The old way to play the blame game, as I explored in my book "Blame Game, How to Win It," was to use excuses to mask one's shortcomings. But people usually see through excuses, so now the more subtle and less detectable approach is to take the stance of being a victim. Thus our social discourse inappropriately obsesses on such assorted invalidations as a war on women, a war on the working class, income inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, exploitation of the poor, and numerous other perceived affronts.
Self-identified victims respond to whatever disadvantages they may experience with a learned helplessness that was created by the society's privileged. Thus, their own personal responsibility does not apply. Another "advantage" of being perceived as a victim is that it hides envy and gives license to get revenge upon the presumed perpetrators. The revenge is often expressed by charging perpetrators with micro-aggression. Instead of confronting one's flawed attitudes, choices, and behaviors that created a disadvantaged position in life, "victims" can not only wrap themselves in a comforting cocoon but can feel justified to attack their enemies.
It seems as if we are experiencing a generational shift, where victimization ideology is most obvious in young adults. College curricula are being hijacked by misguided diversity and sensitivity training emphasis, expressed in growing dominance of grievance courses set aside for women, blacks, LGBTs, and politically correct instruction in such subjects as history, social justice, socialism, organic farming, and global warming. College students are notorious for chastising non-conformist peers, punishing professors who advocate free-market economics or "diminish" them with low grades, and for heckling or forcing disinvitations of guest speakers with conservative views. Comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have stopped playing college campuses because young people are too up-tight and politically correct to appreciate traditional humor. In the old days of Berkeley protests, students insisted on more free speech. Today's students want to suppress speech that is not politically correct. Many think we need to revise the first amendment's protection of free speech and religion.
Cherished traditions that helped make the country strong are being systematically destroyed. The Constitution's call for separation of church and state is being re-written to mean separation of state from church. Protectors demand that listing of the 10 commandments be taken down from public buildings. Kids can't pray or read scripture during down times in school. Patriotism is rejected to promote a united-nations new world order. America is bad. Europe is good. The President apologizes to the world for what a rotten country we are. Anti-Americanism reaches deep into revised school history curricula. To illustrate one recent consequence, a public school canceled its annual "America day" celebration, because officials were afraid some students would be offended by a display of pride in the country. Meanwhile, Mexican celebrations are welcome in many schools.
Today's young people are "fragile buttercups" creating a "cocked fist" culture, as Matt Labash described the situation in his Oct. 5 Weekly Standard piece, where fuses are so short that they lead to explosions of intolerance, outrage, character assassination, race riots, cop killings, and mass killings. Labash explains how the victimology culture reflects rather precisely the official medical definition of paranoid personality disorder. Is our whole society going nuts?
PC police, in and out of government, are shredding the social fabric. The grievance industry manufactures wide-spread resentments that pit citizens against each other. Revolution may be just around the corner, either by those with manufactured grievance or by those who are outraged by social engineering.
How did this generation get this way? Of course, victimization is perpetrated by politicians who encourage grievances and embrace victim-hood. Politicians gain advantage in assuring and growing the presence of a victimized underclass when they cynically pledge to come to the rescue and help punish the imagined perpetrators. They create and grow a government-dependent underclass that is all too willing to sell its votes for tax-payer provided goodies. History shows that this is a road to fascism.
But some people have suggested that a more basic cause is the current over-protective generation of parents. "Tiger moms" come from China, not here. Here, over half the families don't have a live-in father, and, with or without fathers, many moms wrap their children in the security blankets of false praise and excuses for shortcomings. We live in Lake Wobegon where all kids are above average. In my school days, if you crossed the line in school, you got paddled by the principal and paddled again when you got home. Today, if the principal uses a paddle, the parent is likely to sue the school district.
The PC police succeed because they make us all so afraid of their public derision and attack that we too are joining the PC ranks. The most grievous political incorrectness is to complain about political correctness. The need to walk on eggshells in social interactions makes us isolate ourselves into enclaves of like-minded people. It prevents the very dialog that diversity advocates claim they want to promote. Diversity of ideas is not acceptable.
Who gets to be acknowledged as the legitimate PC police? The answer is becoming a focus of political debate. In that environment, authoritarian leaders emerge.
Professor Klemm is author of Mental Biology, The New Science of How the Brain and Mind Relate (Prometheus) and Blame Game, How To Win It (Amazon).