Unassailable: A Blast from the Past


“How dare you challenge this poor, oppressed (or victimized) person?”

Hear that a lot?  I do.  Whether it’s daring to contradict some member of a so-called “marginalized” group or challenge the statements of someone who was victimized in some way (or was just present when someone else was victimized), doing so will raise strident objections from certain groups of people.

Those people are wrong.

The late science fiction (and pretty much every other field) writer Isaac Asimov reported in one of his autobiographies (sorry, no link, I read them in “dead tree” years ago) a conversation in which he explained to someone that there is nothing about oppression that confers virtue on the oppressed.  Historically, people who have been oppressed are more than willing to oppress others when given the opportunity.

While the Good Doctor was speaking of tribes and nations, the same remains true on an individual level.  Being a victim does not make one good or noble or wise.  It does not confer expertise on any subject, not even the subject related to the victimization.  No more does my being in a traffic accident make me an expert on automotive design.

It’s possible that someone who is good and noble and wise can be a victim, certainly.  But the foolish and the vile can also be victims.  Having been a victim does not in and of itself change that.

So, no, someone or some group having been a victim does not make their positions unassailable.  It does not mean that no one could, or should, argue with them.  It does not make their motives unquestionable, their knowledge given, and their proposals the only acceptable ones.

And when victims lash out, especially when they lash out having been challenged, we might make allowances for their emotional response from what happened to them but, here’s the thing, sooner or later that excuse stops working.  It is not an unending license to attack everyone who disagrees with them while being shielded from any responses.

If a person is so emotionally damaged from the event that they cannot bear any contradiction, then that is all the more reason not to take them seriously.  Perhaps their time would be better spent seeking healing from their trauma than in trying to force public policy to fit their emotion-laden mold.

And if they are going to put themselves forward, or allow themselves to be put forward in an effort to drive that public policy, then they need to recognize and accept that it is right and proper for people to challenge both their positions, and their qualifications to put forward those positions.

And “something bad happened to me” is not a qualification for anything.

One thought on “Unassailable: A Blast from the Past”

  1. There is an old religious idea that suffering ‘purifies’ the sufferer and brings penance for sins, and may be at the root of the Holy Victim thing. One of those cultural root things that continues long after the particular culture has lost relevance.


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