The righteousness and ineffectuality of victimhood
Photo: Rodrigo Nunes, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Ten years ago we underestimated the power of neoliberal culture and its unconscious impact on our collective self-esteem.
We thought an opening for resistance would create new spaces for trade unions to mobilise and reach beyond defensive and cooperative postures with the bosses. We would embrace and learn from indigenous struggles, from peasants, farmers, the poor, immigrants and refugees. Some barriers would come down. There would be more gender equality in our structures and practices. Strategic planning and a culture of permanent resistance, in whatever form, would result. Hoping that we would take the offensive again and again, I underestimated how reactive we were to remain.
We underestimated how pervasive a culture of victimhood was in our practices. To this day, we spend more time talking about the results and impact of neoliberalism and capitalism than we do confronting, surrounding and isolating it wherever we can. Being a victim is righteous, but it changes little.
This has had an impact on how effectively and honestly we respect different kinds of intelligences, practices and roles for working together in struggle from diverse places. Victimhood ultimately hinders our collective capacity to hear immigrant and refugee voices, to move beyond charitable approaches to a place of real solidarity. In the end, it reproduces the hierarchy that continues to paralyse us with many of the same voices, no matter how well-intentioned, doing the talking. I was wrong about how those precious moments and the different complementary roles we have to play would be celebrated and nurtured.
Love could still fill us up with respect, energy and collectivity; it’s a key ingredient of any true liberation.
Dave Bleakney is National Union Representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and was active in Peoples’ Global Action