The victim mentality

Guest post

Recently, I have been thinking about how some cultures and people seem to suffer from the affliction of victimisation while others who, on the face of it probably would qualify as well, do not.

Around the world we hear daily that certain events and behaviours are a result of various afflictions, with the favourites usually being colonialism, slavery, western foreign policy and racism.

Here in New Zealand, Maori and, to a certain extent Pacific Islanders, claim that inherent racism and the lingering effects of white colonialisation are to blame for everything from poverty to eating takeaways.

Now, on the face of it, the argument that these things are to blame is a seductive one as it boxes up everything neatly and makes a difficult topic easy to explain, however, if you scratch below the surface I think this interpretation is rather hollow.

A good starting point for comparison, I think, is Japan after World War Two.

Japan has the dubious distinction of being the only country to ever have had a nuclear bomb dropped on it in wartime; two in fact.

In terms of bad things that can happen to people and nations, I personally would argue that this is right up there with the worst of them so Japan should qualify for victim status and all that comes with this.

However, this did not happen.

Instead, Japan bounced back putting the atom bomb experience behind it and, within 20-30 years, built the second-biggest economy in the world and was a leader in many different technological things we see in the world today.

Without going into the full history of the Korean War, the experience of South Korea – minus the nuclear strike – is similar to Japan: a shattered country after the war but, within 30-40 years, again an industrial powerhouse with many of its brands being household names around the world.

For a non-Asian example of the same phenomena we have to look no further than Germany and other parts of Western Europe, which were also devastated after World War Two but bounced back quickly to become powerful world leaders in various disciplines.

So, now we come to the question of why can these countries suffer catastrophic events in their history but move on from this and not still be victims expecting sympathy and assistance from everyone else, while other groups, ranging from the whole of the African continent down to Maori, still seem traumatised and suffer from events that happened long ago.

The basic answer to this, I believe, is that all cultures and people are not created equal, as we are regularly told, and that some groups are much more cohesive, hardworking and disciplined in times of trouble enabling them to recover much more quickly than others.

Groups more prone to not recovering are more likely to be less developed tribal-based cultures that tend, in times of perceived hardship, to turn on each other resulting in disunity and sometimes warfare, and other self-destructive behaviours like alcohol abuse, holding up any form of meaningful recovery.

This failure then becomes a vicious cycle where the victim mentality sets in because people and cultures don’t want to face reality: that they contributed to their current plight and, in some instances, are largely the author of their own misfortune.

Blaming other people is the easiest course of action to take in any society as it absolves one of responsibility, but meaningful action takes a lot more effort and honesty.


– Union Jack

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