On Victimhood

I’ve just been listening to a podcast of an interview by Tim Franks who is the Chief Executive of PACE, a London-based charity that provides mental health services to LGBT people. Given all the uproar last month over what is happening in the US, it is a pleasure to listen to someone who is able to grasp the concept that LGBT folks may sometimes be in need of help from psychiatrists, but that doesn’t mean that they are crazy because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Being able to start a relationship with a therapist from a position of normality rather than having to first establish that you are not a freak or a pervert is incredibly liberating.

But what struck me most about what Franks said was that a major benefit for PACE’s clients was that they could get away from being victims, and that this was a Good Thing. And it is. It is all too easy, if you are immersed in the blogosphere, to think that you need to identify yourself as a victim, because it is such a well-proven way of winning an argument. But actually continually thinking of yourself as a victim is deeply corrosive. It engenders feelings of powerlessness and anger, and aside from winning debates on blogs it doesn’t actually get you anywhere. This maps back to what I was saying in the Riki Wilchins review about identity politics. Defining yourself into an ever-narrower oppressed minority doesn’t get you anything much except unhappiness with your lot and the state of the world.

Or at least, so things seem at 11:40pm. Hopefully I won’t wake up tomorrow and discover that I shouldn’t write philosophical blog posts when I ought to be going to bed.