On The Issues, Winter, 1993:


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         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
            travischarbeneau@gmail.com    Phone: 804 358 0417
                         www.travischarbeneau.com

                      I'm a Victim and I'm Proud
                          Travis Charbeneau
                            slup "victim"
                              958 words
     PULL QUOTE: "Surely all this whine and counter-whine misses the
cosmic point: we're _all_ victims; 'We're _all_ bozos on this bus'."
     What many call "The Cult of Victimization" has produced
legislation and litigation galore. But, according to critics, none of
it has reduced the awful din of whining. To the contrary. Women
still whine about being victimized by men. African-and other
Non-Euro-Americans whine about being victimized by Euro-Americans. 
Gays whine about being victimized by straights. The
"differently-abled" whine about being victimized by the "same-abled."
(Feel free to whine along.)
     To make matters worse, the Archie Bunker types accused of
victimizing all these victims have themselves begun whining: reverse
discrimination, white males as an endangered species, and my personal
favorite, "I never owned slaves."  The whining of the victimized
sounds like Political Correctness to the Political Cretins. 
(Apologies to the differently-abled Cretin Community and the
Republican party.)
     But surely all this whine and counter-whine misses the cosmic
point: we're _all_ victims;  "We're _all_ bozos on this bus." Merely
being born amounts to a terrible victimization (by your own mother,
yet), one which ought to instill some compassion for the impulse to
whine generally, regardless of one's particular gripes. Preachers
don't call this place a "vale of tears" for nothing, and the fact that
we're all shrouded in "veils of tears" on a regular basis ought,
again, to breed broader understanding.
     Unfortunately, you may be like me, beginning life as an idealist,
rejecting any notion of "Original Sin." Man is basically good: "And,
like, if everyone would only groove together on a more regular basis,
this could be, like, a really groovy planet."  Wrong, Hippie Dupe. We
soon learn that humans could be removed altogether from this world,
and it would still be an atrocious (if often lovely) hell hole. Don't
tell me the wail of a wildebeest calf caught in the jaws of several
lions is not the whine of victimization -- sans human malice. 
Chimpanzees and other primates have been documented lying, raping,
committing murder and making war.
     And what about being struck by lightning, smacked by wayward
asteroids or watching your local star go super nova?  Stars are
exploding all the time in this universe, obliterating their planet
children and any critters living on them not clever enough to put in a
911 to the Starship Enterprise. Forget politics, correct or
otherwise.
     Again, we rebel against this idea. As kids we learn that the goal
in life is to be "happy." We can be "happy" consuming mass quantities
of wonderful products, smoking cocaine and beating up faggots for God. 
Some people achieve this. They make all the money, smoke all the dope
and piously pummel people, but on their death beds they still feel
barren and scared. Others quickly learn that this American Dream take
on happiness is phony. They spend their lives strenuously attempting
to redefine "happy" to mean something meaningful. Few succeed. (I
met a happy Zen Master once, but he hanged himself shortly after what
I took to be a rather casual discussion of the problem.)
     The more thoughtful have defined happiness in terms of meaningful
work. George Bernard Shaw said that true joy meant "being used for a
purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one." Sounds good. And
yet a very troubled Albert Einstein spent the majority of his life
denying the premise that God "plays dice with the universe," a premise
he had proved beyond much doubt as a "relative" youth. So much for
happiness through work.
     "Happy" is just not a happening thing, however you define it:
good health, good family, good religion, good music -- whatever. Just
factor in disease, divorce, intolerance, Barry Manilow. How 'bout
basic carnal satisfaction?  A caring and skilled lover can give you a
few moments of pleasure. A caring and skilled torturer can keep you
in unspeakable agony for years. Pleasure vs. Pain?  No contest, no
balance, no justice anywhere.
     And do I, a mere scribbler, offer some way out where far greater
minds have failed?  Naturally.
     "Life, Liberty and the Holding of Property" was apparently edited
from the US Constitution at the last minute to the now-familiar
"Pursuit of Happiness." Oppressed colonials, The Framers were members
of the first American victims group, and they were nothing if not
spiritually ambitious -- and cunning. You can easily dispense with
"Life" and "Liberty" when the "pursuit of Happiness" must include
both, and lots, lots more, including evolving concepts of economic
rights, rights to health care, education -- evolving rights for the
variously victimized. The key word is "pursuit." "Happiness" isn't
defined, much less guaranteed. 'Doesn't matter. We have the
inalienable right of "pursuit."
     And what are today's numerous victims groups doing if not
"pursuing" happiness, defined differently as justice overdue, or some
redress of grievance, or some relief from bigotry in the law? And what
pursuit is worth the name without a bit of whining? I am a disabled
person. (I am _not_ "differently-abled." X-Ray Vision. Now _that's_
differently-abled.)No victimizer, individual or institutional, is
going to tell me with a straight face and an unblackened eye that I
don't have the right to pursue my happiness up wheelchair access
ramps, etc. Deny me, and I will whine -- at least. Tough torts. No
less a document than the US Constitution not only guarantees me
pursuit, but, via the First Amendment, whining, too -- all in the name
of happiness few, if any, can ever really know.
     We can't deny the variously victimized the merits of their
individual cases. We can't deny the unforgiving and often malicious
nature of the universe. We can't deny the Supreme Law of the Land
regarding pursuit of happiness. And we can't deny the fact that from
time to time it's all just too tiresome. But: "There but for the
grace of God ..." Whining can be instructive. We may learn stuff
we'll need ourselves one not-so-fine day.