Minority Report

I am a minority, but it does not define who I am.

Though one could argue that folks with disabilities are more vulnerable as a whole than other minority groups, I do not want to be considered a “protected class.”

So I will never complain that people who can walk are more “privileged” (#WalkPrivilege?).

When people define themselves by some classification they perceive to be limiting, they tend to adopt the victim mentality (though almost no one believes they have it).

When people classify others as needing protection just by virtue of being a minority, those who are seen as needing protection have a tendency to start believing it and can then define themselves that way and adopt the victim mentality.

Though it would likely be driven by compassion and good intentions, I do not want anyone to think of me as “underprivileged” or a “victim.”

 

Hypersensitivity

These days, we, as a society, seem to be getting more and more hypersensitive.

Students are demanding “safe spaces” where the First Amendment does not apply because they think Freedom of Speech should be a one-way street and don’t want to hear ideas that challenge their carefully crafted worldviews. Students are also getting “healing places” because merely hearing certain ideas  they don’t like “brutalizes” them. Stereotypes — though based in reality and often humorous parodies — are now considered “hateful” and “damaging” when it used to be that only “sticks and stones” could hurt people, not words. People are worried that any public mention of race is considered “racist,” even further redefining the term from its original meaning. We can hardly discuss anything without violating the so-called “Politically Correct” rules (that are always changing). People have stopped recognizing mothers on Mother’s Day and fathers on Father’s Day, for the ridiculous fear of offending those who selfishly don’t want parents to be celebrated because they didn’t have children of their own. It’s even reached the point where the celebrants in houses of worship, now feel compelled to say, “Please stand … as you are able.”

Do they think that those of us who cannot stand won’t remember and hurt ourselves as we try to stand up? [grin] Do they think they need to be “sensitive” to us because we don’t want our disabilities to be overlooked? Really? It doesn’t help anyone to focus on what people can’t do.

Why don’t they say in church, “Sing as you are able” for those who can’t sing? (By the way, you can count me in that group too.) Some can’t sing, some can’t stand, it’s no big deal.

Why is there such a rush to be so sensitive? Sure, it’s good to be aware of others’ feelings, but when people expect me to be emotionally hurt or wounded at the mere reminder of my being a member of a minority class (that ostensibly needs to be protected), it does me no favors. Tiptoeing around issues serves to reinforce feelings of victimhood  from the fact that life is not fair, and treating real issues as taboo  tacitly supports the notion that someone or something else is to blame. Fortunately, I don’t buy into those lines of thinking, but a lot of people do. They are “wounded” at the drop of a hat and they’re looking for reasons to be “offended.”

I don’t ever try to offend anyone. But I also have enough respect for people to treat them as adults that are not crushed by addressing reality without coddling them. For that reason, I’ve chosen not to participate in so-called “political correctness.”

The next time you think something might be “offensive” to someone, stop and think if you might be disrespecting that person by expecting them to be thin-skinned or a “victim.” Then just treat them like an adult who is not wounded by reality.

Where have you seen avoiding certain subjects reinforcing the victim mentality? Please share in the Comments.

Be Happy

[Be Happy seemed to be a good topic for the post following the Don’t Worry post – especially on a Friday.]

Being happy seems to be a universal goal, but an elusive one for many.

There are no magic answers, no one-size-fits-all solutions.

However, many of the things that we are conditioned to believe will bring us happiness do not. Consider the many train-wrecks in Hollywood, or other folks with money, fame, looks, and talent. Large numbers of the so-called “elite” cheat on their spouses, become addicted to drugs, blow through their fortunes, refuse to age gracefully, and are by all indications miserable.

In learning how to deal with and overcome the challenges of paralysis, I’ve been blessed with realizations I might not otherwise come to. Not A Victim is my attempt to share some insights as a way of paying forward the unearned, undeserved blessings I’ve received.

How counterintuitive that a guy paralyzed from the chest down could be one of the happiest people in the room, while others with “everything” (great wealth, fame, movie-star-good-looks, and talent) are not!

Perhaps just as counterintuitive (or maybe more so) is the realization that true happiness and fulfillment come not from wealth, fame, looks, power, “privilege,” or external sources that make us feel good, but from doing for others.

Oh, and it helps to be in love and be good to her. [grin]

Don’t Worry

I don’t worry.

Maybe I should, but I don’t.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated sometimes. Or angry or sad. But things do not gnaw at me. My mind is not occupied with concerns about future events that may or may not happen. I never fret over things beyond my control.

Perhaps that’s because I’ve had lots of experiences and am quite confident in my ability to eventually “land on my feet,” even when I make mistakes.

But it’s most likely because I’ve been given a gift – the gift of another chance.

When I broke my neck, I was drowning in a pool with no one else around. The sense of panic was so intense that it’s indescribable. All of life’s “problems” since I was rescued that day are tiny in comparison.

I feel truly blessed to have survived, to have another chance. No, my life is not perfect and it isn’t easy. But so what?

Life is awesome!

 

Expectations of Fairness

We all have expectations.

They are likely expectations of fairness (or at least one’s version of what is fair).

Disappointment results from unmet expectations. If we didn’t have some expectation that life should be fair, or that things should be a certain way, we would never be disappointed.

But we all know life is not fair. So why do we still have expectations of fairness?

Feelings of unfairness come from natural human envy or greed, and the frustration with our lack of control to obtain what we feel is “fair.”

If we are obsessed with, or fixated on, fairness and we compare our lives with those who appear to have better lives or those who have more means, the inevitable result is disappointment.

The cause of all emotional pain is disappointment (expectations with lack of control).

When we accept that we can only control a small portion of what happens in our lives, our expectations become more realistic. When our expectations are more realistic, we reduce both our disappointment and our pain.

Are Blacks or Police Victims?

Anyone who cares for his or her fellow humans has to be concerned about the recent rioting and killings that stem from clashes between blacks and police.

Because of our perspectives, we each tend to come down more on one side – blacks or police. We likely see some points on both sides, and can acknowledge the exceptions to our general narrative, but the fact that the lines have been drawn and there are two “sides” means that people are going to lean one way or the other – either a lot or a little.

Though the incidence of criminals attacking police or of police brutalizing blacks because of their race are miniscule on average, we humans are easily convinced of things we want to believe, so a few edited videos or out-of-context statistics serve to reinforce our chosen perspectives.

Whether it’s to garner ratings and profits or to legitimize the worldviews they’ve chosen, people in the media tend to highlight one side (and both sides do it). People who care (on both sides) tend to choose media sources and friends that validate the narratives we tell ourselves. Then we propagate those narratives (through raising our children, mentoring co-workers, social media, etc.).

No matter which side one tends to fall on, no rational observer can reasonably conclude that all blacks are dangerous criminals or that all police are brutal racists.

While people tend to congregate with their own “tribes,” we generally want to come together. This short video of a joint barbecue between police and Black Lives Matter would-be protesters is a nice example.

But when people are convinced that they are victims of another group or tribe, they naturally divide. When the perspective is “us against them,” of course there will be lashing out and even violence.

Telling people that they are victims of other groups (of police, of minorities, of majorities, of stereotypes, etc.) sells well because it provides them with excuses. The people selling those victim narratives can elevate their influence by increasing their popularity, and they can feel good about themselves because of their compassion towards the “victimized.”

But convincing people that they are victims does them no favors. Providing means for blaming others leads to excuses, lack of responsibility, and stunted personal development. And, more importantly, enabling the victim mentality promotes despair, hopelessness, and desperation. And we all know that desperate people do desperate things.

Prisons are full of people who’ve taken desperate actions. Cemeteries are dotted with people who were desperate enough to take their own lives. Kids and spouses are abused and scarred by desperate people who don’t know how to deal with life’s pressures and felt like victims.

When we hear people selling the “blacks are victims of police” narrative, or we hear people selling the “police are victims of blacks” narrative, we should remember that all situations have unique facts and circumstances (even though we like to think in generalities).

And before we try to improve our status or how we feel about ourselves by propagating a victim narrative (usually a stereotype on steroids), it would help if we think about the damage to which it may contribute.

Valid Opinion?

People obviously have different opinions. Different experiences and different choices make for different perspectives.

It’s interesting that some people get angry when others disagree with their opinion (have you ever noticed that people get maddest when they know they are wrong?).

Would you ever get angry if someone didn’t like a movie you liked? Of course not … you understand that opinions are subjective and you are not a “victim.”

But believe it or not, at least 154 people are so angry because others don’t like a particular movie that they want to shut down the movie rating aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. They are mad enough at the fact that the movie they like didn’t get good ratings that they’ve signed a petition to close an entire business. Wow!

They obviously don’t think the ratings are “fair” (fairness obsession?), and they want to take out their anger at the lack of their favorite-movie affirmation on others (blaming?).

These 154 people obviously have the victim mentality (and unrealistic expectations about online petitions). But how can we help them?

To me, it is apparent that the wholly unfounded narrative “every opinion is valid” has taken root (if you look for it, you’ll begin to see it everywhere).

It may sound nice, but perpetuating the absolutely ridiculous every-opinion-is-valid narrative does no one any favors.

It’s obviously not productive to always tell people they’re wrong (it also won’t get you invited to a lot of parties).

But it also isn’t helpful to foster unhealthy perspectives by telling people falsities they want to hear just to make them feel better.

We All Have Bad Days

We all have bad days.

This morning was rough for me. Dealing with some ongoing physical issues related to my paralysis that will take a while to resolve, wheelchair equipment failure, and a concern for someone I love who’s struggling with some issues, have made me not so cheerful and feel not so “blessed.”

This is neither a complaint nor an attempt to elicit sympathy (note the lack of detail above and my general philosophy of “don’t you dare feel sorry for me” that has served me well). It’s only to provide some background and context.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when things don’t go as hoped. When I have days like this, I get intentional about getting into my head.

When we are overwhelmed or are hit with a number of things that don’t go right in a short period of time, the victim mentality can begin to creep into our consciousness and subconscious.

So I consider the four elements of “victimism” and try to come up with ways to avoid all four components.

Comparing – a rough day or two (as compared to my normal life of happiness and fulfillment) seems like such a stark contrast, and that’s why it’s hard to deal with, but if I remember the other 363 great days of the year, it’s a lot easier to deal with. And comparing to the lives of others who would gladly trade places with me an instant provides a much better perspective than comparing to the lives of people who don’t have as visible adversity as paralysis.

Fairness Obsession – no, it’s not “fair” that I have to deal with physical issues more often and to greater extent, but so what? The world is not fair and I certainly don’t deserve the many, many great things in my life any more than people who aren’t as blessed.

Blaming – no one to blame but myself for the predicaments I find myself in after breaking my neck. Even when others’ mistakes compound my difficulties, I wouldn’t have to rely on them if I hadn’t broken my neck, or if I planned better.

Comfort in Woundedness – I make it a point never to complain about my situation, or to look for consoling by broadcasting my troubles or maladies (in person, on social media, or wherever). I don’t ever want to use my challenges for sympathy or control. It took a lot to even “share” that I had a rough morning today and the surrounding sparse details, but I figured anyone who knows me will never pity me (they better not) and I figured in order to make the point, I had better share something.

Try it sometime when you feel like the world is closing in around you, life is not fair, or things are just not working out. None of us has a perfect life, but we can choose what we focus on (the beauty of free will). When things get rough, try to focus on all the rest … all the great stuff.

Haters Gonna’ Hate

More and more these days, groups (and individuals) are portraying themselves as victims of “hate.”

Hate is an ugly word with ugly connotations.

Because of the vivid, compelling images and emotions attached to hate crimes, hateful genocide by tyrannical despots, and other horrific acts, people and groups who position themselves as victims of “hate” can elicit powerful emotional responses.

People seem to be labeling others as “haters” and positioning themselves as victims of hate to paint people or groups as the bad guys. This, of course, is to reinforce their own identity as the good guys.

And when they identify themselves or others as “victims,” they can use that victim status as a cudgel against ideological foes and others for control, political advantage, or other gain (sometimes just relational leverage). A few recent examples include banning speakers from universities, smearing political opponents, destroying careers, attacking businesses, and creating “safe spaces” where people are insulated from ideas.

Because the recent trend to vilify anyone perceived as a “hater” has yielded social and political power, people have become more incentivized to claim the mantle of “victim.”

An odd and curious phenomenon has resulted. Not only are people quick to label anyone who disagrees with them as “haters,” but baseless assumptions are made as to hateful motives of others, thereby allowing dismissive attitudes toward other perspectives and positions while enabling the unchallenged retention of one’s own narrative or worldview.

Moreover, those who allege that they are victims of hate and find some advantage in that victimhood (control, sympathy, weaponry, camaraderie, etc.) are then incentivized to remain stuck in the victim mentality. It’s not healthy or logical but neither is any addiction (consider the irrational cases of people who hate others because those “others” are “hateful”).

Without actions, what do I care if someone hates me? How does that hurt me? It doesn’t.

Even if they act in hateful ways or they say or write nasty, hateful things about me, I think it reflects more poorly on them (see the NAV post mentioning living in such a way as to have a reputation that is beyond reproach, Not Offended). And because I can never know for sure the mind of others, who am I to judge them as “haters?” I am reminded (probably not often enough) of the admonition to not judge others – to not be critical of the splinter in my neighbor’s eye while I have a log in my own.

Choosing to feeling like the victim of hate (and it is a choice), is not good for anyone. We should not enable it in others and we certainly should not enable it in ourselves.

Can Insensitivity Be Complimentary?

Some people think I should be “offended” by others’ “insensitivity.”

I’m not.

I think it’s great when strangers or people I meet feel comfortable enough to ask me how long I’ve been in the wheelchair or what happened to cause me to use the chair.

Most of the time I make light of it and answer,

“Since about six o’clock this morning,” and

“Nothing, I’m just lazy.”

I love it when people forget and they try to hand me something or they ask me about when I walked into a room.

It tells me that, though I need help with some things, I don’t give off the “totally helpless” vibe.

It’s also seriously reassuring when people don’t feel the need to mince words or protect my feelings by avoiding subjects that might be “offensive.”

And it’s especially wonderful when people think I’m faking or don’t need the wheelchair (some funny stories there).

People often get offended when they feel that others are not sensitive to their realities.

I take it as a compliment when people don’t tip-toe around my disability or are not hypersensitive to my situation. It shows that my efforts to never be a “victim” and never portray the victim mentality are working.