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Psychology: Victimization - Puppet on a String

The notion of victimization was introduced in this web log via an entry entitled Authentic Victims Are Not Big Business. At the core of victimization is the power to influence with the intent to deceive. People are manufactured into victims through veiled webs of deception and manipulation. Of course, when it serves to manufacture trust and compassion influence can be beneficial. Developing a better understanding of how we are being influenced, deceived, manipulated and victimized (and how we may knowingly or unknowingly do this to other people ourselves) is one important dimension of what it means to learn...

In its simplest sense, a victim is someone who has been harmed or made to suffer in some way by set of circumstances crafted by someone else. The roles of the victim and the victimizer are linked through the process of victimization. If we assume that the victimizer is conscious of what they are doing (i.e. - they knowingly set out to victimize people) then they are actively setting out to deceive people for their own benefit (frequently power and money). This, of course, speaks to that darker side of the human condition and invokes a strong sense of repulsion. Victimizers can also believe that they are conducting a greater good. That is, they are consciously focused on helping people but the end effect of that is to breed helplessness and dependence in people.

Victimization is a type of learning process, a process that at least integrates the biology of the brain (e.g. - depression), the psychology of the mind (e.g. learned helplessness), the cultural environment (e.g. - accepted practices), and the technologies of mass communications (e.g. - the news media). No one deserves or desires to be a victim. As history has shown us, there are people that desire to create victims, but this reality should not be over-generalized. Victimization is not a norm in humanity despite our pathological fascination with it. Perhaps it might be thought of as a disease experienced by a minority of people that are waiting to be cured.

The underlying process for manufacturing a victim as described by Tana Dineen might be interpreted like this:

1) Source: A solution is created and marketed in the public for a problem that has been invented, exaggerated or over-generalized.

2) Influence: People are encouraged to believe that they are the same as the problem in some significant way.

3) Momentum: If enough people are lead to believe that they have this problem (or are in need of a solution), then a critical mass is attained.

4) Power: Linkages are built across financial, political, commercial, media and academic resources that serve to institutionalize the belief system.

5) Survival: The centers of influence, or those that hold power, develop management techniques to ensure the continuation of the desired beliefs and behaviors in society.

We are influenced throughout our lives in myriad ways. As a learning process, the range of influences that affect how people become victims and eventually recover from it involves a complex web of relationships. It's a trail worth pursuing throughout the life cycle of this web log and extends far beyond the boundaries of any single web log entry, article, or book for that matter. This is a humble start, but I thought that brainstorming a list victimization tactics might be interesting. Some of these tactics I have fallen prey to myself, while others I have seen others experience. Interestingly enough, I wrote a version of this list in my notebook a few months ago.

A Brainstorming List Of Victimization Tactics

1) Paternalism
Assume a paternalistic position and offer the victim a path back into the fold. If the victim is critical of the center of influence, then "help" them to understand where their errors in judgment are and provide a means to return to more acceptable thinking.

2) Oppression
Institutionalize the idea that criticism of the imposed optimism is unacceptable. Develop and implement a system of intellectual profiling that immediately positions critics as cynics, pessimists or renegades. Alternatively, isolate and excuse them as being creative or artistic.

3) Dismissal
Provide mechanisms to allow open communication while simultaneously ensuring that no concrete or practical outcomes result. Allow criticisms to be vented as an end unto themselves.

4) Disembodied Expertise
Build a vast systems of experts and expertise that inspires trust but ultimately contains a language that is little understood by anyone outside the area of expertise. Knight the experts with licenses and credentials and promote these as a right to authority. Exclude victims from full disclosure.

5) Endangerment
Control the financial stability of the victim. Reward those that conform; punish those that oppose.

6) Assimilation
Reward the victim through financial reward and the building of their reputation in order to breed dependence. The victim is assimilated into the norm and builds contributes to the power center by appearing to switch sides.

7) Information Anxiety
Promote speed and acceleration, encourage short attention spans, over-load people with information, and ensure that any meaningful analysis of the under lying power is sufficiently veiled and weighty to avoid detailed analysis.

8) Normalize Creativity
Institute innovation as a kind of institution that serves only to expand upon the accepted practices and products. Reduce creative efforts down to the level of innovation so that the underlying assumptions upon which something is built are not revealed.

9) Reversal
Make the irrational seem rationale. Maintain well-crafted lines of thought in spite of any evidence mounting up against it.

10) Manipulate Emotions
Build a bridge between behavior and the installation of fear and guilt in a victim. Encourage an emotional response that causes uncomfortable feelings in people when they challenge the prevailing authority.

11) Shape Language
Words are malleable. Ensure that the accepted definitions are the ones used by victims. Sometimes referred to as "snake oil" these manipulations of language ensure that the victimizers are the predators and the victims are the prey.

12) Promote Activity As An Obsession
Promote "getting the job done" quickly and efficiently as an end unto itself. Reflective thinking is repressed and used only to promote more activity. Victims simply become too busy to know they are victims.

This is just a list - a list that originates from reading a book about victimization. The book served to jog my memory of some personal experiences with victimization. Perhaps a balancing piece originating from Jean Vanier: Communities Of Belonging is in order.

If we are to understand how we learn the things we value most in life, then understanding the ways in which we are influenced (positively, negatively, and all shades of gray between them) and being able to respond to those influences appropriately is important.

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It is exciting and unnerving to read a post like this one and think that, down deep, the basis of much of the good and evil we commit is speech, and that our speech becomes woven into our social practices, our habits of mind, even the shaping of our bodies. I think of Foucault:

"Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or modifying the appropriation of discourse, with the knowledge and power it carries with it." From "The Discourse on Language," page 22, quoted by David Bartholomae in "Inventing the University."

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