Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Victim vs Vulnerable : a mediation on Jamie Barlett's piece about feelings.

Jamie Bartlett wrote an interesting article on the modern trend for "victimhood". A number of people are tweeting about it and commenting on it thoughtfully.

However to me, it missed the point a bit.

Within the "Karpman Drama Triangle" it is considered better to refer to a person who is feeling dominated, put upon, oppressed or otherwise subjected to another's agenda or demands, as "vulnerable" rather than a "victim". This is regarded as the Empowerment Dynamic.

If we go with vulnerable rather than victim, we do not remove a person's agency, which as Jamie alludes to, is primarily the right-wing complaint about "Victim" politics. However we *can* identify the dynamics around the vulnerable person, the better to understand everyone's actions within the interaction.

So why don't we all use "vulnerable" more than "victim"? Perhaps both sides of this argument are benefiting from engaging with the word "victim" - the people who want to view themselves as victims as Bartlett describes, and people who seek to critique this attitude, who gain intellectual benefit from engaging with the wrong term. I believe the term is "straw man" ? 

My own attitude towards negative events in one's life. I am always reminded of M Scott Peck at the point - in a nutshell what I took from "The Road Less Travelled" is that although some of us start life with no headstart compared to others, with conscious work on ourselves, we can catch up. Ergo, our identity as being part of an oppressed group, need not wholly define us. 

However there are structural problems that we need to address, and to get too caught up in this straw man argument, also contributes to this problem. I think we should make more of an effort to describe who we see as "victims" as "vulnerable" for this reason. 

I agree with Barlett that identity politics can lead society as a whole and poltical debate, up an intellectual dead end, especially if groups get entrenched into those identities, retreat unto them and just lob intellectual rocks at each other. 

Bartlett takes a little bit of a wrong turn himself, however, when he looks at modern life and diagnoses that it's all about feelings. I disagree. I think a lot of our lives now are about the appearance of feelings and yet there is a search for something more authentic. I do think feelings are important - they function as our early warning system to tell us there's something wrong - either with our psyche or our environment.

Processing those feelings, and acting proportionally and appropriately is the difficult part, especially when you introduce those pesky other people into the mix. 

Bartlett uses several extreme examples like  Anders Breivik to diagnose problems with society as a whole, but I disagree, I think that as a whole we are progressing towards a more authentic and emotionally articulate society in Britain, perhaps as a function of becoming more cosmopolitan. However he correctly identifies some problems with the journey.

So perhaps I agree more than I think with Bartlett, in that I think just emoting all over the place is unlikely to do you or others much good, but that the opposite, suppressing all emotion is also not going to help. 

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