Musings on the Cult of Victimhood

Published on June 9, 2013

by Stephanie Janiczek
Clash Daily Contributor

tom-cruise-oprah-winfrey-thumbA lot of people are talking about Obama’s penchant for scandals as of late and since that all is being well dissected I thought I’d talk about America’s new obsession with the Cult of Victimhood. Oprah Winfrey made a commencement speech at Harvard this year and the subject was gun control. Relevant? No. But it fit what she is about.

And what is Oprah Winfrey about? For decades this woman has made a living making every issue that comes up in a person’s life a problem. She has created a culture around her of victimhood. Now it is obvious that Oprah feels herself to be a victim of something. Not sure what considering she is one of the wealthiest women in the world and has known success few of us can dare to even imagine in our wildest dreams. But she feels herself a victim and has parlayed that into a multi-billion dollar business for herself. If this didn’t seem so parasitic it would be worthy of parades and celebrations of a life well lived; but if one thinks about it, it is kind of disturbing.

Before Oprah came along and put a low brow conversation together about victimhood it was hard for the insecure, lonely and disturbed to describe how they felt about the world they lived in and how down trodden and put upon they were. Then Oprah gained fame and put words to their feelings. Her cult of victims were and are the obese, addicts, sexually molested, emotionally disturbed, anorexic, depressed and that is only a partial list of the parade of sad sacks she seemed to give voice to.

Now I am not without compassion, but after a while it seemed that these people who would go on her show or rush to be in the audience to bask in the glory of the queen of daytime talk seemed to walk away validated in their victimhood. They never seemed to try to seek a way out of it. The common denominator in these people’s problems was themselves, and despite all the yapping and the expert advice, they never realized that. That common denominator in the whole little scripted play going on each afternoon was the victim and the audience that hung on every word, validating their feelings. Oprah in essence made it OK to be a victim and she made money off it. Lots of money.

When I was 19 I nearly died of pneumonia. By rights I should be bitter about losing my classically trained soprano voice and of never reaching the full potential I had in music. But I didn’t die and had I embraced bitterness I never would have made anything of myself. It never occurred to me in 1988 when I weighed 72 pounds and was in the ICU at Saint Mary’s in Rochester, Minnesota with a tracheotomy and chest tubes to feel myself a victim and to use that to bash people over the head with. I didn’t even know what the whole notion of victimhood was.

When a doctor told me if I didn’t work on some things I had to work on to get off the ventilator that I’d never go deer hunting again, I got mad. And that next fall I shot an 8 point buck. That doctor challenged me and I ran with it. When it was really bad in the first 6 weeks at Mayo and I was in a coma my favorite doctor, a guy named Fred, told my parents all they needed was a nickel of fight from me and even though I had no idea how sick I was, I gave them more than they asked for. Why be a victim?

So the question is: while Oprah counts her billions and cons more sad women into her little flock of misery, why immerse oneself in misery and blame other people for the bad things that happen in one’s life? Isn’t the point of making a mistake to learn from that mistake, take the lesson and try not to do it again? Isn’t the point when one is wronged by someone else or hurt in some way by another human being to learn and go on and not dwell on the bitterness?

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