ways. Actually, the egalitarian idea of giving everyone in the world an equal
chance is a terrible threat to our affluent world; it's almost un-American.
Think about it. How do we resolve this conflict between fairness and greed?
Melvin Lerner (1980) in The Belief In A Just World demonstrates that we
Americans (and maybe everybody) tend to accept the way things are and
assume that people get what they deserve, the good are rewarded and the
sinful, lazy, or ignorant are punished. We look at an unfair, cruel world and
conclude it is just. How do we do this? We denigrate the victim, deny the
evidence, or turn the whole situation around in our minds. For example,
Lerner cited a study in which 1000 people had viewed a film of a woman
being painfully shocked in a psychological learning experiment (it was staged,
not real). At first, many viewers became irate at the experimenter who
administered the shock shown in the film. But by the end of the experiment,
most viewers believed the victim was really weak or a fool to sit there and
allow herself to be shocked. Not one out of 1000 subjects made an effort to
protest such experiments; it is more comfortable to believe "everything is
fine." But we are living a lie; everything is not fine in the real world.
Another example of this re-interpretation of an unjust world is Colette
Dowling's (1988) book, The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of
Independence. Dowling blames women's problems on their weakness and
unassertiveness--lower pay, fewer promotions, double work (outside and
inside the home), domination by men, and so on. This is more "blaming the
victim." Men benefit and must, as profiteers and self-appointed decision-
makers, take most of the blame for the injustice to women.
It seems that we need to learn both tolerance for others and intolerance
for injustice. The great black writer, Frederick Douglass, said, "The power of a
tyrant is granted by the oppressed." He also pointed out that one must have a
dream--must have hope--before one can rebel against injustice. He wrote,
"Beat and cuff your slave, keep him hungry and spiritless, and he will follow
the chain of his master like a dog; work him moderately, surround him with
physical comfort, and dreams of freedom intrude."
The people who are oppressed but still hopeful need to be joined by more
and more people with a determined sense of justice. As Tavris (1984)
suggests, thinking and talking about injustice may generate a useful anger.
Anger has been called the handmaiden of justice. Perhaps controlled anger,
as in non-violent social action, or a combination of threatening rebels (bad
guys) and more reasonable peace-makers (good guys) offers the best hope of
changing this cruel world.
It is only imperfection that is intolerant of what is imperfect. The more perfect
we are, the gentler and quiet we become toward the defects of others.
The only safe and sure way to destroy an enemy is to make him/her