Why everyone wants to be the victim

Hitesha Chandranee Kamaraj Zomato The allure of victimhood (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

Being in the victim’s shoes was an undesirable proposition for people back in the day. However, the victim tag has lost its woeful connotations and has even become somewhat desirable today.

People on the internet and social media watchers have termed it  “Oppression Olympics” — an unofficial, often subconscious tussle to claim the victim status.

The Hitesha Chandranee vs Kamaraj AKA Zomato delivery boy fiasco has been a masterclass in Oppression Olympics. Bengaluru-based Chandranee, an Instagram influencer told her 20k odd followers that a  Zomato delivery boy had punched her and left her with a bloodied nose.

Within hours of her going live, sympathies poured in. Netizens goaded on Zomato to act against the errant, punch-happy delivery boy who, from the looks of it, attacked a defenceless woman, a customer that too! People also noted how her follower count skyrocketed within the first week of the fiasco.

Not surprisingly, a weepy Kamaraj also surfaced on social media a few hours later with folded hands. Between sobs, he reiterated how all he wanted to do was work and wasn’t the aggressor as he was made out to be.

Fickle as the internet is, the tides now turned in Kamaraj’s favour.  Now was just a poor delivery boy trying to make ends meet but falling prey to the machinations of a fame-hungry beauty influencer.

Soon, people were baying for Chandranee’s blood. The latest reports say that she fled the city after someone doxed her.

We are not privy to what happened between the two; I am sure both are not as innocent as they want us to believe or as guilty as the internet kangaroo courts deem them.

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The allure of being the victim

These days, more and more people are waking up to the political benefits of victimhood. Many accused the Sussexes, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, of playing the victim card in their interview with Oprah Winfrey. “A billionaire and two millionaires talk oppression,” they said.

American actor Jussie Smollett wanted to be a victim so badly that he reportedly hired two Nigerian guys to beat him up posing as Donald Trump supporters. Before his story fell apart, many mainstream news channels openly backed his claims.

Raucous celebrities on both sides of the political spectrum frequently bellyache about being trolled even when their own conduct on the internet has been questionable. Clearly, there’s is some allure to victimhood

Self-defined victimhood is a psychological state whereby, regardless of the etiology of the feeling or the “truth” of the matter, one who perceives herself to be a victim is a victim.

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Understanding self-defined victimhood

Druliolle and Brett 2018 say that victimhood can come in three forms:

  • legal or when someone is an actual victim of a crime
  • socio-cultural when the person is systemically victimised
  • self-defined where the person thinks himself or herself to be the victim

So why be a victim? There are psychological and social benefits, say social scientists. Victimhood can give the person a sense of belongingness and even social connectedness.

Perhaps the most compelling reason why many people swiftly claim the victim tag: in today’s times, victims are considered morally and socially superior.

From increasing your follower count to swinging public opinion in your favour, self-defined victimhood can go a long way.

This is evident in the way the Zomato incident played out. In the beginning, Chandranee’s supporters amped up the narrative of the single woman in a big city being vulnerable to assaults from men. In a counter to that, Kamaraj supporters played up his poverty,  death of his father and even his work ethics.

Thus, contemporary norms dictate that victims deserve some amount of social deference that non-victims do not.

– R. HorwitzPolitics as Victimhood, Victimhood as Politics

To put it simply, victims get treated with more respect than do non-victims. Similarly, society is more willing to listen to a victim. Which explains why the parties involved in the Zomato case are hell-bent on portraying themselves as the wronged party.

From an unbiased vantage, it seems like both Chandranee and Kamaraj are victims and oppressors in equal measure. Sadly, one of them is getting a very raw deal.