Suffering as Costume

If you talk to people in poor countries, you’ll hear how they are fortunate, lucky, how they are completely in control. The narrative of “I’m a miserable victim who just can’t catch a break” is used to trick dumb tourists out of money but it’s not for internal consumption.

It’s only the people who have known no true hardship who like to pose as victims. I hear somebody say not in jest “my trauma,” and I know that this is a person who has been very fortunate in life, but instead of celebrating that, cosplays a victim.

I mentioned this before, but I’ll never forget how absolutely stunned I was when an American told me, “how dare you ACCUSE somebody of having an easy life!” My immediate reaction was, “wow, I didn’t know she grew up rich.”

I know somebody who didn’t get to use an indoor toilet until he was 25 and grew up in a hut with a dirt floor. You should hear him narrate his life. He’s been truly blessed with the easiest, most triumphant, enjoyable, fortunate existence since the day he was born. Not a single trauma or microaggression marred his existence in a family of 11 living in one of the poorest countries on the planet.

For pampered people like that American lady, suffering is the costume they like to wear because it’s quaint and prestigious.

6 thoughts on “Suffering as Costume”

  1. There is something about Americans that makes suffering a badge of honor. I read a lot of essays that prospective graduate students submit with their applications and one of the major themes is how they overcame some sort of unfortunate circumstances in life. The one that takes the cake is a description of a colonoscopy (not quite what I was looking for). I am not entirely sure what I am supposed to do with it, but it is as if someone is teaching these students since they are little children that being a victim is to their advantage.

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  2. For these people, being a victim – even though they are only playing at it – is a trophy to be worn with pride, something to show off.
    I remember that I was thirty when I first told myself “I shall not be a victim”, but before then I always felt that being a victim was something to be ashamed of, not something to boast about.
    Please read René Girard and everything will become clear.

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  3. I don’t think these people (most of them, anyway) really believe they’re victims, deep down. It’s just that the American story is that of overcoming hardship and of toughness. By extension, having an easy life with no real adversity to overcome is indeed considered shameful, as by extension it means the person hasn’t become tough. So when they say how dare you tell someone they had an easy life, they’re really admonishing you for calling someone weak, pampered, and soft. (It’s true, but not what people want to hear.)

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  4. Europeans are the ones who are really bad about this. They think everything is impossible, beyond their power, not worth it, etc., and they are completely lacking in Yankee know-how and can-do attitude.

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  5. Also: when you are or were poor you have to say you enjoyed it to people who are rich. If not, they turn up their nose and look down on you. So of course your acquaintance would say it was great, and it’s possible he did have a nice family and everything. It wouldn’t be the dirt floor that was the problem, it would be things like hunger, violence, etc. These are things people run from if they can.

    In US we tend to think it’s presumptuous to tell anyone else what their subjective experience is or should be.

    On the college essays, this is a tic that was created by the idea of meritocracy. Before, you got in on the strength of realistically achieved academic qualifications, not a superstar vita, and tuition was free, and you got financial aid for living expenses (grants not loans) if you were below a certain income line, and there were affirmative action and minority slots for people not trained to take standardized tests, etc. Now, everyone has to be super meritorious and if not they have to have overcome a super obstacle. It’s not an actual cultural value, it’s a kind of essay that, for bureaucratic reasons, one has to write currently.

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  6. These are the martyrs of the woke religion. The more they suffer, the closer they are to sainthood.

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