But History Unfairly Gives Preference To 'Victims'

2013-09-01 19:04

The nature of our human interactions is characterised by various emotions—fascinations, frustrations, hurt, fragility, surprises, joy, victimhood and many others—that define us in relation to those we interact with.

Across all realms, we find ourselves usually polarised towards any of the two popular historical standpoints; that is villains or victims. If that’s not the case, we are either accomplices to other people’s victimisations or co-victims of the villain characters of those with whom we interact.

In literature, historical anecdotes, and lifetime chronicles, the space occupied by victims seems to be exalted and respected more than that of 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 from warriors. We are likely to bemoan the deaths, than celebrate the advanced weapon 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 sound in the memories of generations to come—they fight to have their voices heard. I guess this then sheds light on why it’s not easy for the perpetrator to accept guilt unconditionally and without any defence whatsoever.

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

Furthermore, people who divorce don't seem to be clear on who is a 'villain' and a '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 the other’s cruelty. In South Africa—and this I say not to necessarily delve into the science of apartheid—records of history present one racial group as the all time victims of those 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 USA’s inhumane acts.

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

Alike, can we conclusively regard history-portrayed villains as evil in their entire being without exploring the possibilities of them having been victims (at times to those seen as the ‘real’ victims) before?

Let me bring it home and humbly plead for emotional detachment from this example: As we remember victims of apartheid, mainly my fellow Black people, do we ever pause to also observe what our other Black people did to Whites during the struggle for freedom?

Don’t get prematurely heated up, but what my question seeks to achieve is whether our South African political history makes provision for White civilians killed in explosions, protests and those neck-laced, although 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, 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 who’s had his parents killed than one who has also killed many people, someone who is a victim of transformation than one who once enjoyed privileges at the victimisation of others.

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

It’s dismissed as mean and insensitive to ask a woman who claims to have been sexually harassed by her boss what her role in the alleged harassment is. Even now as you read this, you might reject it as immature of me to even 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 also 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 that, I personally want to be remembered not as someone who was solely enjoying the position of being portrayed as a victim, but one who also courageously admitted to being an architect of someone else’s victimisation.

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