We have spoken above of victimhood and ego under self-centeredness. As the concept of victimhood is connected to the individual ego, the concept of collective victimhood is connected to the collective ego. History tells us that when a given group, united by tribe, race, religion, etc., is subjected to oppression (justly or unjustly), resulting in painful incidents, one of the following occurs: either they fall into the trap of reaction, starting to create a collective ego manifested in the emergence of a powerful Us feeling victimized by the barbarism of a savage Them (truth and justice aside), resulting in a State Of Victimhood, or some sage appears, asking an important question, “Why did this happen?”, in an attempt to understand and avoid a future occurrence. In the latter state, the path is clear to social integration, reducing the probability of an Us/Them scenario, resulting in a State of Sagacity. Unfortunately, history is all too full of states of victimhood, while there are far too few states of wisdom.
One of the main attributes of a State of Victimhood is that those who have surrendered to it only see the world through the rigid framework of their own view, which only accommodates an Us-versus-Them view of what has befallen them, and do everything they can to stay in it. Historically, collective and collaborative scripts take shape in the consciousness of those who have fallen prey to such a situation: “We have been unjustly treated. We have been treated badly, even massacred, and no-one lifted a finger to save us. We are always at risk of being oppressed.”
These scripts are a not-inaccurate expression of what happened, so what’s wrong with them? Nothing is wrong as such, but let’s look deeper and feel our way from victimhood to wisdom. Historically, in most cases of mass oppression, the oppressed group takes a reactive stance, their conviction colored by the collective Ego and the Us/Them dichotomy. This leads to a very powerful state of “We the Victims.” Such a state of “We the Victims” must necessarily be accompanied by “Never Forget,” which keeps the flame of We the Victims burning. Everything possible is done to make the acts of decades or centuries ago alive as though they happened yesterday, celebrated whenever possible, preserved by whatever means whenever possible.
To tell the truth, it must be said that when the collective Ego adopts “Never Forget,” it is motivated by completely justifiable fear of what happened to them being repeated. We must also admit that adopting this stance leads to short-term gains. Adding to the confusion is that a constant state of “Never Forget” is actually essential to securing justice. However, a distinction must be made between using “Never Forget” as a means, and “Never Forget” as an end.
“Never Forget” as a Means
In this case, “Never Forget” is a means, and achieving justice the end. After justice is achieved, I believe it might benefit not only that specific group, but society at large, to abandon “Never Forget.” I want to emphasize here the need for justice before leaving “Never Forget;” calling for people to forget an injustice done to a certain group before this group has fully reclaimed all of its rights is, in itself, gross injustice. For example, it would not do to ask apartheid victims in South Africa, or the victims of ethnic cleansing in Central Africa and Eastern Europe, to forgive and forget, without justice being first served upon those who caused these horrors and the victims adequately compensated and granted full status in society. Would it benefit these unjustly-treated groups, and the societies they belong to, to cling to “Never Forget” afterwards? I doubt it.
After justice is served, it may be merciful to allow those who have suffered injustice to forget, so that wounds may heal and hearts recover. The Almighty has made it so that time heals all wounds, if the wound is first cleaned before it closes. Justice cleans the wound. Should we not be wise enough to utilize this wonderful capacity for healing?
“Never Forget” as an End
“Never Forget” as an end is clinging to the memory of past injustices, even after justice is served. Such a state arises when a group has suffered atrocities, as a reaction to terrible pain. This reaction manifests in a state of surrender to the Self, forming a collective Ego of “We the Victims”; this functions as a barrier against what happened, and a confused idea that such a shibboleth will prevent the injustice from occurring again. Unfortunately, this confusion increased, and still increases, the probability of similar injustices befalling the victims. The reason for this is that it separates them from the collective “Us,” and blocks their integration, leaving them unaware that integration is the true guarantee that what happened will not be repeated. Retreating into a shell of Self is only a prelude to the repetition of such atrocities in the future.
It would seem prudent to confront this state of “We the Victims” spawned by the collective ego, by means of getting rid of the strong “Us,” as victim or otherwise; this will automatically dismiss the sense that there is a “Them” lying in wait to ambush “Us.” This will grant mutual security to them and to those around them, wherever they are and whoever is around them. I believe that those who give in to the state of victimhood are held hostage by their own selves that trap them in a reactive space. Their Self does everything it can to keep them trapped in the past and take it with them wherever they go. They are hostage to the past, and to the Other who oppressed and tormented them, unaware that this Other is still dominating them after all these years, controlling their reactions, and driving them towards the same fate in the same manner, unaware that with this submission, they have surrendered not only their past, but their present and future, to this Other, who, in the ultimate irony, may be long dead, but still controls their lives from beyond the grave, in the form of reactions to what was done long ago.
You will notice that any attempt to move the victims from the corner they have confined themselves to will be met with strong resistance: this corner feels safe, affording them a sense of order and purpose, and an ability to go on. Finally, I would say to those who have given in to the corner of victimhood: Have you thought of moving from the area of inescapable historical burden to the area of “there are other choices?” And that the prerequisite for these other choices is abandoning “Never Forget” as an end? If you take this hard step, it will simplify other hard steps, such as leaving the area of the Victim, the Us, and the collective Ego; to abandon reactivity for proactivity; and to relinquish victimhood and the false sense of security it provides in favor of getting to the root of the problem.
Dear willing victims of victimhood: I believe that “Never Forget” is the illness that requires diagnosis, and that the rest of its consequences are the symptom. The start of recovery is to get rid of this mental state, after, of course, justice is served. Only when you can get past it will you dissolve the deep and clear boundaries between yourselves and the Other, and start the journey to healing. The journey to getting rid of victimhood, and moving towards wisdom. Have you considered that the start of real healing, and ridding yourselves of all these historical and geographical tragedies, lies in asking yourselves and the world: “Why did this happen, and how can we stop it happening again?” instead of, “Why us?”