A lifelong study of good and evil has led to me conclude that the greatest single cause of evil is people perceiving of themselves or their group as victims. Nazism arose from Germans’ sense of victimhood — as a result of the Versailles Treaty, of the “stab in the back” that led to Germany’s loss in World War I and of a world Jewish conspiracy. Communism was predicated on workers regarding themselves as victims of the bourgeoisie. Much of Islamic evil today emanates from a belief that the Muslim world has been victimized by Christians and Jews. Many prisoners, including those imprisoned for horrible crimes, regard themselves as victims of society or of their upbringing. The list of those attributing their evil acts to their being victims is as long as the list of evildoers.
This is also true in the micro realm. Family members whose primary identity is that of victim usually feel entirely free to hurt others in the family. That is why psychotherapists who regularly reinforce the victim status of their patients do the patient and society great harm.
If my belief is even partially correct, the preoccupation of much of America with telling whole groups that they are victims — of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and classism, among other American sins — can only increase cruelty and evil in America.
– Dennis Prager: “Why Do People Do Evil?” (Victimhood is number #10 on Prager’s list; the rest are well worth your time as well.)