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Fixing Victim Mentality for Good

Fixing Victim Mentality for Good

Who is profiting from the George Zimmerman verdict?

Who is inciting the riots over the Zimmerman verdict? For Christ’s sake (and I mean that most sincerely) Reverends Jackson and Sharpton: if you don’t believe justice was served, move to a country without Habeas Corpus, and please take all the people who agree with you when you go. There are some countries left in the world where you can take justice into your own hands and do as you see fit. Please remember as you immigrate that you, too, might someday be on the wrong side of your new fellow citizens’ opinion of what’s just, and that you won’t have your day in court in that new perfect world without the rule of law so dear to most civilizations. You might also consider the teachings of the religion you espouse as you, er, encourage your followers in the “justice for Trayvon Martin” movement.

If you are one of the folks who admires the above-mentioned Reverends-in-Name-Only, you have my compassion and understanding. I wish I could offer you an alternative to the anguish you feel, but I can’t. You must find that on your own, and I know you will be more satisfied and peaceful when you realize you’re only being held back by your own choices, and that you have the right to choose something else.

Let’s look at a different issue.

Who is profiting from sexual abuse?

Why is it that some survivors of abuse must publicly tell the world about it, over and over and over? No doubt this must be cathartic for some, and I have no issues with abusers getting their just desserts, but I question the many many conferences and symposiums and blogs and preachers and psychologists who profit from public victim venting. I’m just as concerned about the voyeurs who get off on hearing the details over and over, and in many cases pay for the experience.

This is not to say that perpetrators of sexual abuse ought not face their accusers, but, in my opinion, it would be best if that happened in a court of law rather than on national television. Lecherous San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, as smarmy as he is, deserves his day in court. So does New York City Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. As offensive as they are, these despicable pawns of a corrupt political system are still Americans and subject to the same rule of law that released Zimmerman.

One of Music Care’s community partners in the San Diego Veterans Coalition is attempting to draw attention to military sexual abuse. I suspect they’ll bring plenty of heat and light to that topic, but how much attention will be paid to serious discussion of how to correct it? Sensationalism and sex sell. It’s a lot harder to sell the fix.

A few years back, I attended the first-of-its-kind survivors’ conference for men who, as kids, had been subjected to abuse. This annual conference is called “It Happens to Boys.” Many stories were told involving abuse by priests, parents and inmates, but the most riveting speaker at the event was Robert J Ackerman, PhD. Among other things, Dr Ackerman is known for his book on the surviving children of alcoholics, and his presentation focussed attention on the tools one needs to survive abuse. It wasn’t until the end of his talk that he mentioned, almost as an afterthought, his own experience of being abused. We need more public discourse of Dr Ackerman’s style, rather than more stories of abuse by priests.

This male sex abuse conference has drawn plenty of attention to the issue. This kind of stuff sells. Why doesn’t the fix sell better?

Last item: fundamentalism.

If you’re part of a charismatic religion, you’ve probably felt the collective power of a fired-up group of folks who believes what you believe. It’s an awesome power. Preachers and spiritual teachers use it, as do musicians, motivational speakers, military leaders and even CEOs of large companies (have you ever watched an Apple product announcement?). Collective group energy can become visceral, and highly-charged groups can become mobs and mosh pits almost on command. It feels good!

In some cases, fundamentalism has been used to terrorize others. The Westboro Baptist Church is a great example of American domestic terrorism, and radical Islam is well known on the world stage. Non-religious fundamentalism can also be destructive. Nationalism, political bigotry, racism and sexism are all examples of how national pride, political ideology, genuine racial or sex-based pride can turn harmful at the fundamentalist extremes. Belittling anyone for their nationality, political views, race, sex or sexual orientation is petty; wanting to simply wipe whole categories of brothers and sisters in the human race right off the map because of those things is criminal.

So what’s to be done?

First: we all need to stop advocating at the extremes. 

It seems obvious that Zimmerman walked because of the rule of law, but too many good folks are convinced that the Florida jury who acquitted him was racist. These well-meaning folks who disagree with the Zimmerman verdict are, in a way, attracting issues to themselves that they really deserve not to have — issues that are obscuring the alternative choices of a different way of understanding the Zimmerman verdict. Why? Because of those who profit from the angry mobs that believe Zimmerman is racist — those who profit from having control over the angry mobs and feed them with lies that keep them subservient rather than permitting them personal responsibility.

Politics? Religion? Nationalism? Take a moment to just breathe…and think about the fact that you, too, are a human being, just like the human beings who have different political, religious or nationalistic views than you. Try to walk in their shoes and look at yourself from their point of view. It’s possible you might see yourself differently. Allow for just a moment that other living, breathing people — who might or might not be like you — live on this planet too.

Second: we all need to stop living in the past. Learn from it, yes; live in it, no.

Sure: abuse is wrong. Perpetrators of abuse ought to be brought to retribution. So let’s do that and move along already! Once the crime has been punished and the perp’s behind bars, let go of the part of your life that was messed up and move forward to a new chapter. It’s OK to say “I survived” but the rest of us are getting tired of hearing the story over and over. Figure out how to turn your experience into something worthy of the TED stage. If you can’t do that, shut up. Folks Liek Dr Ackerman prove that continuing to re-hash your victimization is just as damaging to your prospects of a new life as the abuse itself — it’s self abuse in a way to not put the trauma behind you and grab the transformational lesson out of what happened. The world needs you as you have been changed by the abuse, not you the abused victim.

We must do a better job at learning from our history to be able to face the future more intelligently.

Third: listen like you mean it.

If you can’t have a discussion with anyone without becoming enraged by opinions different than yours, get help. Check yourself in to a place where you can’t hurt anyone. It’s wrong to kill people who don’t think, look or act like you. If we can learn to really listen to people who don’t think, look or act like us, we might begin to understand that they are human beings, too.

Is any of this easy? No. Why do you think there are lechers, abusers and victimizers? Because none of this is easy. Profiteering from victims is easy because victims want to be led, coddled, sympathized with. They’ll pay good money to be told they’re OK, that God loves them, that their story of abuse is more shocking than the last one. They don’t want to change because change can be difficult. If you follow the money you can find out who’s enabling victims to avoid facing their music.

(Did you think I could write a whole blog without mentioning music?)

A lot of popular music is for victims. A powerful, musical victim-based message really helps enable a victim, and can obscure a victim’s right to walk away from victimhood and toward personal responsibility. How? 

Music works physiologically, releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that change our emotional, mental and physical states. (Mosh pit, anyone? Ecstatic worship, anyone? Bliss out, anyone?) Add some powerful lyrics to a powerful piece of music and you really have control over your listeners, especially the ones unaware of their powerful right to choose. Why do you think codependent love songs sell so well as compared to other love songs? Why do you think the music of anger and rage sells so well as compared to other pop music?

Some say that expressing anger and rage, victimhood and violence in music is better than expressing it through violence. But let’s have an antidote to all that destructive energy, shall we? If your music mirrors your rage and anger — and perhaps the rage and anger of your audience — you’ve got a responsibility to the rest of us! Make a difference in the world by transforming some of that angst energy to more socially-acceptable purposes. Some pop artists get this, and they’re to be applauded. Let’s do this more.

Do you think gangs could profit more from society as a whole than the small part of society that they control through fear?

Do you think religious fanatics could reach more people with love than with hatred and suicide bombs?

Do you think entire victimized nations could find a new way to integrate into the world if they shed the “everyone hates us” mentality that’s held them back for hundreds of years?

I do.

Maybe through popular music we can reach across the victimization that separates us and create some new choices. I’d like to see what happens if we try.