Before I run into the complexities of victimhood culture, and the sad state of affairs that is it. I should define what Trigger warnings and safe places are.
Just to make sure you know what I’m talking about.
I like Urban Dictionary’s definition of Trigger Warnings the best…
“A phrase posted at the beginning of various posts, articles, or blogs. Its purpose is to warn weak minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive in some way due to its content, causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit. Popular on reddit SRS or other places that social justice warriors like to hang out.”
For “safe places,” the simplest definition is this…
A designated area (either physical or not) where people can go to be free of positions that challenge their own (or that they can’t handle).
These are just two of the many facets of Victimhood Culture.
A culture that is prominent on college campuses. Take the Mizzou protests for example. The president was forced to resign because of one racial slur off campus, one on campus, and a swastika made of human feces.
I’d say that the president was attacked because particular students didn’t feel that their college was a “safe place” anymore.
What began as select bigotry (from a total of 3 people) turned into a campus wide protest against the “failing” administration.
A cry for “safe places.”
A safe place for similar thought, I assume.
But that’s not how college works. Or at least, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
Take academia for example. They thrive in an environment of diverse thought. The freedom to pursue new pathways of thought is crucial to the academic’s career.
Throw the Victimhood mindset into the mix and you’ve got a clash waiting to happen.
Mizzou was one of several early clashes.
The question now is, will this spread?
“Shit, I hope not!” is my response. As I’m sure it’s yours too.
I hope this doesn’t spread because of the nature of this movement. Its nature is one of censorship.
It’s censorship in the name of feelings
Unlike in past times, when censorship was in the name of war (an age old excuse for any government), it wasn’t based on emotion. It was based on the nature of war and rival nations.
The Victimhood brand of censorship isn’t based on this logical view of war (or state control for that matter).
This new brand of censorship is privately run (as in, it’s not carried out with government force). It’s private censorship.
And as we both know, private change precedes public change.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating…
Society is the ultimate effector of change. Society leads. Government follows.
This is why private censorship is so dangerous. No one wants to be a jerk to their neighbors. No one wants to cause a soldier with PTSD to relapse. No one wants to make a rape victim remember that horrifying night. No one wants to hear racial slurs.
So people self-censor for fear of being “that guy.”
But this is where the Victimhood Culture crosses the line.
It Goes Beyond “Don’t be an Asshole” into a World of Never-ending Ways to Offend Someone
On one side of the line, you have the “don’t be an asshole.” This is the typical behavior of many well-mannered sympathetic adults. Don’t be insensitive toward the plight of others. Think before you speak.
A common sense approach to social interactions.
Victimhood followers take this and run to the moon and back with it.
Don’t say anything that could be deemed offensive to someone. The problem with this approach is that the list is ever expanding.
It’s entirely depends on each individual person.
Commence all the trigger waring insanity…
These offensives have moved past simple “insensitive remarks” to the point of harming the individual themselves.
“Microaggression” is the name that’s given to these insensitive remarks. Derald Wing Sue, a counseling psychologist and diversity training specialist, defines it as…
“The brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, and sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group”
A microaggression could be something as simple as saying “You speak good English” to an Asian or black person. Even if it’s an innocent comment, it’s taken as an aggression against the receiver’s culture, ethnicity, and even humanity.
As The Microaggressions Project highlights on one post where a coworker expresses their disagreement with gay marriage rights to a gay coworker. This engagement is described as belittling the gay coworker as a human being.
Disagreement, insensitive comments, and particular words can be microaggressions.
It’s this crossing of the line from “don’t be an asshole” to a never-ending list of offenses that Victimhood culture is to blame for.
Everything becomes a threat to your very being. Which is where the similarities to cultures of honor start showing themselves.
Victimhood Culture & Its Similarities to Honor Culture
If you’re aware of how Honor Culture works, you’re likely to spot some similarities between the two.
Honor culture is where any offense to one’s reputation or dignity is dealt with via violence and aggression. Think of tribes that go to war because one tribe member was killed by an opposing tribe member (ultimately becoming an endless blood feud). And think of Honor Killings that are rampant in several Islamic and Indian cultures.
Victimhood culture is the same, but without the responding in violence part.
An affront to your views, race, culture, or gender is viewed as an attack at the very core of who you are. Instead of moving past such slights, recognizing that they only affect you if you let them, victimhood culture views them as damaging your very humanity and worth.
Luckily these people don’t respond in violence, like honor cultures do. Instead of violence, they seek the help of third parties to deal with their “oppressors.” They paint themselves as victims in need of assistance and “justice.”
This would explain why a poop swastika would cause so much uproar. Whereas individuals like you and I would just move past it.
For more on these similarities, I suggest reading “Microaggression and Moral Cultures” by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning.
Victimhood Culture & Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
In Plato’s Republic, he talks about the importance of education. More importantly, how bad it can get without education in our lives.
This is where the allegory of the cave comes in. And where we start to see the danger that this new culture presents to us Liberty loving individuals.
In it, a group of people are chained inside a cave. The only source of “entertainment” they have is a fire which projects shadows on the wall.
Since they have no idea of what the world looks like outside the world, they think the shadows are reality.
Finally, one of them manages to get free. Walking out of the cave, he realizes that the shadows were just a perversion of what reality really is.
However, his compatriots don’t believe him. They think he’s insane.
In this allegory, the Trigger Warning crowd are the cave dwellers who don’t believe what’s outside the cave. Instead of calling him insane, they tell him to stop offending them. Here’s a little bit of dialogue to point out what I mean…
Freed Guy: “Guys! This isn’t real! It’s just shadows, the real world is outside the cave. You’ve gotta see this. It’s amazing! The trees are green, the sky is blue, the wind feels like-”
Chained Cave Guy #1: “Hold on, man. Check your privilege.”
CCG #2: “Yeah dude, you think you’re so better than all of us, huh?”
Freed Guy: “What? Guys, I’m trying to tell you what’s beyond the cave. It’s amaz-”
CCG #1: “No, you’re not. You’re oppressing us with your view of the world.”
CCG #2: “You’re just trying to control us. There’s no outside world. You’re just trying to put us back on the plantation.”
Freed Guy: “The fu-”
CCG #2: “Nope, I don’t wanna hear it. I’m going to my safe place over in the corner.”
CCG #1: “Now look what you did. You triggered him.”
The Victimhood Culture’s aversion to differing views will be their undoing. In the name of self-censorship they’ll chain themselves up inside a cave, with only the shadows to look at.
Nothing to offend them. Nothing to engage their mind with. Just one big safe place where diversity of thought and learning isn’t welcomed.
This is where danger sets in.
Free Thought & Expression are Vital to a Working Republic
The ability to exchange ideas, views, and theories is what keeps a republic flowing. Free Thought is what creates dialogue. The Marketplace of Ideas is what forces you and me to continually analyze our own worldviews.
This free-flowing republic will soon stagnate if the populace is no longer allowed to discuss issues of importance.
Trigger Warnings, safe places, and the getting-old adage “Check your privilege” break up free-flowing discourse.
If you can’t discuss policy and worldviews without someone taking offense. If you can’t start up a conversation with someone you disagree with without them running to their “safe place.” If you can’t discuss an idea, without focusing on the individual who holds the idea. Well, you’ve just stifled discussion with fear.
That’s what Victimhood Culture does. It creates an environment of fear. The self-proclaimed victims control the masses through fear tactics and accusations of “offense.” As a result, self-censorship takes hold, slowing down the rivers of dialogue.
Without opposing views voicing their concerns, a republic falls into majority rule. A majority that’s too afraid to deal with its own problems for fear of offending someone.
It’s hard to fix a nation’s problems when you paralyzed from even addressing the problem.
The End Result: A Self-Censored Populace Afraid to Speak Out
The students and activists who make up the Trigger Warning crowd are pushing us toward an undesirable place.
I think it’s more dangerous than government censorship. At least under government censorship it’s not easily accepted by the populace. You’ll have pockets of people who’ll refuse to be censored.
With self-censorship it’s different. You’re fighting society itself, with all its peer pressure and herd mentality tactics.
It’s the difference between fighting a weed infestation, and fighting an airborne virus.
Victimhood Culture is playing around with a dangerous weapon: social pressure.
Couple that with a victim mentality and a mindset that others can threaten your identity, and you’ve got a recipe for thought-stagnation.
Victimhood Culture is a threat to not only Free Speech, but to Free Expression. It’s a virus in the Marketplace of ideas.
Sorry, turning people into victims in need of rescuing isn’t an effective means of empowering them.