All organisms exist in a state of tension with their external environment. For example, a fish that lives a thousand meters below the surface of the ocean balances the external pressure of the water against the internal pressure of its own bodily fluids. When such a fish is transported to the surface, the external pressure no longer balances out the internal pressure and so the fish explodes.
Our immune systems used to be balanced against all the external insults our bodies experienced, such as bacteria and viruses and regular dirt and saliva and a wide variety of other challenges. Today, in our sterile Western world, our immune systems are under-challenged and so we develop auto-immune diseases whereby the body attacks itself because our immune systems aren’t sufficiently balanced by external challenges.
There’s a similar phenomenon going on from a psychological perspective too.
Today, we live in a world in which external threats are far, far lower than at any time in our evolutionary history. Although the media grabs every sensation it can find and rams it down our throats, the reality is that 99.9% of us go about our daily lives without being eaten by predators, attacked by rival tribes, dying of a bacterial or viral infection, or falling from a rock while trying to escape the attentions of a tiger. Mostly we wake up, eat breakfast, grab a coffee on the way to work, sit in a cubicle, go home, eat dinner, and then slump onto a sofa and stare at a screen for several hours.
This means we lack the external challenges our brains evolved to cope with. So what do we do? Just like in the case of our immune systems, we attack ourselves.
Today, everyone is a victim. Were we assaulted by a group of adolescents thirty years ago? Well, that trauma absolutely means we’ll never, ever, feel safe again. Were we an overweight child? Well, that certainly means our continued poor lifestyle choices are definitely not our fault and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of the capital crime of “fat shaming.” Has someone just complemented us on the way we look? That is without a shadow of doubt the heinous crime of sexist racist micro-aggression.
Frankly, it’s amazing any of us are brave and resilient enough to leave our homes.
Which is perhaps why Amazon home delivery and Uber Eats are so very popular nowadays.
The irresistible lure of victimhood is that it absolves us of all personal responsibility. Instead of thinking we ought to overcome our fears by facing them, we can hide under the metaphorical bed of victimhood. Instead of taking responsibility for our choices, we can blame our inaction on a wide variety of other factors. Instead of accepting that very often the world is both unfair and entirely beyond our control and we just need to move forward regardless, we can see conspiracies and insults around every corner and let them make us utterly paranoid and resentful.
When we’re the victim, nothing is our fault. So we get the benefit of having created external pressure against which we can react and we can remain physically and emotionally indolent.
It’s a fantastic game and it’s not surprising so many of us play it. Sure, it makes us paranoid, unhappy, and wildly dysfunctional but so what? We already eat junk food and watch junk entertainment; why not embrace junk thinking too?
Of course there are some people who have suffered real trauma. But in almost all cases, we’re just self-manufacturing our pretend wounds because the media has taught us that being a victim is fashionable. When everyone we know has their own nicely-wrapped little story about how terrible life has been to them, we need a tale of our own. We want to keep down with the Joneses. It’s a fundamental human need to be part of the group. And there’s no easier way today than by subscribing to victimhood.
Best of all, if some crass and grotesquely insensitive individual has the temerity to question our status as Eternal Helpless Victim, this in and of itself is proof that we are the victim of their skepticism! Ergo, we truly are the victims we believe ourselves to be.
Personally I think this is deeply unhelpful, but what do I know? I’m so clueless I don’t eat junk, don’t watch canned entertainment, don’t keep up with the latest memes and trends and fashions, and like to imagine I have some degree of influence over my own choices. Clearly I’m not someone anyone should listen to.
Fortunately, the world is full of helpful tips and hints on how to acquire and then cultivate the Art of Victimhood. Remember the important moral lesson taught by the story of the Princess and the Pea. And if we unfortunately have such pampered easy convenient Western lives that we can’t actually find a pea, even an imaginary micro-aggressive pea can be sufficient to ruin our lives forever.
So long as we work at it hard enough.