Monday, June 27, 2016

Honor, Dignity, and Victim Culture

I won't bore you with details, but I will point to an interesting article on a rise in microagressions and the concept of a "Victim Culture". To recap quickly there are three primary types of cultures discussed #1 Honor Culture - were you generally have a personal code of honor and use force to correct even the slightest of offenses #2 Dignity Culture - were you ignore insignificant (that is, legally allowed) slights and rely on dialogue and third parties to dispute offenses according to a unified, documented written code, and #3 Victim Culture - were you use the perception of victimization to resolve disputes.

In Honor cultures the strong are rewarded for being strong or oppressive and there is nothing to check their power. This leads to adaptations in behavior that favor the idea that "the strongest make the rules". Moreover, the rules tend to be arbitrary and (inherently) serve those who are already in positions of power (or in the case of revolution wherever has superior weaponry). This, to me, is clearly not an appropriate way to exist as a society. In such a society, warlords and gangs will run rampant as each leader seeks to continue to amass enough personal power to maintain their position.

On the other hand, Victim Cultures do the exact opposite, but end up devolving into the same scenario on it's ear. The adaptations become "I'm the most victimized" and in this culture a downward spiral of "who's the bigger victim" exists as each player in their attempt to amass power points out infractions against their person. To me, Victim Culture versus Honor Culture both have the problem that the source of "truth" is subjective and can be easily manipulated to favor those that are on both extremes. In this culture, individuals only become powerful by expressing their "victimhood" to third parties. This leads to gossip and demagoguery being the way to nullify perceived violations of your person.

At the top of the triangle of these cultures is "Dignity Culture". What is important about this model is that actors are automatically imbued with power (and, for example...human dignity) and their actions can only take away from it..."proper" actions are assumed and "improper" actions are punished according to a SHARED set of values. This is the foundation of (not just) the american system of government and at the cornerstone of my personal belief system. The important difference between the three is that this is the only one of them that assumes equality and codifies what is wrong action and what are appropriate consequences. This means that collectively and socially we agree to "universal" terms and rules and apply them unemotionally in all situations versus allowing either victims or oppressors to make their own rules that are highly situational and based often on emotional responses versus a "rule of law".

This having been said, I've been thinking about this a bit and, in particular, I think about a video I watched a while back with our current President speaking to the owner of a gun shop about gun control. In this clip, it appears evident that spreading Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the current president's position on gun control has clouded an otherwise rational person with what appear to be an inaccurate assessment of affairs. His decent into victimhood is clear by his assessment that the current administration is hell bent on punishing the "good law abiding people" while not trying to keep guns out of the hands of the "good guys". This video (to me) is a clear example of how pundits can spin situations and tell a compelling (if untrue) tale of doom that incites otherwise rational people to attribute motives that don't exist to otherwise innocent and well intentioned attempts at improving the overall state of the human condition.

My point is: Before condemning someone who doesn't share your viewpoint, step back and apply Hanlon's Razor... That is, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness". It is much easier to feel that another party is wrong and attribute actions to motives that don't exist (but fit your worldview or predispositions) than it is to step back and really look at their actions and attribute "malicious intent" instead to "lack of skill".

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