This was first published in “The Heretic” magazine in November, 2012, and then again on this site at the end of 2013. Although the historical context was different, it is still pertinent – perhaps even more so than before.
On this side of the Pond, where feverish electoral competition reigns over the airwaves, billboards and kitchen tables throughout all three countries of North America, it is hard to ignore the renewed communal debate with respect to victims in general…
Women like me, “of a certain age”, look at each other in disbelief – we thought we’d already fought and won these battles ages ago! And yet…perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised…
A growing refugee population forms waves of nomadic humanity fleeing the violence of nature or society – wherever they land, these people are generally faced with hardship and xenophobia.
University students have historically been a major force for change within society, reminding their elders of their tarnished idealism and mortgaged dreams. I imagine that the propaganda machines elsewhere in the world – in Chile, or Spain or China – put in as much overtime as it did here in Quebec, slandering the motivation of the student movement and reacting with disproportionate violence and the hurried crafting of unconstitutional laws to suppress and contain their potential for social transformation. Broken bones, bloodied faces and brutal arrests were absolutely justified, according to popular (well-controlled) media, in order to teach the insurgents a lesson…
The “Occupy” movement that spread around the world was and still is protesting the manipulation and ruination of the global economy and resources by the elite “1%” of the population who rule from Wall Street and other financial power centres. This movement was successfully spun as a bunch of dirty lazy hippies – or spoilt children of privilege – who should get out and get jobs… This legitimate protest also saw police violence and hasty juggling of laws and ordinances to suppress and discourage it.
Indigenous people from the Amazon to Kenya to Tibet to northern Quebec are being massacred, forced from their tribal lands and into physical and spiritual starvation. Global outcry and petitions signed by concerned millions are largely ignored.
Recently, on CBC Radio, I heard E. L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, say that it should be self-evident to anyone who has read her books that the Submissive (woman) clearly has the power and control in the relationship she writes about. While James herself seemed to regard the rampant success of her books as a curiosity and took some exception to it being called “mommy porn”, the academic who was called upon to comment in this broadcast said that it was a logical expression of women in general being tired of having to be in control all the time and fantasising of being able to simply be submissive and follow orders.
Although in much of the West it has been considered politically incorrect to “blame the victim” since at least the 70s, it is still the cultural norm in much of the world to punish rape and sexual assault victims for the crimes committed against them.
The upper and middle classes have learned to separate themselves from victims by pitying them – one had to be poor, non-white, naive, ill-educated, unlucky…or just plain women…to be a victim. They couldn’t possibly be like Us, or We would no longer be able to believe that hard work and a steady climb up the ladder would ensure security and protection from the vicissitudes so obviously present in other people’s lives… Pop! There goes an illusion… Given the current times and state of the world, we never know who is going to be hit with the next massacre, earthquake, oil leak in the back yard, mining or gas company with rights to your land, or stalker with strange intent… Twenty-five million women and children are trafficked and sold into slavery each year. I remember when the whole population of Canada was twenty million!
Is victimization really random? In what seems to me an ironic twist of affairs, the spiritual community is largely in accord with the far right in believing that we suffer terrible fates because of nasty things that we ourselves have done – errors we have committed – the two groups only differing as to whether these things were done in this life or previous ones! (Although I do suppose that believing that one’s impoverishment is due to a previous history of misusing wealth is fundamentally different – and a whole lot less attractive to the righteously wealthy – than the belief that the poor just don’t work hard enough…!)
These are times when all stones are being turned over and the slimy stuff is crawling out from underneath, exposed for all to see… What we have not been sufficiently aware of, perhaps, is the persistent undercurrent of guilt, blame and shame that whirls around aggression (of all kinds) and the believed causes of its provocation. We are now revisiting what was swept under a variety of prettily-coloured and intricately-woven arguments for a few decades – people’s viscera seem to be speaking now more than social niceties… The lace gloves have been whipped off and the switchblades pulled out…
In occidental culture, the role of the sainted, religiously-inspired Martyr shifted historically to that of the Victim, who also got a lot of good press for a while… Crisis centres and compensation programs were set up – money was to be had… Then these Victims of circumstances and ill-will became Survivors – those who have struggled mightily with something horrible and managed to come out the other side – and marches, support groups and self-help books formed the next social phenomenon.
(Another image also arises, though, of wounded veterans, survivors of anonymous wars, showing off scars and recounting the stories of how they became debilitated as a way of it all making some kind of sense – of it having been worth something in the end… Like Holocaust survivors, we tell ourselves that we must remember to prevent the reoccurrence of such things ever again.)
Defining ourselves as survivors means that the scars still hurt – the wounding is still painful – but most importantly, a survivor, defined by her scars and what happened to her, is still under the power of the perpetrator(s) of the survived deeds. In an illicit and moving interview, again on CBC Radio, dissident artist-activist Ai Wei Wei, under the pressure and restrictions of house arrest in China, was asked what he would want to say to his deceased father, also a dissident and a great poet. His voice full of emotion, he replied, “I’m still alive.”
The victim/survivor also gets the opportunity to look at the aggressor from a higher moral ground, to decide that maybe he didn’t know any better, that he did the best he could given his upbringing, and that his errors and shortcomings can be forgiven out of magnanimity. Even those who do not feel able to forgive mostly believe that this is nonetheless what they should strive for, as forgiveness will bring them peace of mind.
Peace of mind, perhaps, but that of the righteously superior, secure in a whiter-than-white goodness that is achieved through the grand geste of letting the perpetrator off the hook – of not seeking the revenge that is believed due – the punishment that should, according to all that is upright and correct, be meted out, thereby giving the satisfaction of “just rewards”….The moral domination of one who has been given the right to Judge is the power of the Victim –“I may forgive, but I will never ever forget…”
Here, we haven’t healed anything – we’ve simply switched the rules of dominance and redefined the power struggle. Duality has once again been played out to perfection, as the aggressor-perpetrator becomes the victim…the lower guy on the totem pole of a newly-defined moral hierarchy…Aggression has to be seen as being the action of deviant individuals, because this is not the norm in Our Society.
Fault-finding and the application of punishment are necessary so that eyes are not turned toward what is inherently imbalanced in our social structure…
Best we keep the emotions highly tuned against rapists, paedophiles, loose men and women who steal spouses from their socially-acceptable lives… “Abuser!”, hissed through clenched teeth, has become the “Infidel!”, or “Heretic!” of old…
Perhaps the list of aggressors has just got too long and encompassed too many of us for comfort: we are once again looking at the victim with suspicion, doomed to bounce between polarities of blame until we finally grow up and stop pointing fingers. Blaming the victim is just the flip side of a society needing to lay culpability in someone’s lap.
The forgiveness that so many seek to cultivate in their hearts is therefore just not enough – it’s another facet of the scramble for survival through dominance that is NOT the best we can do as a species. Mere survival just doesn’t cut it anymore.
We’re beginning to understand the importance of the stories that we heard about our families – our People – in determining who we believe we are. Intergenerational trauma is finally being taken seriously as a template for individual and communal suffering, helping us to the understanding that all of us are responsible, and no one is to blame
There is a point in the centre of the seesaw that doesn’t move. You can spin it around forming a circle of all the varying hues of duality – the point at its centre is a place of stillness. This is the now-famous Zero Point of all potentials and unlimited energy, and THIS is where we must begin to focus our attention, our consciousness, our time and resources.
This is the sweet spot of the marriage of polarities – a place of inclusiveness…of Oneness – and it is where we will one day find peace.