Trigger warnings: Words, paragraphs without indentation, reality
Guys, I have a story to tell you. Remember when you were a little kid and your kindergarten class or Sunday school was having a sing along? When you were older, did you sing pop songs of your youth with your other teenage friends? Fun, right? Maybe for you, with your privilege. For me those experiences were hell. Pure, Auschwitzian hell.
You see, I have a rare condition, a disability in fact, which makes it almost impossible for me to understand the lyrics to songs. To my ears, everyone is singing like Kurt Cobain, and I can only hope to approximate the words as I hear them. Obviously if I read the lyrics I can then decipher them by ear, but since I don’t actually hear them most of the time I tend to forget the words and go back to my state of everything being unintelligible.
The results are horrible. I can’t sing a few lines of pop songs I’ve loved for years. I’m terrible at karaoke. Music is such an important part of our lives, and yet I cannot enjoy it on the same level as other, audio-privileged people. If there were any justice in this society, vocalists would be required to enunciate more clearly for the sake of people like me. But alas, we live in a world where the privileged oppress the disadvantaged.
Indeed, some audio privileged individuals would even claim that I’m making this up, or that my condition doesn’t exist. How could they do that? Don’t they realize that this condition of mine is actually a type of disability? Do they not know how oppressive they are when they question someone’s disability or personal suffering? What matters is someone’s lived experience, not whether that experience is actually “real.” You don’t question a person’s suffering!
Everything I’ve written about having problems deciphering lyrics is more or less true, and I do suck at karaoke. That being said, a lot of people tend to mishear lyrics, and there may actually be some kind of medical explanation for this. Is it a disability? No. To treat something like this as a disability would be trivializing real disabilities, and most obviously a total slap in the face to deaf people. And yet today we have people who would have you believe that struggling with an obscure condition which entails extreme discomfort in response to certain repetitive sounds is akin to surviving the killing field of Cambodia or something. Now just by questioning this condition of “misophonia,” I’m liable to take some serious flak. I questioned someone’s self-proclaimed suffering, specifically a white American girl who is in college. When someone tells you about their suffering or their personal struggle, you must take every word they say as literal gospel, otherwise you’re attacking the victim. Never mind the well known fact that there are literally thousands of phony war vets all over the United States, nearly all of them claiming severe PTSD. Nobody would ever exaggerate the symptoms of a rare neurological disorder. Never.
The cult of victimhood has become a common topic among my friends and I. One of them wrote their own article on the topic. Each friend has their hypothesis of what’s behind the cult. Personally I see it as a convergence of several factors, among them being the desire not only for attention, but also as my other friends have put it, to create a sort of story arc for their “character.” Life is a film and they are the protagonist. The cinematic approach to life is definitely “a thing” as they say these days. I and many other before me have noted that the problem with many “nice guys” is that they see themselves as the protagonist of their own biopic, and they have been conditioned to expect a “love interest” to appear at some point. In reality, without proper habits and social skills, one could go one’s whole life never so much as being intimate with a woman. Expecting the appearance of the love interest character is just one manifestation of the cinematic view of life.
Every story needs conflict, so naturally conflict becomes a big part of our personal character arc. As the writers of Cracked.com have pointed out numerous times in both articles and podcasts, many of our favorite films pit our lone protagonist against massive odds without any help. Americans have been conditioned to feel uneasy about a hero or heroine who has too much assistance in their quest. That’s why many heroes are orphans, and why mentor figures must be killed before the final act. That’s why history is often rewritten to make it seem like this or that famous individual had to struggle with constant rejection and derision.
The other half of the victim cult equation is bound up with the bankrupt theories of “intersectionality” and “privilege.” Privilege theory creates a culture of what one friend has called one-downsmanship, and people with obvious privilege are thus compelled to try to come up with some sort of disadvantage that somehow negates that privilege or at least mitigates it slightly. “Sure, I’m a physically attractive white girl with a college degree! But I have severe allergies all year round!” So you combine the need to feel like the super-unique hero of your own personal movie with the desire to mitigate your real or imagined “privilege” and you end up with a strong incentive to overstate your suffering and sometimes just plain make shit up.
Look, chances are that if you’re living in America and you’ve either obtained a degree or you’re in a four-year university, you’re more privileged than me. Without exaggeration or fibbing I can paint a picture of my life that is characterized by poverty, disappointment, degradation, and a whole host of obstacles that had to be overcome. I could do that, but even if I didn’t change a single fact in my story, I’d still be painting you a distorted image. Sure, I grew up in a terrible neighborhood, but I also spent seven years in a wonderful one. I’ve been to poor public schools, but I graduated from one which was arguably the best in my city. Yes I missed out on a lot of events and milestones which everyone is supposed to experience growing up, but I also first went to Russia at the age of 16, while many adult Americans don’t even have a passport. I can tell my life story one way and come off as sounding incredibly privileged, or tell it another way and make it sound like I clawed my way out of horrible destitution. Guess which method would receive more attention?
Another problem with victim cultism is the idea that questioning the alleged sufferer is inherently evil. Most people would see nothing wrong with me calling out a phony combat vet even if he claims to have PTSD. On the other hand, if I question a person who has “mild OCD” or perhaps someone with an incredibly suspicious tale of “almost” sexual assault, I become literal Hitler. I’m sure that I’ve already marked myself as a Tumblr “shitlord” for life simply for implying that there could ever be a phony story of sexual assault. The problem with creating a culture where its taboo to even question these personal anecdotes is that it emboldens those who use lying to get attention. It also means that liars will put less and less effort into their stories, only further trivializing and exploiting the suffering of people who actually experienced things such as sexual assault or violent combat. As soon as you start telling people that horror stories, no matter how unbelievable, must be accepted without question, and this is coupled with massive amounts of attention heaped upon any victim that comes forth, you’re basically opening the door to all manner of pathological liars.
It is unlikely that the cinema-based worldview will disappear any time in the near future. Since movies, TV shows, novels, and video games constitute an integral part of our modern world, it may be impossible to totally eliminate our mind’s desire to create our own story arc. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing; with awareness of this tendency, we might at least be able to control ourselves and take notice when we’re slipping from reality into fantasy. We also cannot turn back the clock on social media, which encourages us to be our own star, but we can train ourselves to look at it in a more realistic way. We can stress that one’s uniqueness should be based primarily on accomplishments rather than alleged suffering and slights, but then again, maybe putting so much stress on being a unique individual is part of the problem in the first place. How does one actually measure uniqueness or individuality? When one feels they can no longer compete for individuality in the realm of fashion or music, and when they lack any remarkable talent, victimhood looks very attractive as an avenue to attention.