Victimhood, Power, and the Post-ironic

October 31, 2014

It’s Halloween and a family walks into the cafe with their two kids dressed as The Joker and that V for Vendetta fella. Why so serious and the face of Anonymous.

How totes apropes.

It’s Halloween and I just sat down to write this piece. I haven’t written in this blog in awhile, but the blog suddenly felt relevant again.


Harrassment, ethics, controversy, and twitter hashtags.

I just wanted to get those words out of the way. The people and names you may be conjuring in your head don’t really matter. The issue isn’t new and the issue will repeat itself.

Here’s the issue: Victimhood as Power versus Attacks on Sincerity.

Victimhood as Power

Nobody wants to be a victim. At least, that’s what I always thought. I am not sure I completely believe that anymore, but I do believe a few things still.

I believe anyone who has been a victim would want to erase the event that made them a victim. I believe good people still show empathy towards those that are victims. I believe we should reach out and help victims.

I also believe we should empower victims to speak up. We need safe places for them to go and speak. We need for victims to have people they can tell their story to and seek protection. We need these things so that the acts that create victims can stop.

However, there’s a huge difference between empowering victims to speak up and seeing victimhood as power. A huge, important difference. A difference of desire and purpose.

Don’t desire to be a victim. Don’t desire to connect with someone else’s tragedy. Don’t twist the purpose of empathy towards a grab of power. Do not take serious concern and manipulate it towards personal means and gain. Do not fantasize over being a victim.

And, please, do not delight and empower those that attack and create victims.

I do believe power corrupts. I believe power attracts the wrong sorts of people. This is why victimhood should never be a source of power. Victimhood cannot be celebrity. Victimhood cannot be the basis of an identity that gets you increasing media attention and platforms from which to speak. If you have something to say, then go out and earn that right to speak to more people. If you use your own cries of victimhood to gain attention and thus power, you are still being a victim. You aren’t stopping the creation of victims. You are extending your own victim status. You keep victimizing yourself.

And that’s a disturbing thought to me. A victim is a product of suffering. It should be this way though it shouldn’t ever happen.

But once victimhood is power it becomes a sort of dark, twinkling light to reach out and touch. Victimhood shouldn’t be something you identify with, because it’s a product of violence or disregard. It’s something created. It’s a status. It’s a terrible scar upon one’s life. It’s sudden injury upon your psyche and body. You don’t identify with wounds or broken noses. You get them and hope they heal, though they never may fully heal. You may be a victim of molestation, but you don’t want it to be your identity. I may have grown up sickly, but I don’t see myself as the disease that causes this.

Victimhood isn’t an identity but a status. When you begin to see victimhood as power then it becomes identity. It becomes something to reach out and connect to or proclaim kinship with, and what it’s best used for starts to move away from empathy and healing, and, instead, towards politics and the tools of strife.

For how can you keep up your victimhood if you begin to heal? How do you keep the power and presence of your victim bright and present if the attackers are apprehended, if justice is served and the wounds treated? What purpose does healing have when the healing gets in the way of one’s access to power?

If that sounds like sustained victimhood could be a difficult sort of persona to maintain, then that’s the point. It can’t be easy.

In order to maintain this victim status to ensure you carry the social power you believe it wields, you will need to do a few things.

  • You need your image as a victim to persist. You have to either maintain the act that makes you a victim or create new acts to associate victimhood with.
  • You must delay the healing. You can’t let people feel the issue has been addressed or has even begun to be addressed. Most disturbingly, you need to maintain your attacker’s agency in order to maintain your victimhood until you can find access to a new source of victimhood.
  • You have to resist any act that may alleviate the strife that triggers your victimhood. If any act may lead to healing or resolution, it must be avoided or worked against. You can’t let anyone help in a way that may actually lead to healing. All help must serve to persist the acts that create your status as a victim.
  • You must continue to link victimhood with power and prove it by wielding the power. If nobody believes it has any power then it begins to lose power. It can only persist through strong reactions to the display of victimhood.


And due to these things, the whole enterprise of victim as a source of power becomes detrimental to actually addressing victims and the acts that victimize them. Everything that should be done often is not done because they endanger the link to power the individual has. Even if you are not the actual victim of the act, you can still be invested in persisting the victimhood if it allows you access to victimhood as power.

A Playground for Post-Irony

A most troubling question for me is what kind of victimhood can persist without permanently damaging the person claiming it? What kind of act and victimization can be preserved without destroying those involved?

For this to occur, there must be a condition: the harmful act can’t be truly, truly harmful. In that, I mean that the victim cannot be in real danger to their livelihood. These victimizing acts cannot change one’s life just the same as a Oprah recommended book cannot change your life. That may seem an odd comparison, but let me explain.

People victimized by war, by the destruction of their homes, by their friends and family torn apart by civil war, cannot simply go back to the same life after war erupts. People who contract a major disease that debilitates them and limits their functions cannot live life as they did before, and have their options for life greatly reduced. That is life changing. That is a type of victim that cannot exist with power from the victimhood. The more the war wages on, the less you can return and the less of the world you had disappears. The worse the disease gets, the less you can do.

There is not a give and take with life changing victimhood. There is only a cruel, constant taking.

You read a book and you decide to follow some advice, and that helps you out, and you say that changed your life, but it’s nothing you couldn’t do before the book and it’s possible to return to life as you had it before. That sort of free will must exist within a persisting victimhood. You can stay or you can go.

There must be give and take in a persisting victimhood, and there must be persistence to maintain victimhood as power. To maintain the power, you have to re-invoke being a victim. If you heal, and if you survive, the power starts to leave.

We have war survivors, and we have cancer survivors, and we have rape survivors. Victimhood as power cannot allow for survivors if it seeks to maintain itself.

Then what does this contrasting type of victims do to the word victim?

Trolls Feast on Spilled Milk

I have been an internet asshole in the past. This behavior has a survival tool that best fits the idea of general apathy. It’s not apathy towards things the person has seen too much of, and so it’s not born of over-exposure to imagery, but this apathy exists to escape overexpsure to media and the discussion of it. It’s not the individual images, but the complete lack of silence one is afforded by the surrounding noise the collective media images, sounds and blather creates.

So you’re never serious, if you can at all help it. Caring is investing and then you get sucked back in. You don’t care. You attack sincerity, because it’s vital to caring. You laugh at anyone who doesn’t get what you get, that life’s a joke and treating life as not a joke is dangerous. The less things of matter can having meaning then the easier it is to maintain apathy.

And if you’re trolling via hacks or false identity, then you want attention for disrupting the media, and disrupting any hold sincerity has on people. If someone can’t figure out what’s going on or who is doing it then all the more hilarious, all the more confusing, and all the less the response has any meaning.

That’s Post-Irony.  Taking on personas or positions that previously would be seen as ironic or mocking, and then giving them complete sincerity. You’re the audience stepping onto stage with the performer mid-act, acting as though it’s nothing, and then ducking back into the crowd when they boo, just so you can boo, too. You attack merit, meaning, sincerity like scavengers upon the corpses of definitions. Either false sincerity or true, mislead sincerity. It doesn’t matter. The more it occurs, the less the elements involved have worth or meaning.

Victimhood as power is your perfect match. You don’t even need to do everything yourself. You simply incite, they claim victimhood, and you hide among other names and identities of those that actually care, and when those people look around, you hide n the shadows of apathy. You don’t care what they’re saying. You care that you can devalue it. So you poke again, and they cry victim louder, and soon they’re devaluing sincerity for you.  Attributing harm and danger where there is merely upset.

At a certain point, crying victim is crying wolf. But the wolf is not a beast. The real wolf is real victimization, and it’s a far crueler thing to make people doubt the wolf’s prey than it is for people to doubt the wolf itself.

The Sort of Strife for Play

Sometimes, I consider myself a coward. I don’t enjoy strife. Anger and aggression turn me away. I cringe at the wind slamming a door shut. There’s memories of real violence in my life. There’s memories I’ve likely lost and I’m worried about recovering them.

And then there’s arguments. I’ll have arguments. I’ll take ugly criticism. You can accuse me of enjoying that sort of strife. I’ll say that I enjoy anything I gain from it. Unchallenged views are boring, and they don’t feel good in your gut. I don’t go forth with weak views. The challenge makes my thoughts better formed.

I realize there’s not much danger in the argument. If there was, I’d be gone. When I do feel something truly ugly, I step out of the conversation.

It’s a strife of sorts, but one I can play at for the benefit it gives me.

But what is the strife of victimhood as power? Well, it’s the persisting strife. It’s an argument. It’s differences. It’s livable strife that somehow gets brought up to the status of unlivable strife.

Then you have those that feed the strife, and within it you have the post-ironic. People who have no belief behind what they say. They only know what they say will get a reaction. The hope the reaction sucks the validity out of anything involved.

And victimhood as power is retained, and as soon as it begins to fade, you find a way to ignite. The other side doesn’t truly care about the argument, but they’re so happy to prolong it. Over time, anything beneficial to be gained fades as the need to continue the strife takes over.

We’ll invert new harms with new terms and the other side will mock, and the mocking will be taken on as the real, and the real is the same as the false,  and the truth is the narrative, as the narrative is rewritten by each side, as each side takes turns being good and evil, and soon enough it’s hard to tell the dividing lines.

Those of a happening life passing by our controversies see it all like some roadside attraction. Some mundane business lot attracting the strangest crowds. These wacky-wavy inflatable tube people, gyrating and flailing about, saying nothing and doing nothing but being so loud, never stopping their tormented, crazed performance until somebody decides to stop blowing the wind up their ass.

What were we arguing? What are the sides? Sincerity is lost. The desire for strife outweighs the need for healing. Whatever was being discussed has been moved on from before we even understood it, because a new outrage has come along. It all becomes a rabbit hole so deep and twisting that it scares away people from even trying to figure it all out.

And it can’t be figured out. That would ruin the whole dynamic.



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