Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Culture of Victims 

From today's Daily Telegraph:—

The "don't-blame-me" mentality personified by Vicky Pollard - the Little Britain character who refuses to accept responsibility for anything - is becoming more prevalent, according to a new study.

Researchers say that young people increasingly believe that their fate is out of their hands and that parents, schools, government or bad luck are to blame for their misfortunes.

Matt Lucas's depiction of the feckless Vicky, with her "yeah but, no but" catchphrase, appears to encapsulate the trend perfectly.

The growth of the victim mentality has been accompanied by a rise in cynicism, self-centred behaviour and alienation, according to psychologists who analysed thousands of personality tests dating back to 1960.

They believe that the shift in attitudes has had major consequences for society and may be leading to depression, higher crime rates and lower academic standards.

Dr Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University who led the study, said: "From 1960 to 2002, college students increasingly believed that their lives were controlled by outside forces rather than their own efforts." The same "substantial" increase can also be seen in children aged nine to 14, she said.

The impact of self-centred behaviour and the victim mentality can be seen across every part of society - from the reluctance to give up seats on public transport to voter apathy. It can be seen when people in debt blame banks for lending them too much money or when fat people blame fast-food advertising or hormones for obesity.

The shift of attitude also explains society's fascination with therapy and the belief that the root of anyone's problems may well lie in childhood.

Although the research was carried out in the States, I would not be surprised if the victim mentality that it draws attention to is even more prevalent in the UK. The article goes on to state:—

Prof Frank Furedi, a sociologist at Kent University who has studied changing attitudes to blame and risk, said the shift could be seen in Britain.

It was reflected in the medicalisation of human behaviour and the growth of the therapy culture, he said.

"If you want to look after your elderly parents, it's called compulsive helping. If you enjoy close passionate relationships, it's called relationship addiction. If you are in a close relationship, it's called co-dependence."

The changes were also reflected in day-to-day interactions, he said. "Nobody will stand up on my commuter train from London to Kent if an old person gets on. If you are under the age of 50, you just look at your shoelaces."

The slavery brought about by the victim mentality is something that I learned from Rousas Rushdoony a few years back (Rushdoony may be a dirty word in many circles, but I challenge anyone who actually read him to say that they learned nothing profitable from him). The mentality of slavery involves an abdiction of responsibility that will eventually lead to statism. Man is always subject to powers greater than himself and he knows this. The rebellious man, who will not bow to God, will eventually find himself subject to other higher powers. Either man will see himself merely as determined by the impersonal forces of nature, or as the slave of the state. The Christian faith frees us from the slave mentality of the culture of blame. As Christians we can courageously take responsibility and take control of our situations under God. The inevitability of man's passivity in the face of some higher power needs to be taken seriously. For those who deny that man is subject to the Triune God, the alternative is to make man the slave of impersonal forces (e.g. psychological, economic, biological). As man seeks to usurp God's rule, his relationship to nature will change. He will increasingly find himself subject to nature, rather than the ruler over nature. The blame culture always undermines the order of authority that God has set up, as anyone who has studied Genesis 3 in depth will readily appreciate. If man is merely the product of natural forces, rather than the creation of God, man will end up being depersonalized. However, as we live under the rule of the Triune God we can be freed from the paralysis caused by the culture of blame and victimhood. When we appreciate the bad things that happen to us as coming from the hand of a personal God, we can respond in ways that are not open to the atheist. The weakness that the Christian feels in the face of events need not result in the impotency of victimhood. Rather, the response can be one of increased faith; we are forced to entrust ourselves even more to God's control. As we subject ourselves to God by faith we can act courageously in the world and advance in our rule over creation. If we are the servants of a God who works all things together for our good we are freed from the victim mentality. If every event in the universe comes to us from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no room to indulge this way of thinking. This does not mean that we are never shaped by forces beyond our control or harmed by the activity of others. Rather, it means that our reaction to these truths is very different from that of the non-Christian, who tends to go to one of two related extremes, either seeking to assert man's omnipotency or thinking in terms of utter impotency. Christians can be totally honest about their weakness, without feeling doomed to be dominated by it.

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