On The Issues, Winter, 1993:
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Travis Charbeneau 3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.