In a very interesting but highly trigger-warning’ed article about what causes parents to “forget” their children and leave them in cars, this bit jumped out at me, in a discussion of why other people can be incredibly vicious and hateful to the parents involved:
Hickling is a clinical psychologist from Albany, N.Y., who has studied the effects of fatal auto accidents on the drivers who survive them. He says these people are often judged with disproportionate harshness by the public, even when it was clearly an accident, and even when it was indisputably not their fault.
Humans, Hickling said, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.
In hyperthermia cases, he believes, the parents are demonized for much the same reasons. “We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters.”
It jumped out at me because this is just so true of basically everything which pisses me off in society.
We have rape culture and rape myths because the alternative is living every day with the knowledge that the nice young man could just rape you on a first date, or your local minister could just be abusing the children of the parish, or you could be attacked even when you’re out running and you haven’t showered and you’re in your trackpants and surely no one is looking at you.
We have fat hatred because the alternative is understanding that really, it’s a roll of the dice what body type you have, and you having one of the “beautiful” body types has very little to do with your own personal virtues.
And we have beneficiary bashing because it’s a lot easier to hate on poor people and judge their “choices” than acknowledge that the capitalist sword of Damocles is hanging over all our heads on a daily basis.
Because really, the universe IS pretty implacable and heartless a lot of the time.
Of course, if you don’t labour under any of these illusions, the world is a pretty fucked up place to live in. And then there’s nothing for it but to start up an angry sweary blog and nuke all that shit from orbit.