By David Schultz
Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 27, 2005
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." - Matthew 5:5
Out of all the verses in the Bible, this is one of the most quoted. Its original meaning was, roughly, that those who struggle in life are truly fortunate because they will eventually become more virtuous through their toil.
But, unfortunately, the Bible doesn't go into what is supposed to happen after this occurs.
And therein lies one of the most annoying aspects of modern American culture: Nowadays, everyone wants to be a victim and struggling, in and of itself, has somehow become a virtue.
Americans have everything going for them. They are the beneficiaries of all that economic privilege has to offer. In a sense, they have actually inherited the earth.
And yet, for some reason, many Americans still want to portray themselves as being victims of forces beyond their control. They glorify struggling and fabricate difficulties in their lives where there are none, as is substantiated by the disturbing popularity of "emo" music.
This has created a culture of victimization, and it has seeped its way into almost every aspect of modern American society. Persecution complexes, even if they are totally unjustified, have now become de rigueur.
A perfect example of this is the semi-recent film "Legally Blonde," which is the story of Elle Woods, a California sorority girl who enrolls in Harvard Law School and manages to graduate and win a competitive internship despite the mean-spirited discrimination leveled against her from the jealous, bigoted nonblondes.
Maybe I'm just cold-hearted, but I have a hard time feeling any compassion or admiration for Woods just because she overcomes the potentially crippling obstacles of being wealthy, white and extremely attractive.
And while it's probably safe to assume that any film that depicts a law student who brings her Chihuahua to court with her is not meant to be taken seriously, it's still indicative of American attitudes toward privilege that a film with Woods as its protagonist could be so wildly popular.
The culture of victimization has become so entrenched that, if someone doesn't declare themselves to be a victim of one thing or another, they're actually at a disadvantage in the school and job market to those who do.
More college and job applications are asking their applicants to describe a period in their lives in which a struggle through difficult circumstances has made them into a better person.
For example, the application to the University of Michigan Law School suggests that students write their personal statements about "a setback or failure in [their lives and] how [they] overcame it."
What does this mean for people who haven't experienced setbacks or failures?
They glorfiy struggling and fabricate difficulties in their lives where there are none.
I consider myself fortunate to not have had to deal with serious difficulties in my life. Does that mean I should be penalized when trying to land a job or to get into graduate school?
Or does this mean that, during an interview, I'm now required to embellish or even totally fabricate some story about my own "hard times?"
"Well, actually sir, I did have to struggle through some very difficult times recently. Three years ago my computer's hard drive broke down and I lost all of my Ashlee Simpson photos. For about four or five months after that I was totally inconsolable. But because of that horrible incident, I consider myself a wiser, not to mention a stronger, individual."
True, it's always admirable when someone can surmount a difficult situation and come out of it a better person. But the people who can truly accomplish this feat are few and far between.
Not everyone can be a Lance Armstrong. Despite this, American society, with its fetish for victims and their inherently "compelling" stories, thinks not only that they can, but also that they should.
Similar to the trust-fund baby who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple, Americans still see themselves as heroic champions of life a la Horatio Alger.
Actually, Americans have been living in the ultimate lap of luxury for quite some time now which has forced them to concoct ridiculous notions of struggle and turmoil out of their own ultra-luxurious lives.
What America needs now, more than anything else, is an orchestra full of the world's tiniest violins.
David Schultz is a senior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at email@example.com.