Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Evolution of Victimology in the United States

The concept of "victimology" (defined by Webster as "the claim that the problems of a person or group are the result of victimization [i.e., being made victims by some other person or group]") has long been a huge component of American culture.  We simply wouldn't be the same country without the constant clamor for favoritism or reparations by various groups claiming to be victims of one invidious sort of discrimination or another.  In fact, under-representation relative to the general population -- of almost any type, in almost any activity or field, of just about any group constituting a minority -- is regarded by the intelligentsia as prima facie evidence of unlawful and/or immoral discrimination.  (But just try to posit that the relative lack of white guys in the NBA somehow violates the law.  [That's a joke -- the NBA, like all professional sports leagues, is a meritocracy, and rightfully so.])

With that in mind, it's interesting to note that not all the "victimized" are regarded as equal; in fact, there seems to be some trendiness associated with a de facto hierarchy of victim groups.  First, it was black people who reigned supreme.  (They had obvious disadvantages in America after three centuries of slavery, and then another century of Jim Crow and other practices constituting institutionalized racism -- although it's natural to wonder at what point we will really judge individuals "by the content of their character" and not by the color of their skin.  By modern lights, non-meritocratic favoritism of any kind must be considered suspect.)  In recent years, homosexuals seemed to displace black people at the top of the "victim" heap, which probably left a lot of the latter feeling a little bewildered, wondering how they were eclipsed by a group that isn't distinguished by race or ethnicity.

However, the "victim" flavor of the month now seems to be Muslims, which is an exceedingly curious phenomenon to me.  As at least one commentator once noted: just as "gay" used to be the "new black," now "Muslim" seems to be the "new gay"; in other words, "Muslim" has become the victim group that trumps all other victim groups when they contend among themselves.  Okay, take it as read that Islamist terrorist groups and jihadists don't speak for all Muslims and that they're perverting Islam as a religion. However, by any reasonable western standard, Islam is still misogynistic, homophobic, intolerant in at least a hundred other ways*, and authoritarian.  Which begs the question: why does the west (especially Europe, but increasingly the United States) bend over backward to accommodate Islam when the latter is so indisposed to assimilate or even to tolerate liberal western values (such as -- let's see -- not killing a daughter or sister who does something displeasing)?

The answer, I think, lies in the old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."  Partisan hatred, particularly that aimed at conservatives by "progressives," has made for some strange bedfellows, and none are stranger than those who would share a bed with the abjectly intolerant in the name of "tolerance."  Islam may be antithetical to virtually every value ostensibly held by the Left, but, well, at least Muslims aren't lousy, rotten conservatives who believe in American exceptionalism and the inherent decency of their country.

* I found one prime example in a news story I read a couple of weeks ago. In it, a Muslim man was reported to have registered some kind of official complaint concerning how he was offended when some non-Muslim woman bent over within his sight and he was thus "forced" to contemplate how that woman uses mere toilet paper to clean herself after defecating and doesn't wash herself with water (at least until her next daily shower -- which, I'll warrant, is more frequent than the average Muslim woman in the third world bathes). You can't make this stuff up!

[Update, 10/21/10: National Public Radio has fired Juan Williams (one of its African-American commentators) now merely for stating -- regretfully, it must be added -- that he personally feels nervous when he gets on a plane and sees a passenger dressed in Muslim clothing.  I rest my case -- the Left's obeisance to Islam is so complete that they'll eat their own over it.]

[Update, 9/17/12: It occurs to me to mention that conservatives have their own strange bedfellows in the culture wars, a good example being Ted Nugent, a person who, by his own admission, is about as libertine in his sexual habits as one can possibly be, but is, at the same time, an ardent advocate of the Second Amendment, a foe of drug use, and a strident fiscal conservative.]