Sunday, March 5, 2017

Victimhood as a form of scapegoating

Kirby Center
Hillsdale College
"in a society that retains its Judeo-Christian moral reflexes but has abandoned the corresponding metaphysics, . . . claiming victim status is the sole sure means left of absolving oneself and securing one's sense of fundamental moral innocence. . . .
". . . When one is a certifiable victim, one is released from moral responsibility, since a victim is someone who is, by definition, not responsible for his condition, but can point to another who is responsible.
     "But victimhood at its most potent promises not only release from responsibility, but an ability to displace that responsibility onto others.  As a victim, one can project onto another person, the victimizer or oppressor, any feelings of guilt he might harbor, and in projecting that guilt lift it from his own shoulders.  The result is an astonishing reversal, in which the designated victimizer plays the role of the scapegoat, upon whose head the sin comes to rest, and who pays the price for it.  By contrast, in appropriating the status of victim, or identifying oneself with victims, the victimized can experience a profound sense of moral release, of recovered innocence.  It is no wonder that this has become so common a gambit in our time, so effectively does it deal with the problem of guilt—at least individually, and in the short run, though at the price of social pathologies in the larger society that will likely prove unsustainable."

     Wilfred M. McClay, "The strange persistence of guilt," The hedgehog review:  critical reflections on contemporary culture 19, no. 1 (Spring 2017):  47-48 (40-54).

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