Arthur Brooks wrote an interesting article in Sunday’s New York Times titled, “The Real Victims of Victimhood”. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/opinion/sunday/the-real-victims-of-victimhood.html. There, he reluctantly acknowledged that America has grown into a country with a “victimhood culture”. Politicians sell the concept that ordinary Americans are “under attack” by the wealthy, politicians, immigrants and those of different religions. In terms well known to mediators, Brooks describes this by “motive attribution asymmetry”: where both sides attribute their own group’s behavior as arising out of love and the other side out of hatred or evil inclinations. In an experiment performed by social science researchers at Stanford University, the evidence was striking. People who articulated a story of being treated unfairly were not only 26% less likely to help the researchers when asked, but were more likely to leave their trash behind and even steal the researchers pencils.
In this new year, I hope that you will join me in giving voice to those who feel particularly and individually victimized, but in avoiding falling prey to those charismatic leaders who promise to speak for the victims en masse and to save them from the evil of those “on the other side”. One by one, we can address the wrongs befallen on individuals without characterizing the whole of America as being under attack by evil.
Like Brooks, I remain an optimist. But I am still watching our pencils.
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