middle East.  That is not my business.  It is only my business now because the oil companies which have bought the politicians and Supreme Court Justices want it to be my business.

Keeping people divided and feeling like victims works great for those in power.  It keeps people from organizing and focusing on the real issues.  Justice Roberts has effected a brilliant coup against democracy through his last several decisions.  The formula is obvious:

1.  Take a hot button issue like gay marriage, abortion, contraception, or whatever.
2.  Focus on that issue so as to avoid the larger discussion about what changes to the law might mean.
3.  Make a decision that further limits the freedoms of the public but initially seems to be a victory
     for "freedom."
4.  Use these new laws to continue eroding bigger, more fundamental freedoms.

The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example.  Roberts used this to destroy the commerce clause.  This means that the federal government has less power to regulate business, giving the states more freedom to be bullied by large corporations.  Liberals wanted the ACA passed.  Conservatives wanted the law struck down.  The law itself became a smoke screen.  At the end of the day, the federal government is weaker.

Or the issue of gay marriage.  Liberals wanted it.  Conservatives did not.  The cynical Supreme Court justices on the right don't care.  They used it as a way to again erode federal power and give more power to the states, which means more power for corporations to control state governments.  Only the federal government has the power to stand up to corporations like Exxon.  People were so focused on whether gays are getting married that they missed the larger point--that the federal government, the only roadblock between us and utter domination by corporations, was eroded.  In the future, this means less control over civil rights legislation at the federal level, etc.  This means increased disempowering of the people.

The Hobby Lobby contraceptive decision is another one.  By letting people frame this as a religious freedom issue, the government gave corporations the right to use religious whim to avoid laws which are designed to protect all people in the secular marketplace.  Because contraception is a hot button emotional issue, our brains are turned off to the larger issue.  The strategy was genius.

As college education has become unaffordable, this has made the situation much worse.  Instead of having a population that is used to questioning and fighting back, college has become a necessity to please employers.  By keeping college debt high, workers remain tightly controlled by their corporate employers.  You can't make trouble when you are an indentured servant.  You aren't going to be hopping from job to job when you have massive student loans.

America is a funny place.  We like to believe that we are in control, but at the same time we relish at being victims.  It allows us to throw our arms up in the air, feel powerless, and resign ourselves to not fighting back.  My attitude is fuck victimhood.  Take responsibility for what you can and resist domination as best you can.  Force yourself to look at reality.  Challenge injustice where you see it.  Be like the honey badger--small but fierce, fearless, and tireless.

No comments:

Post a Comment