This week, I was determined to put the Donald Trump phenomena aside for a while, and I will. But I am compelled to comment on a few attendant issues that became evident to me in recent times.
Firstly, what we have been seeing as a reaction to Trump, Brexit and other world events makes me question how secure our democratic principles are. I have previously argued that Trump’s election was a result of the “deplorables” standing up to be counted and in fact an example of democracy working.
But my concern is, that in a democratic society, citizens have to respect the democratic process. Trump, to begin with, wouldn’t guarantee his acceptance of the outcome unless he won! He was pilloried by the left for this abuse of democratic process (as indeed he should have been) but then when he won the election, huge swathes of the left have begun to protest the election result.
In a recent article, Janet Albrechtson wrote:
On the streets of New York, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere …thousands of anti-Trump protestors showed their disdain for a democratic election result. Those city streets were full of those from a pampered generation who have rarely heard the word ‘no’.
This seems to me to spit in the face of democracy. No doubt Trump’s supporters would have been just as obnoxious if he had lost.
We saw the same response in Britain with the Brexit vote. No sooner had the referendum results been posted in favour of leaving the European Union when those who wanted to remain were demanding a new vote!
This is just another manifestation of the “victim mentality” which is so prevalent in our society. It seems that many of us are conditioned to expect to always get our own way and when we don’t, we somehow feel as though we have been “put upon”.
We have seemed to have created a generation that is unable to face reality, as Janet Albrechtson implied above. When the world goes against them they take on a metaphorical foetal position and claim they have been wronged and seek some sort of maternal solace, affirming their injustice and pulling the blanket of victimhood up over their eyes so as not to have to see the world as it is.
How else can you explain the fact that when people try to tell us unpleasant facts they are shouted down?
Cartoonist, Bill Leak recently tried to point to the fact that in remote indigenous communities children are neglected by their parents, particularly their fathers. There is considerable evidence to support that assertion but Leak was vilified for drawing attention to this undeniable but unpleasant fact.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been similarly vilified by pointing out the fact that although Lebanese migrants have made a great contribution to Australia, that 22 of the 33 people who have been charged with terrorism offences in this country come from Lebanese Muslim backgrounds. Whilst Dutton’s facts are indisputable he incurred the wrath of the politically correct for daring to publicly air them.
There are few that dispute the facts of Leak’s and Dutton’s assertion but many who resile in horror bleating, “You can’t say that!”
Why should anybody be criticised for telling us the truth? The politically correct stance was well demonstrated by Greens Senator, Nick McKim who in responding to Dutton’s statement asserted:
“We are not disputing the numbers that he quoted. Undoubtedly the advice he has got is accurate. But just because something is fact doesn’t mean that it is reasonable or productive to talk about it.”
My point is that we can never improve our society until we are prepared to see the world as it is, rather than how we would like it to be. My position is the exact opposite of McKim’s in that we all have the right to put our point of view and such a point of view should be respected if it is indeed based on fact. The more facts we are exposed to the more capably we can deal with the world.
Having raised the most indulged generation ever, we have compounded the problem by not only sheltering them from adversity but also from ideas that conflict with their own. Inexplicably, our universities, that should be expanding their minds by ensuring they are exposed to a wide range of ideas, provide them with “safe spaces” where they can withdraw into their comfortable cocoons and embellish their readings with “trigger warnings” to ensure that their pampered students don’t inadvertently read something that might challenge their conventional thinking. Having lived such a sheltered existence it is not surprising that when such people accidently collide with real life they convince themselves they have been hurt.
Apart from shutting their eyes to reality, the most prevalent escapism strategies for our manufactured victims seem to be either litigation or counselling.
Whilst I am not suggesting that we should seek out painful experiences, they are a source of learning. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”
A good example of the former was Cindy Prior, the QUT employee who, in a widely reported case, raced off to the AHRC to prosecute QUT and students under the provisions of 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. (Because the case has been so widely reported I won’t bore you by going over the details again.) In an article in The Australian on August 27, journalist Hedley Thomas, quoted a psychologist who had attended Ms Prior as reporting that she was “unlikely to attribute personal responsibility to events that occur in her life”. This is the essence of the pervading victimhood neurosis which results in these overly sheltered people believing that any unpleasant experience that they encounter in life must be someone else’s fault. In psychological terms such people are said to have an “external locus of control”.
(Research shows that those with a sense of an internal locus of control, that is a conviction of some personal agency, are not only more psychologically robust but are likely to be more successful in most areas of their lives. But it seems both our parenting and our education system is conspiring against this. I am sure the world would be a far better place if instead of encouraging people to resort to victimhood we were teaching them how to be more psychologically robust.)
As I have explained in previous essays many such people (i.e. those disposed to victimhood) in the workplace complain of harassment when merely asked to do what’s required of them in their jobs. They often resist change using the same rationale. People complain of harassment just because they are asked to move to a new workstation or change their work practices because of the introduction of new technology. (I am not pretending that genuine harassment doesn’t occur in the workplace – of course it does. But for many, harassment is a convenient cover for inappropriate victimhood.)
Some years ago I tried to research the literature to determine the efficacy of counselling. I could find no well-researched support for the benefits of counselling. In fact some research even suggested that counselling might prolong the hurt people experienced. Nevertheless, it now seems standard practice that if someone has suffered real or imagined hurt, they must be provided with counselling.
The most ludicrous example I have ever come across is the case of giant accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) who have offered counselling to their employees to help them deal with the fact that Donald Trump won the American Presidential election! Are we now going to seek counselling every time our football team loses or when our partner forgets our birthday?
As I have written many times before, our sense of well-being is not so much determined by what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us. Life inevitably deals us all some bad cards. But in the end how we manage this is largely in our own hands.
The good Dr Phil taught me the following:
MYTH – How we feel and how we react is caused by
what has happened to us.
REALITY – Negative feelings and reactions are learned responses that have become part of our repertoire of responses through reinforcement. Once having been learned, they continue to be subconsciously reinforced each time they are selected from this repertoire as strategies for changing one’s world – even though the outcomes may prove to be unsatisfactory.
So let’s try growing up a little, try to toughen up a bit and improve our psychological resilience. Let’s eschew trigger warnings and safe spaces and not try to avert our eyes when people present us with facts we’re uncomfortable with. Surely we have not become so infantilised that we can’t handle the truth, even if it is sometimes confronting? And let us try to remove victimhood from the learnt area of responses we indulge in when the world challenges us.