The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 77.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Finger-Wagging Moralists Hurting Themselves, Society

Guest Column by Kostas Arkoudas

America nowadays is chock-full of finger-wagging moralists who have come to realize that playing Robin Hood for the "disadvantaged" has salutary career effects and have rushed to cash in on the trend. Which is really easy. All they have to do is pick a few buzzwords from the ever-expanding victimization vocabulary and start heaving them randomly left and right with much ado and histrionics. And, more importantly, they have to play prosecutor. They must bring the villains to justice. They must accuse. And they must accuse with all the fervor that befits their elevated moral stature.

You see, there is this law of folk psychology which says that when you accuse someone you indirectly make yourself look better. When you accuse the bad guys you sequester yourself from them, you put yourself on the other side of the fence. And who's on the other side of the fence opposite the bad guys? The good guys! See how easy it is? All Jane Doe has to do is point her finger to someone, preferably a heterosexual white male, and call them "racist," "sexist," "animal abuser" - whatever pleases her. Jane Doe immediately becomes the torchbearer of justice and equality, a champion of humanity, a paragon of virtue and moral excellence.

For further illustration of this technique the interested reader is referred to the article by Kristen K. Nummerdor '94 ["GOP Is Not Just Problem for Queers," April 28]. In that article, Ms. Nummerdor set out to address several issues on the GOP agenda, ranging from crime and the economy to drugs, tax fraud, and others. Predictably, nothing of relevance or substance was said about any of these issues. Not one number, not one fact. Nothing. The entire article was just a continuous stream of vague mumblings about victimization and abuse. A truly superb violin performance on Ms. Nummerdor's part, and one that will no doubt have many encores in her future career. After all, who cares about substance and relevance? Heck, who cares about facts any more? Nowadays facts are dmod, obsolete, having taken a back seat to the real issue, discrimination. Everything nowadays revolves around discrimination and abuse. In everything there is a victim and a victimizer.

Unfortunately, this kind of petty moralizing is not all comedy. In fact, when done as rampantly as it has been done over the past decade, it has some pretty grave societal ramifications. First of all, it adds oil to a fire that is already running out of control. America is already a bitter, litigious, tense, and deeply divided society. Hysterical accusations and counter-accusations reverberate in her halls and courtrooms day in and day out. When people are not too busy shooting one another, they are suing one another. Blacks and Latinos have been wronged by the whites, Asians by both whites and blacks, whites by affirmative action, immigrants by the natives, animals by lab scientists, children by their parents, patients by their doctors, women by men, queers by straights, straights by queers, the Arabs by the Jews, and the Jews by everybody. In this atmosphere, to engage in senseless victimization rhetoric is to pour salt on an open wound - regardless of whether it's done by the mass media (which have realized that anger and conflict sell much better than the lukewarm callings for peace and unity), or by some of the more militant champions of minority causes (most of whom are astute businessmen living off book-writing and the $10,000-an-appearance lecture circuit), or by individual Zorros such as Nummerdor.

Of course in the end the incessant complaining becomes self-defeating - people are just getting sick of the never-ending whining, plain and simple. But, in the process, discrimination is trivialized. Racism, sexism, etc., are all real, substantive issues that need to be taken seriously. Those who trumpet them senseless have only managed to depreciate their gravity, to take away from their legitimacy. In that sense, the peddlers of victimization have been digging their own grave - they've been crying wolf one too many times. People who would normally be open-minded and sensitive to injustice are becoming cynically thick-skinned about it just as an adverse psychological reaction to all the fanfare and the hypocrisy. No one can profit from such a state of affairs in the long run, not even the breast-beating Robin Hoods who have been crying "Injustice!" all the way to their banks.