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A Culture of Victimization

Not so long ago, although it seems like eons lately, there was a belief that with a lot of hard work and some luck, anyone could achieve pretty much whatever it was they wanted to achieve.

Not everyone is successful, of course. Some give up after one disappointment too many, others get distracted or are unfocused which causes them to change course frequently and some just never quite catch a break no matter how hard they try.

Some fail because their expectations are not grounded in reality. Few of us have the genius of Michelangelo within us so expecting to one day paint the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel is probably not an achievable goal for most of us.

Often people became discouraged by the distance still to travel in order to reach  their goal rather than looking over their shoulder to appreciate how far they have already come.

Success is defined differently by different people. Some define it financially; some academically. Some define it in terms of the personal happiness centred around family and friends while others define it by what they can contribute to their community and to helping others. The truly successful define it by what they learn each time they fail.

But no matter how it is defined, we used to celebrate success and not only our own.

We celebrated the success of others because their success served to remind us that it was possible and if they could do it, so could we.

These days, we vilify those same people.

We are becoming a society of victims; people who believe they have been prevented from achieving and living what they want by the success of others. In fact, many simply wallow in that belief. Blaming others has become so much easier than working through the disappointments and the frustrations we all experience in achieving what we want from life.

We have replaced admiration of the success of others with envy and resentment. Our lack of success is no longer our own fault; it is the fault of others. The new mantra is that some are poor because others are wealthy. Even the president of the most entrepreneurial country in the world has come out and stated that nobody earned their success with his “You didn’t build that, others did.” statement.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the successful person pulled themselves up out of poverty through their own ingenuity and hard work, once they have achieved a level of success many of us only dream of in their lives, we resent them for it.

People like Bill Gates and Stephen Jobs who started with nothing more than ideas and who became wealthy become the objects of criticism because of their success. Indeed, their success becomes part of the reason for our lack of it. It matters not that their success created thousands upon thousands of jobs and a significant number of other successful people, not to mention much of the technology and many of the products we take for granted, we resent their success because we resent the fact that we haven’t achieved what they have achieved.

We demand that people like them pay more because they have no right to what their success achieved for them. We have developed a perverted sense of fairness that encourages us to believe that because we are victimized by the disproportionate success they have achieved compared to our own, we are somehow entitled to some of what they earned.

We are fools.

Our success is not dependent or impeded by the success of others; it is dependent on us and on our willingness to accept that it will not happen overnight nor will it necessarily be easy. People like Gates and Jobs were focused. They suffered through their own failures and fought their own demons to achieve what they achieved. It wasn’t handed to them as too many believe and as too many expect it should be for themselves.

It took The Beatles, arguably the most successful rock band in history, ten years before they began to achieve any kind of recognition. They played dingy clubs and bars in Liverpool and Hamburg for pocket change for more than a decade. They went on finally to become wealthy both musically and financially. Their success came from perseverance, determination, hard work, frustration, overcoming obstacles and failures coupled with a bit of luck and a lot of talent.

How many of us would give up ten years of our lives living hand to mouth to achieve success?

Too many of us want instant gratification. We expect it to happen now – not tomorrow or even the next day – now! And when it doesn’t happen, we see ourselves as victimized by the fact it has happened yet. We aren’t prepared to put in the years or whatever time it takes. We give up too easily and look for reasons why we didn’t succeed including blaming those who did.

Spend one night watching the American Idol auditions to see that in action.

Others see their community, whether it is racial, linguistic, religious or gender as being oppressed by other communities or by the society at large. They encourage a culture of victimization that causes generational belief that those within their community cannot succeed because others oppress them or prevent it from happening.

And yet it happens every day for those who refuse to see themselves as victims regardless of race, religion, gender, gender orientation or language.

We are quick to be offended and slow to be forgiving. Every change, every slight real or imagined, is condemned, challenged or at the very least, greeted with suspicion and questioned. As a result we create negative stereotypes of ourselves and our capability, undermining the very motivations we need to achieve whatever it is we want to achieve.

Why bother? We won’t succeed when others are preventing it?

But the simple truth, my friends, is that nobody but ourselves prevents us from achieving what we want to achieve. The wealthy aren’t scheming in back rooms to keep us in poverty. The simple reality is that our success serves them quite well. The more financially successful we are, the more goods and services we are able to afford which means their companies continue to prosper.

Nor is the government scheming to disarm us and subject us to slavery. We are over-taxed and over-regulated but that is not by grand design; it is through political cynicism and incompetence coupled with the demands of those who see themselves as victims and who demand more entitlements and protective legislation for their cause. Politicians are only too happy to provide both if it will buy votes and help them achieve or maintain power.

In other words, we do it to ourselves.

When we see ourselves as victims we treat ourselves and each other as victims or as the enemy. Government sees us as victims and attempts in the most inept ways to both capitalize and to ameliorate that circumstance in a bizarre schizophrenia that only makes sense to politicians.

We lose sight of the fact that democratic governments are not one continuous and homogenous entity with a singular agenda. They are ever-changing organisms with both left and right politicians taking turns to pander to our basest greed and wants.

They have no agenda to enslave us. They don’t require one. Increasingly we enslave ourselves to a culture that sees itself as victimized and threatened by everything around it.

We all create the life we have. We determine our course by what we believe, what we think, say and do. Seeing ourselves as victims is just another way of saying, “I give up” and success, no matter how you define it, does not come to those who give up. It passes them by.

I believe we each have it within ourselves to achieve whatever we set our sights on achieving if it is realistic. It can’t and won’t happen as long as we blame others for our lack of success or sit idly by and wait for others to hand it to us or worse, demand it as an entitlement.

Life is not always fair and is often harsh but that doesn’t always make it somebody else’s fault. Nor is our lack of success or achievement necessarily anyone else’s fault but our own.

It’s time we understood that again.

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© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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