Posts tagged ‘Arthur Brooks’

Victim Culture

BACK in 1993, the misanthropic art critic Robert Hughes published a grumpy, entertaining book called “Culture of Complaint,” in which he predicted that America was doomed to become increasingly an “infantilized culture” of victimhood. It was a rant against what he saw as a grievance industry appearing all across the political spectrum.

I enjoyed the book, but as a lifelong optimist about America, was unpersuaded by Mr. Hughes’s argument. I dismissed it as just another apocalyptic prediction about our culture.

Unfortunately, the intervening two decades have made Mr. Hughes look prophetic and me look naïve.
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So who cares if we are becoming a culture of victimhood? We all should. To begin with, victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts. The culture feeds a mentality that crowds out a necessary give and take — the very concept of good-faith disagreement — turning every policy difference into a pitched battle between good (us) and evil (them).

The Real Victims of Victimhood, by Arthur C. Brooks

A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character, by Charles J. Sykes

So let me get this straight. You were unanimous in saying that you want your school to be a place where people feel free to speak up, even if you strongly dislike their views. But you don’t have such a school. In fact, you have exactly the sort of “tolerance” that Herbert Marcuse advocated [which I had discussed in my lecture, and which you can read about here]. You have a school in which only people in the preferred groups get to speak, and everyone else is afraid. What are you going to do about this? Let’s talk.
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Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture, which weakens students by turning them into “moral dependents” who cannot deal with problems on their own. They must get adult authorities to validate their victim status.
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The only hope for Centerville High — and for Yale — is to disrupt their repressively uniform moral matrices to make room for dissenting views. High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify. Schools that value freedom of thought should therefore actively seek out non-leftist faculty, and they should explicitly include viewpoint diversity and political diversity in all statements about diversity and discrimination. Parents and students who value freedom of thought should take viewpoint diversity into account when applying to colleges. Alumni should take it into account before writing any more checks.

The Yale problem refers to an unfortunate feedback loop: Once you allow victimhood culture to spread on your campus, you can expect ever more anger from students representing victim groups, coupled with demands for a deeper institutional commitment to victimhood culture, which leads inexorably to more anger, more demands, and more commitment. But the Yale problem didn’t start at Yale. It started in high school.

Campus Turmoil Begins in High School, by Jonathan Haidt

At the bottom of so many people’s unhappiness is a big reservoir of self-pity. Much of the depression, anxiety, and anger that so many suffer stems from deeply ingrained habits of self-pity and its concomitant narcissism.

There are exceptions of course. Not everyone who is depressed is full of self-pity. But, everyone who is full of self-pity is depressed. Depression grows on self-pity like apples grow on the apple tree. The only way to rid yourself of the poisoned fruit is to tear up the roots that produce it.

How do we do that?

Let me suggest three things.

First, have reasonable expectations.
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Second, understand that to decenter self-pitying thoughts, you must replace them with something else. That something else is gratitude.
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Third, focus on your duties, your goals, your plans and not on what troubles you.

Self-Pity and How to Overcome It


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Bipartisanship at Work and Obamanomics

Crony capitalism is a bipartisan corruption, and another reason why we need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT).

In praising Congress’s huge new tax increase, President Obama said Tuesday that “millionaires and billionaires” will finally “pay their fair share.” That is, unless you are a Nascar track owner, a wind-energy company or the owners of StarKist Tuna, among many others who managed to get their taxes reduced in Congress’s New Year celebration.

There’s plenty to lament about the capital and income tax hikes, but the bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout, so allow us to shine a light on the merriment.
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The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”

One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.

The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.

Crony Capitalist Blowout: A tax increase for everyone but the favored wealthy few.


The elephant in the room is the unconstitutional massive growth of the federal government. The power of the special interests grows as the federal government expands. The only way to eliminate their power is to drastically reduce the size of the federal state. Lobbyists never have a bad year. Three of the five richest counties in America border Washington, DC. There is a reason for this: It’s because our political classes have systematically arrogated themselves power and control beyond the worst nightmares of our founders.

Jack Abramoff on America’s bipartisan culture of corruption


“The rich makers are redistributed to the rich takers. That’s basically what Obamanomics is all about.”
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The problem today is not Congress and the administration taking money from you and giving it to shiftless lazy people who don’t work. The problem is Washington taking money from people who are creating value and redistributing it to companies that have the best lobbyist and the coziest connections to government.

Rich makers, corporate takers and Obamanomics


Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. We also need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT).

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