Monday, April 10, 2017

Victimhood and Cancer

In a recent discussion about privilege and victimhood, a correspondent saw an analogy with cancer - how we treat it and what we think about those who have it.

Not all cancers are equally deadly.  It's never a good thing to have cancer, but we react so strongly to the word itself that we sometimes over-react in treatment - which can be dangerous in itself.  The last of the Rules of the House of God is to do as much nothing as possible, after all.  There are serious and deadly cancers just as there are serious and deadly injustices and oppressions, and these should be treated.  As my friend wrote
If you think of cancer as victimhood I think you see how common this entire debate is. Acknowledging victimhood and treating the root cause is absolutely the correct thing to do sometimes. However it is possible to go overboard and cause more problems than you solve or push people into being perpetually defined by their lowest moment. I think the problem with the current victim culture is the idea that victimhood should always be acknowledged and immediately addressed at the expense of everything else...Even people who survive very deadly cancers sometimes get really weary of being constantly defined in relationship to their bout with cancer. While it obviously help some people find meaning, for others it's just something they want to move on from. (Italics mine)
 ...perpetually defined by their lowest moment. The phrase stuck with me. People who have survived oppression, who have been victims but gone on to succeed in spite of it - don't they frequently reference this refusal to be limited or defined by the bad thing?  Or am I only remembering those because that is the narrative I like?

Obituaries often reference a person's "battle" with cancer or some other disease at the end and how heroic they were.  It's understandable, because it is fresh in people's minds, and when we insist on viewing our lives as a coherent narrative, the final act must be of enormous importance. However I die, I'm pretty sure I don't want that to be the center of the story, even if I am by some sudden improvement of character heroic and inspiring at the end.


The Mad Soprano said...

And by defining someone entirely by their victim status, it limits them.

Sam L. said...

He was 6' 6" tall, and that's all there is. Nothing more or as important as that one data point.

Texan99 said...

It would be nice to struggle with a final challenge in a way that leaves others a good memory of someone's dealing with adversity. Not that I pursued every forlorn-hope brutal treatment imaginable, but that I faced my trials with some cheerfulness and fortitude. All of us who don't die suddenly will confront this challenge some day.