Have you ever had a purse stolen, or a phone – only for someone to say: “Well you were stupid to have it in your back pocket.”
Have you had your identity stolen, or an online account hacked – and heard: “Your password was too easy.”
How about: “Of course she was raped, look how she dressed…”
I use that shocking example precisely because it shows how warped our values can become. People don’t want to feel vulnerable, at the mercy of crimes or accidents – it’s a fearful thing. To avoid the fear, instead of blaming the criminal they blame the victim.
If it’s the criminals fault, then we might be the next one attacked. If it’s the victims fault, then we can tell ourselves that ‘we’ll never be so stupid / naive / slutty as them,’ so we’re safe.
We will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid accepting that we might get hurt. We will believe incredible, barely sane things, rather than believe that we might face suffering. We will even blame the victims of the most terrible crimes for ‘bringing it on themselves’ – because blame is much less painful, less vulnerable and more concrete than the abstract fear of danger.
If you accept that the person who had their wallet stolen was just unfortunate – you also admit that you may one day be unfortunate. The world has misfortune in it. If instead you decide they were stupid or reckless, then you can say that you are never so stupid – and so your wallet will never get stolen.
It’s a basic principle of psychology – it’s how we work. It also makes some sense of the fact that poor people are cheering on Boris Johnson, even as he makes them poorer.
Once we admit Boris Johnson is awful then we admit that we are vulnerable. Our world has cruel Governments in it. Even the UK might become a dictatorship. Billionaires now run the world, not politicians – MPs are mostly just puppets to money. Terrifying.
Ask yourself how scared you are. Personally I am beyond terrified. Another Tory government might kill people I know, it might make me homeless, it might lead to deprivations we’re used to only seeing on adverts for charities working abroad. It might mean my kids have no future, or even the end of humanity as we fail to tackle the climate crisis.
That’s a lot of reality to swallow, and a damn lot to carry. Maybe it’s understandable, if frustrating, that some simply won’t let their minds go there. They will just read the Daily Ma*l, which says everything in life will be ok if they Vote Tory, and never turn to face the terrifying truth.
We have a deep need to feel like the world is fair, that we will get the good stuff we deserve – how else can one maintain hope, without the sense that our actions will bring our desires into reality?
When Johnson offers us the EU as an enemy, and more especially immigrants (whom he contends the EU force us to have) he plays right into this need for fairness AND our tendency to blame victims.
It isn’t the poor persons failure, it’s the EU’s laws. Britain is fair, if only the EU would let it be. It isn’t that the NHS is being killed off, it’s those pesky immigrants defrauding it with their health tourism. Everything you need in life will be safe again as soon as we can leave the EU and kick out the foreigners.
Boris has chosen the EU, the poor, the immigrant and so on to use as ‘blame fuel’. He also campaigns almost entirely by pouring hate, fake news and smears onto Labour, making them ‘blame fuel’ too. With no good to say of himself he can only say bad of others – and voila, another enemy, another person to blame is manufactured.
The poor vote for Boris because he gives them someone to blame, he gives them a hope that the UK is still great and so they still have life chances, and neatly sidesteps that he’s actually the architect of their misery. The poor don’t want to accept Boris is the architect, because that puts them totally at his mercy. They want to feel in control, so they can’t accept that the man who controls them is cruel. They have to decide that our PM loves us and is only thwarted in that love by demons – the evils of immigrants and the EU.
Just as the battered wife must believe that if it weren’t for the drink, or the childhood issues, or the steroids, or, or, or… their husband would be a lovely man.
Boris can call the poor lazy and still seem to some like their champion. It’s never ‘me’ who is lazy, not ‘me’ he’s talking about, it’s ‘those other poor’ or ‘those immigrant poor’.
We are in an abusive relationship. We suffer Stockholm syndrome, whereby we excuse the person who beats us, we say they are not to blame, we make ourselves responsible for their violence, then we vote them back in to the house.
Generally when online, and I do this myself because I get so angry and worried, we can be quite confrontational with people who espouse Tory views. In fact, we should see them not as blind, stupid or heartless, but as victims of gaslighting and abuse. The Tories are their spouse who they keep inviting in even though they are then mistreated. As hard as it is, we need to be compassionate.
Saying “F you and your values,” will only entrench their love of their abuser. It may provoke a very different reaction to say “you must care very much about them, what are their best qualities?”
Like I say, I fail at this through anger and frustration – but it’s worth a try – I believe it would unsettle them, make them question themselves more if we spoke as if they were a battered spouse. You don’t insult the abuser, because the spouse just defends them and rejects you. Instead you gently ask about all the great things, and allow them to slowly realise there are no great things. Only then can they begin to accept that there is a problem, and only after that can they change.