I was walking down the road in Weymouth last Saturday evening when I stopped dead in my tracks, causing a collision with my husband who was walking behind me.
‘I know what happened!’ I said, peering into the distance, overwhelmed by sudden understanding.
‘Eh? What?’ said my husband.
‘I see it all. I know what I’ve been doing wrong. It’s all my own fault!’ I was still blocking the footway.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘Now can we get on?’
You couldn’t blame him for being a bit brusque. I’d rattled on all week about the problem I’d had with my desktop printer, raged about being forced to buy over-priced ink cartridges for the damn thing, complained loudly about being a victim of evil big business.
But it’s a regular feature of modern life, isn’t it? We all rush to assume the role of victimhood when things go awry, and we are all in search of someone – perhaps anyone – to blame for our misfortunes. Big business, capitalism, the government – any of those will do nicely. It’s an emotional reaction rather than a rational one. And, sadly, the truth all too often matters less than finding someone to pin the blame on.
When my printer went on the blink, I searched online for a way to fix it, and in the process read a great deal about the greed of manufacturers in charging high prices for print cartridges and trying to force us to buy them by ensuring that the cheaper compatible cartridges wouldn’t work. I jumped to the conclusion (there’s that emotional reaction!) that this explained the problem with my printer, and said so in a post on this blog. It was all too easy to fall into the role of Victim of Big Business.
Well, I can now tell you that this is not the case. I am not the victim of big business, but only of my own carelessness. I misinterpreted an instruction from the printer software – something I should have spotted if I’d been paying proper attention – and it took me more than a week to realise what I’d done. I had made a mistake, that’s all. Once I understood it, I had the printer working perfectly within a few minutes. There was no conspiracy, no evil plan to part me from my money – indeed, no problem at all apart from the one I had inadvertently created all by myself. And I am more than a little ashamed to have jumped on the victimhood bandwagon quite so eagerly. I shan’t do it again.
Obviously there are times when people really are victims, and we should be ready to defend them. But it would be helpful, wouldn’t it, if we all took the time to admit it when our reactions were emotional rather than rational – to stand up and say ‘Oops, my mistake, I jumped to conclusions’ when we’ve made false accusations? To sort out the fact from the conspiracy theory? So here goes: ‘Sorry, big business, in this instance it wasn’t your fault, it was mine.’ It’s the truth, and that’s more important than being right.
A little more calm rationale and a little less raging emotional response would probably do all of us good in these complicated times, don’t you think? I for one will not be assuming the role of victim without careful thought in the future.