History unfairly gives preference to the victims

2013-09-03 00:00

THE nature of human interactions is characterised by various emotions — fascination, frustration, hurt, fragility, surprise, joy, victimhood and others — which define us in relation to those with whom we interact.

Across all realms, we find ourselves polarised by two historical standpoints, that is the villains and the victims. If that’s not the case, we are either accomplices to other people’s victimisation or co-victims of the villains.

In literature, historical anecdotes, and chronicles of life, the space occupied by the victims seems to be exalted and respected more than that of the villains. This is to say, although history remembers mostly the warriors who won bloody battles, it actually favours those victims (or casualties) of the heroism of the warriors. We are more likely to bemoan the deaths, than celebrate the advanced weaponry used during the war.

The one who receives sympathy based on historical events is the one esteemed by history.

Both villains and victims fight to be on the favourable side of history in order for their legacies to resonate in the memories of generations to come — they fight to have their voices heard. I guess this sheds light on why it’s not easy for the perpetrator to accept guilt unconditionally and without any defence whatsoever.

I noted while growing up that, among certain members of my family, even the one whose fault was incontestable still managed to find at least one aspect that would position him or her as a victim of the other.

Furthermore, people who divorce don’t seem to be clear on who is the villain and who is the victim in the downfall of their marriage. Should the woman cite the husband’s domestically violent and disrespectful approach to their marital issues, the husband will somehow emerge with an argument of provocation — “She made me do it”.

In political history, we still find one group being portrayed as the victims of another’s cruelty. In South Africa, and this I say not necessarily to delve into apartheid, records of history present one racial group as the all-time victims of the villains who championed racial oppression.

Moreover, when you look at the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Japan, you will likely recognise the fact that the Japanese are, in this context, presented by history as victims of the United States’s inhumane acts.

However, does being on the victims’ side mean one has never been a villain in other interactions, be they political, romantic or interpersonal?

Can we conclusively regard history’s villains as evil in their entire being, without exploring the possibilities of them having been victims before?

Let me bring it home and plead humbly for emotional detachment from this example. As we remember victims of apartheid, mainly fellow black people, do we ever pause to observe what some black people did to whites during the struggle for freedom?

Don’t get heated up prematurely, as what my question seeks to achieve is whether our South African political history makes provision for the white civilians who were killed in explosions, protests and necklaced, even though they may not have been active drivers of the system of oppression.

Do all whites fall into the category of evil doers? Or does history acknowledge that no one can consistently be a perpetrator without having been a victim, and vice versa?

Returning to the Hiroshima tragedy, why is it that the Japanese enjoy the favourable position of victimhood as if in the history of war they never perpetrated any crimes against humanity?

Following my obviously subjective observation, I believe that it is easier to stand up as someone who was once abused than as the abuser; someone whose parents have been killed than the one who has killed many people; someone who is a victim of transformation, rather than one who once enjoyed privileges as others were victimised.

As citizens of the world, we have placed too much value on the concept of victimhood, and so have unfortunately taken away responsibility from those we perceive (or proclaim themselves) to be sufferers.

It’s dismissed as mean and insensitive to ask a woman who says she was sexually harassed by her boss what her role in the alleged harassment was. Even now, as you read this, you might reject it as immature of me to dare attempt to investigate the participation of victims in their own sufferings, or in someone else’s.

And so the arguments will continue: “You can’t ask how many men have also been sexually harassed by women”, “you can’t ask black people whether they admit to having killed whites in the past”, “you should be sympathising with poor victims instead of asking such childish questions” (of course, in some cases, we can’t ask such).

In this world, everyone, including undisputed villains, picks a position of victimhood, and history continues to be the battlefield for a favourable, sympathy-filled location. The martyr-victimhood complex is prevalent.

Despite this, I want to be remembered not as someone who enjoyed the position of a victim, but one who also courageously admitted to being an architect of someone else’s victimisation.

— News24.

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