Stigmata Nation: The Martyr Complex is Complete
When I teach my storytelling masterclass, one of the most controversial points is my admonition that “if your story paints you as either the victim or the hero, rework your story.”
Some people hate that.
The only stories they have to tell are how victimized they have been in their lives or how heroic they have been overcoming the victimization they have endured.
Jump cut to the current storytelling scene.
A solid 60 percent of every storytelling night on tap is a ten-person therapy circle jerk. Ten 10- to 12-minute stories of how shitty it has been to be me. How hard it has been to be marginalized or to realize my personal place of shame in the marginalization or how heroic I am for not marginalizing someone else.
A litany of non-stop victims and heroes.
As those who have been most ignored from these mostly white, mostly male stages are stepping up and demanding their spotlight time, some of this is to be expected. When you have felt left behind or actively blocked from expressing your own experiences, the need to get up and bark out how hard life has been seems somewhat appropriate. When the door has been shut to your voice for so long (not quite so long if you are in your twenties, but lets not quibble) smashing that door down takes energy and anger, plus self-involvement generates a lot of energy.
It isn’t just the Leftist Army of Identity Fetishists either. White Nationalists blog about how goddamned oppressed they feel, white men are “afraid of” the #MeToo movement, cops feel picked on.
When was the exact moment we became an entire society of angry bellyachers?
It had to be before the interwebs (although with Facebook and Twitter and, yes, blogs, the constant drumbeat of "My life is so fucking HARD..." is just more inescapable).
Admit it, Faithful Reader, right now, as you squat down in front of your ridiculously expensive computer or mobile device to read my constant spew, you're wondering why your life sucks so hard as you sip from a cup of coffee or tea in your apartment/house/domestic dwelling before you hop in your heated water shower with your shower gel (with a hint of mint to make your junk all tingly) and fill your gaping maw with a muffin made from the blood and sweat of migrant workers.
When did it start?
I'm not immune to it. Never in the history of mankind has there been a more wounded, bitching shithead when it comes to divorces and past relationship failures and jobs gone by the wayside than Don Hall. Hell, I still catch myself getting pissy about that one time a group of assholes decided to troll me online. When even I get tired of my slightly bitter Woe is Me bullshit, I can only imagine how fucking long suffering my wife is to endure it.
But this isn't just an individual thing, is it?
All of America, from sea to motherfucking shining, oil-polluted, used condom-filled sea, is obsessed with bitching about how hard their lives are.
People with body issues.
College students with massive debt and no jobs.
Dudes who feel emasculated.
Women who feel objectified while posing in bikinis on Instagram.
Latinos. Jews. Norwegians.
Kids. Parents. Teachers. Rich People. Poor People.
Bitch, bitch, bitch. "LIFE IS NOT FAIR!" we collectively cry out to a fictional deity and expect that someone or something will hear our cry and somehow make it fair. Seventy-five percent of that cry has fuckall to with fair — it has everything to do with people not getting what they want. More money than they need to buy cable television and $200 shoes and portable game devices. The other 25 percent is the result of those in the majority so blinded by their own desperate want for more than they need ignoring real life inequity.
On the flipside to all this whiny shit, we have created a society that tells us that we deserve this unfair treatment because we are fat or black or have 30 cats or can't find a job. We're slowly convinced that it is our fault that the bullies pull our underwear up over our heads or discriminate against us or sexually harass us. We're told to "man up," "get a stiff upper lip" and "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." We are told that the only way to be noticed is to be wounded and victimized, and so those who are actually being victimized are lost in the shuffle of everyone else, scrambling for their piece of the Picked Upon Pie.
Reality is more complex on both sides.
No one deserves to be shat upon by life. No one (unless you're Mitch McConnell, and he has earned a bit of fecal matter gracing his upper lip in a Poetic Dirty Sanchez) deserves to be treated unfairly. Not if you find them different from yourself. Not if they disagree with your antiquated and intolerant religious beliefs. Not if they dress a certain way, speak a different way, act a different way, listen to weird music or wear fucking fake mustaches and pork pie hats. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE INTENTIONALLY TREATED LIKE SHIT! (...except for Mitch, which I think we can all come together in agreement on...)
On the other hand, no one is responsible for your choices but you. Not your mom. Not your government. Not your missing father. Not your underpaid and sometimes shitty teachers. Not your micromanaging supervisor. Not that asshole in the office who plays backstabby politics to move ahead of others. Not the police. Not the scary Follically Challenged FatAss President. You. And you alone.
So, unless you are a jobless, homeless, black lesbian named Fatima Rodriguez — shut the fuck up, OK? She is the winner of the Most Victimized Human on the Planet. You live in America and have the fruits of the planet's bounty at your feet. Even our trash is more delicious and nutritious than in any other part of the world.
Can you celebrate your Otherness without whining about it? Can you tell your story without wearing either the stigmata or the crown? Is the sum of who you are and what you have to tell the world based entirely upon your status as the downtrodden?
If not, maybe you should actually pay for therapy instead of getting it from an audience.