A JUST WORLD AND ITS VICTIMS
Human beings have the “fundamental need to find meaning and order in life’s experiences,” especially when the inexplicable happens to people.
How could so many people die in Hurricane Katrina?
How could a man kill his wife and infant child and then himself?
What made it possible for a 16 year old boy to come to school one morning, my nephew’s school, with a loaded gun and kill one of his classmates?
Something happens in our thinking when we are faced with these questions.
We tend NOT to look too deeply into the experience. We tend to look only for “Surface Answers.”
To look TOO deeply requires looking into oneself. And to look deeply inside ourselves is scary and threatening. The question can be asked then, could this have happened to me? Could I have done this?
Humans have a need to believe that we live in a JUST WORLD, a world where bad things happen only to bad people.
“This belief is a fundamental DELUSION that is central to the way we organize experience, make sense out of confusion, justice out of cruelty and unfairness, and ORDERLINESS OUT OF RANDOM EVENTS.”
“The Widespread But False Belief Is That The World Is Essentially Fair. And In A Fair World, The Only Reason That Misfortunes Happen Must Be The Result Of The Actions Of The Individual.”
“The Good Are Rewarded. And The Bad Are Punished.”
In other words, The Poor are responsible for becoming Poor and therefore deserve to be and to remain Poor.
In other words, The Homeless caused their Homelessness and therefore deserve to be Homeless.
In other words, those without Healthcare deserve to be sick without Healthcare.
“The outcome of this belief is that people assume that those who suffer misfortune deserve their fate.”
In other words, we BLAME THE VICTIM.
When we Blame the Victim, we can Absolve ourselves of any responsibility to care for others.
When we Blame the Victim, we can absolve ourselves of creating a Just Society to help prevent people from falling through the cracks in the first place.
When we blame the victim, we can absolve ourselves from ever helping those who do fall through the cracks of a Society.
I met a woman several years ago who believed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish the evil people of New Orleans.
I found her words offensive. I was raised in the South so her remarks cut deep. A white hot anger envelopes my body when I hear words like those.
“BLAMING THE VICTIM is the tendency to assume that the person who has suffered a misfortune must have done something wrong to have deserved it.”
I have heard people say to others who have been fired, dismissed from a job, or laid off: Man, you must not be living right.
The immediate effect on me when I hear words like that is to feel like a huge crevice has opened up between me and the other person.
It occurred to me while writing this: Have I created the crevice, or has the other person created the crevice?
The obvious answer is, The Other Person Has Created the Crevice. The other person has just divorced himself from me and has left me to Sink or Swim.
Strange things happen when believers in the Just World Hypothesis are confronted with Injustice Suffered by Others:
They denigrate the victim.
They deny the evidence.
They reinterpret the event entirely.
Just World Theorists BLAME THE VICTIM.
And oddly enough, even the VICTIMS begin to Blame Themselves.
WALKING AROUND IN A DISASTER AREA CAN SHAKE ANYONE TO THE CENTER OF THEIR BEING.
People go to great lengths to protect the basic belief that bad things happen only to bad people or irresponsible people. This belief is a consequence of the Illusion of Control.
The ILLUSION OF CONTROL is an Imaginary Defense against the fear that terrible things can happen to anyone.
No one is exempt from the possibility of disaster in their own lives.
Researchers have devised a JUST WORLD SCALE INVENTORY. It is a list of basic assumptions that people hold about other people who suffer disastrous events.
Some of the assumptions that are listed in the Scale are statements like the following:
Basically the world is a just place.
By and large people get what they deserve.
The homeless want to be homeless.
Innocent women are not raped.
Drug addicts want to be drug addicts.
Those who hold the Just World Hypothesis to be true believe that The Poor bring about their own suffering because they are lazy, drunk, violent, stupid, uneducated, addicted.
All of these rationalizations help people avoid the panicky thought that poverty, job loss, or even death could strike them. It is called DENIAL.
DENIAL and SELF-DELUSION PROTECT us against anger, depression, and anxiety. Denial and Self-Delusion help us to be optimistic, to feel safe, and to feel invincible.
UNFORTUNATELY, Denial and Self-Delusion also provide us with the EXCUSE to turn our backs on and to IGNORE the very people who most need our help and aid.
Unfortunately, Denial and Self-Delusion prevent us from building a Society that can help prevent some of the awful things that happen to people.
Unfortunately, Denial and Self-Delusion prevent us from helping others when The Unpredictable and The Unpreventable happen to people.
Unfortunately, when we build a Society on the backs of The Poor, The Homeless, and The Ill, we have a Society that is built on a Precarious Foundation.
And then we are all in danger of falling into the Cracks, into the Abyss, and into the Darkness.
BUT if we build a CARING SOCIETY designed to help prevent people from falling through the cracks in the first place, and also to catch those who do fall through, then we have built a JUST SOCIETY FOR ALL PEOPLE.
It all requires a lot of hard work. It requires EMPATHY. It requires COMPASSION. It requires INSIGHT. It requires us to Challenge Our Ways of Thinking and to Challenge Our Persuasions.
It requires our having to think about what it would be like to WALK IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES. “Could this happen to me?”
It’s a lot of hard work. But it is not impossible. It only requires us to OPEN OUR HEARTS TO OTHERS.
And isn’t that what our Country is supposed to be about in the first place!!!!
A Just And Caring Society
Of The People,
By The People,
And For All The People.
A Federation of All Humanity, together with a sufficient measure of Social Justice to Ensure Health, Education, and a Rough Equality of Opportunity, would mean such a Release and Increase of Human Energy as to Open a New Phase in Human History.
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Our nation’s greatness relies on the way we treat our poor….
We must want something enough that we want it for all persons: Health, Shelter, Education, Peace.
Facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored.
It is the character of our country to take care of our own.
A Society that has more Justice is a Society that needs less Charity.
The cost of inaction is greater.
Tavris, Carol. Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. NY: A Touchstone Book, 1989.