Saintly Thoughts

Of Victims & Villains

The fact that an injustice has been acted against you does not destroy your responsibility if you yourself commit an injustice.  We have a schizophrenic tendency in our society (as have most societies) when it comes to questions of justice.  On the one extreme, some look at the harms committed in society and wish to be as harsh as possible to the offender, essentially treating them as non-persons, locking them away never to be seen again or releasing them to forever be in the debt of and under the thumb of the parental policing powers of the state.  On the other extreme, some wish to claim that both offender and offended are equally victims (for who amongst the offenders have not themselves been victimized to such an extent in their own life that we ourselves are prone to blush when their histories are released)?  This is foolish.  We all may indeed be victims, and we may all indeed be villains; there is a deep truth in this simple statement.  But saying this does not (from the perspective of our fellow persons, at any rate) destroy the necessity of degrees of victimization and guilt.  If this were not so, the very words themselves would be meaningless (in that they would be devoid of actual content, not that we wouldn't attribute emotional preferences to one or the other term).  We must never accept a system by which the words that we use become so relativized, lest it become meaningless to speak.  Yes, of course we must recognize that these words lie within a continuum of subtle distinctions, and that one may be at the same time both a victim and a victimizer.  But we must never forget that the two categories are existentially separate from one another, whatever may be their ultimate meanings.