Competing in the Victimhood Marketplace is More Difficult Than It Used to Be
The Society of Planet Earth Humanity has a lot of victims. Legitimate, for real, victims. People suffering torture, incarceration, foreclosures, medical bills so monumental that those who owe may as well be indentured servants, victims of natural disaster, thoughtless corporate pollution, and the list goes on and on. Traditionally, playing the Victim Status Card, airing the grievance and gaining either understanding, sympathy or the implied guilt and shame of those in the victimizers club but innocent of the specifics of the victimization was a political tactic that fueled some legislation and quite a bit of civil suits. Israel used the (legitimate) Victim Status Play to get their own country after Hitler tried to wipe their entire race off the face of the Earth. The Civil Rights Movement wouldn't have had nearly as much traction had there been no black and white students beaten in the South. Without the Victim Strategy, women would still be blamed for getting raped 90% of the time instead of the present 25 percent of the time.
Victim status has gained genuine ground in terms of restitution to the victims of medical malpractice, the poisoning of water in rural areas, and the burning of a woman's labia by way of an incredibly hot cup of coffee. And the weird thing about Victim Status is that, like the term "abuse" or "harassment," as it gets co-opted to include larger and less esoteric definitions it begins to lose its potency as a political argument.
When a life-long smoker can sue Big Tobacco because he somehow believed that inhaling cigarette smoke was not doing his lungs damage, his victimhood is pretty much defined as being a gullible dipshit. And yet, due to the forces of society that want to punish Big Tobacco, the Victim Status of that smoker becomes legitimized in order to win the argument.
This path has been taken so many times that we now live in a Land of Perpetual Victims - the burglar that gets caught and beaten with a bat sues the homeowner for assault and wins; the 20-year old white guy sues a Fire Department because he has been discriminated against by Affirmative Action; the Christian Church effectively paints a picture that, in spite of Christianity being the largest religion practiced in the nation, somehow they are being marginalized.
At this point, everyone has figured out how they are being victimized by someone else and tout that status as a badge of entitlement. Republicans claim victim status even though they control the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the White House. Bankers claim victim status even though they continue to fuck our economy like a billion dollar dildo; white Arizonians claim that undocumented high school kids are victimizing them and morons the nation over claim that it just isn't fair to not teach the Creationist Myth alongside Genuine Science.
For the record:
YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM IF
You're middle class (including all races, both genders, and regardless of your sexual proclivities).
You're addicted to nicotine, alcohol, pornography, gambling, petty theft, videogames, the internet, heroin, cocaine, caffeine, chronic masturbation, or Twinkies.
You're injured doing something you knew was dangerous and you volunteered to do it anyway - includes riding a bike in traffic, driving a car while drunk, skydiving, eating fast food every day, scuba diving, or climbing mountains.
You're generally unattractive and can't get a date.
You’re offended or triggered by something someone said (even if it was your college professor).
You're a part of the majority opinion which ultimately decides the rules (sorry White Christians - time to shut the fuck up).
You're denied a job you are woefully unqualified for (sorry legless, armless girl but, if you can't jump up and down, you can't be a cheerleader).
You're a victim of your own stupidity.
YOU ARE A VICTIM IF
You're born in poverty and denied basic access to the same educational and vocational opportunities that are promised to every American citizen (including all races, both genders, and regardless of your sexual proclivities). This is true for the poor black kid in Detroit, MI as well as the poor white kid in Irving, TX.
You're subjected to threatening harassment or job discrimination based on attributes that you have no control over (includes race, gender, and sexual proclivity) or are targeted for incarceration or torture based on the same. This is true for the practicing Muslim American as well as the working woman who makes $0.30 less per hour than a less qualified man.
You're injured doing something that is required of you for your employment or while engaged in something that has a reasonable expectation of safety (like buying a cup of coffee and setting the styrofoam cup between your legs).
You're categorically denied the guaranteed basic civil rights assigned to any human being by an agency or person of far greater power than you.
But even if you are an actual victim (you were raped or mugged, you were put in jail because you're black or Mexican, you are deported because you are in a gay marriage and can't get a Green Card, your home is destroyed by a hurricane) the reality is that when the tactic is used routinely by everyone else - I mean, really, when Corporations petition the government for the Right to Free Speech and the Unbelievably Wealthy accuse those who complain about their tax dodging as instigating Class Warfare and Christians bitch about the "War on Christmas"? - then the status as Victim has become meaningless.
The question posed at the moment you decide to wear the cloth of victimhood becomes “What now?” The costume has been committed to, the stage is set, what do you do with that? As the least victimized co-opt the power play that the Olympiad of Victim Status imbues, as the marketplace of influence this status becomes more glutted, the choices become quite simple.
Double down, get louder, get angrier or relinquish the artifice, cease looking for others to give you justice and go about the business of owning your mistakes, taking responsibility for your choices, and look less for status and more for those moments of contentment in between the cracks of the sidewalk.
The true victims of this world can allow the trauma to define them or crawl their way out of that hole of self doubt, fear, and outrage and use the trauma to strengthen themselves. Those of us pretending to be victimized can lose that arrogance and be helpful or just get out of the way.