A nation of victims : the decay of the American character



Transcription of Annotations

Notes on front endpapers: Why Tocqueville. Martin Luther King. Reinhold Niebuhr, pg. 68-69. Gandhi. Underlinings/notes: Dead white males. Differently abled. Michigan State University--Fact sheet on Bias-Free Communication--warned against use of terms like--culturally deprived, black mood, yellow coward, pronoun he. Serious demands that MacDonald's recognize existence of the minority, 20% of American population, needing seating for large/heavy people. Couple with combined income of $350,000 out of money by the end of the month. American life characterized by insistence--I am a victim; I am not responsible; it's not my fault. Revolution of Rising Sensitivities. CBS report--hidden homeless. 20% of Americans claim some diagnosable disorder. 1991, US had 281 lawyers/100,000; 82/100,000 in England, 11/100,000 in Japan. US 70% of world's top supply of lawyers. 1960 fewer than 100,000 lawsuits filed in federal courts---by 1990, 250,000. National Anthem became the Whine. Blame. If you lose job can sue for mental distress of being fired. If bank goes broke, government has insured deposits. If you drive drunk and crash, you can sue somebody for failing to warn you to stop drinking--always someone to blame. Bogus victims drive out genuine victims. Compassion fatigue. Excess of victim politics generated new skepticism/what's in it for me mentality. Bygone middle-class ethos emphasized self-restraint, probity, character. Almost everyone entitled to successes, adventures, joys without any great sacrifices. Victimism concerned with self, not others. Black Americans seeing price paid for adopting values of cultural/intellectual elite--elite that has not always shared with them the tragic consequences of their ideas. Youth culture--culture that refuses to grow up. Culture disdains self-control/restraint, celebrates impulse, immediate self-gratification, insists on unlimited indulgence of its eccentricities, will always have a soft spot for adolescence. Civil rights movement is now central to victim politics. King's philosophy blended Old Testament righteousness/New Testament forgiveness, nonviolence of Gandhi/theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr--sin, inevitable fact of human existence--warned against moral conceit, urged spiritual discipline against resentment--renunciation of victimhood. Gandhi--soul force--non-violence not only of tactics, but of a spirit of moral goodwill. King shoved aside by those who found that by playing victim, could force acquiescence of white power structure to most outrageous demands. White liberal guilt/fear ratified the moral terrorism of the black-power movement. 1966 while white radicals declared King an anachronism, received approval of 88% of black Americans; Stokely Carmichael won approval of only 19%. Rousseau transformed middle class into object of derision/ hatred for right/left. Rousseau first to link assault on middle-class culture with championing of untrammeled self/call for compassion. Fanon/Memmi. Black-power advocates turned to Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi to provide intellectual apologia for their undertakings. Memmi--everyone is an unconscious racist, semi-conscious one, conscious one. Malcolm X, poisoned fruit of black hatred, demagogue, bizarre racist mythology, anti-Semitic. Abraham Maslow--intrinsic value starvation. Fred Siegel--dependent on courts, liberals forget how to talk to most Americans. Public expectation of what government could accomplish blended with expectation about life. Lawyers--1970 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission less than 15,000 complaints; by 1973 48,900; by 1977 79,000. Between 70 to 80% of all obstetricians have been served malpractice suits. 1973 Congress passed Rehabilitation Act--any company with a federal contract of more than $2500 required to undertake affirmative action for handicapped/prohibited discrimination. I am not at fault. [Fill in the Blank] made me do it. Univ. of Wisconsin Milwaukee--list of 49 "Ways to experience Diversity." Univ. of Connecticut banned inappropriately directed laughter. Duke's president appointed committee to search out disrespectful facial expressions or body language. College of William and Mary--nonsexist language--kingpin changed to key person, unwed mother replaced with mother. Univ. of Minnesota banned cheerleaders from sporting events on grounds that routines foster sexual stereotypes demeaning to the dancers. Survey of Stanford students--white/black students different perceptions of racism. Fewer than 30% of black students experienced racism at Stanford--subtle, hard to explain to non-blacks. White students discussed racism in terms of negative views/comments. Robert Rabin--whites do not need protection from abusive language because they do not have a history of being discriminated against; only victims of oppression need to be shielded from offensive words. 1960s-1990s--number of women elected to public offices tripled, number of women lawyers/judges multiplied more than twentyfold; number of women engineers rose from 7404 to 174,000. 1/3 of MBAs earned by women, 1/2 of law degrees, 1/4 medical degrees. West long/voluble tradition of denigrating women. Rape horrific reality, understandable that the campaign to combat it --in all its forms--including date and acquaintance rape has become so potent. Roots of inequality--behavioral rather than racial. Sound education, intact families, reliable work ethic provide clearest road to prosperity. Society emphasized rights over responsibilities. Personal conduct. Empowerment. Society should treat members as citizens rather than clients. Wisconsin--incentives for women on welfare to marry the father of their children. Young people unlikely to grow beyond themselves when their parents seek their own inner children. Caritas--love, charity--originally connotated respect, esteem--sober, respectful affection. Programs judged on own results. Character formed by placing examples of virtue in front of young people. Strive for moratorium on politics of blame. Americans need to lighten up.


Sykes, Charles J, “A nation of victims : the decay of the American character,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed February 2, 2023, http://booknotes.gmu.edu/items/show/257.


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A nation of victims : the decay of the American character


Sykes, Charles J


Program air date: November 29, 1992.


Charles Sykes's ProfScam sparked a furious debate over the mission and the failure of our universities. Now he turns his attention to an even more controversial subject. A Nation of Victims is the first book on the startling decay of the American backbone and the disease that is causing it. The spread of victimism has been widely noted in the media; indeed, its symptoms have produced best-selling books, fueled television ratings, spawned hundreds of support groups, and enriched tens of thousands of lawyers across the country. The plaint of the victim - Its not my fault - has become the loudest and most influential voice in America, an instrument of personal and lasting political change. In this incisive, pugnacious, frequently hilarious book, Charles Sykes reveals a society that is tribalizing, where individuals and groups define themselves not by shared culture, but by their status as victims. Victims of parents, of families, of men, of women, of the workplace, of sex, of stress, of drugs, of food, of college reading lists, of personal physical characteristics - these and a host of other groups are engaged in an ever-escalating fight for attention, sympathy, money, and legal or governmental protection. What's going on and how did we get to this point? Sykes traces the inexorable rise of the therapeutic culture and the decline of American self-reliance. With example after example, he shows how victimism has co-opted the genuine victories of the civil-rights movement for less worthy goals. And he offers hope: the prospect of a culture of renewed character, where society lends compassion to those who truly need it. Like Shelby Steele, Charles Murray, and Dinesh D'Souza, Charles Sykes defines the ground of what will be a significant national debate.


"Victims of crimes--United States."


Brian Lamb Booknotes Collection
Gift of Brian Lamb, 2011.


St. Martin's Press
George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives


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1st ed.