In What is ancestral trauma? I describe the key psychological wounds that humanity suffered as a result of the drought, desertification and famine that gave rise to patriarchy. Here I want to focus on the fifth of these wounds: the victimizer-victim dynamic.
Patriarchy is built on a victimizer-victim dynamic where we are all victimizers and we are all victims as we struggle to meet our needs.
In other articles on ancestral trauma I’ve described the emotional bedrock of the patriarchal societies that emerged in the Middle East after desertification in the period 6000-4000 BC caused competition for food sources.
This emotional bedrock included a core separation both from nature and from nurture—other human beings. This separation paved the way for a new social dynamic. Referencing the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, in “Pleased to meet you, don’t you know my name?” It’s the right to victimize, I wrote:
“The rise of patriarchy created a new dynamic that became embedded in the human psyche: victimizer and victim. Ever since, we have bought into the basic notion that we can victimize those weaker than us while those who are more powerful than us can victimize us in any way they can get away with: physically, emotionally, sexually, financially.
Generally thought of as the dominion of men over women, patriarchy is more accurately the dominion of the (masculine) victimizer over the (feminine) victim.
Both men and women can be victimizers. As well as victimizing women, men victimized other men violently, economically and at times sexually. Ruling class women victimized their servants and slaves, male and female alike, sometimes more cruelly than their men did. It was King Herod’s daughter who requested that John the Baptist’s head be served on a platter.
Every civilization since the rise of patriarchy has victimized to the greatest extent that it could: Assyria, Rome, the Muslim Caliphate, Genghis Khan, the empires of Spain, Russia, Britain and Japan. All our laws and civil institutions have been enacted to contain and control this victimization.”
‘Work sets free’
Nazi Germany is a classic example of this concept of ‘maximum victimization’. Not only did they seek to conquer Eastern and Western Europe, they sought to exterminate the Jews after extracting the utmost economic gain from them. The Nazis even tried to put a positive spin on this: the gate of the concentration camp at Dachau bears the legend arbeit macht frei, ‘work sets free’.
Victimization by Nazi Germany was only made possible by turning the majority of individual Germans into victimizers. More accurately, the Nazis activated their latent capacity to victimize by convincing them they were victims. A significant factor in this was the core sexual trauma I describe above.
In The Mass Psychology of Fascism (written in Berlin in 1932), Wilhelm Reich writes that, “Suppression of the natural sexuality in the child… makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority… At first the child has to submit to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system.”
The deepest lesson of World War II is that the capacity to victimize exists inside each of us, just waiting for the right (or, perhaps, wrong) conditions. It’s like the Alien in Ridley Scott’s film waiting to burst out of our chests and cause havoc.
The lower masculine victimizer
I wrote more on this in The Alien inside us – the lower masculine victimizer:
“I use the word ‘lower’ because the masculine qualities of strength, intelligence and anger can all be expressed in a ‘higher’, protective manner. Here they are used to mitigate lack at the expense of others—and to express primal pain.
The Alien is the perfect embodiment of the lower masculine victimizer. It wants what it wants and will commit any brutality to achieve its ends. You can’t kill the fucker, it has acid in its veins, it drools and doesn’t clean up after itself.”
The penis—an image forbidden by society—physically embodies the lower masculine victimizer.
The world we live in today has entirely been shaped by the core traumas that impacted the human psyche during the desertification of the Middle East and the rise of the patriarchal, world-conquering civilizations that ensued.
Although much reduced, those traumas have not been healed. They still exist in watered-down form, an emotional sludge in the gutter of humanity’s collective unconscious. Of these, the victimizer-victim dynamic is the most important one to address. Our unconscious acceptance of this dynamic is the entire basis of the perpetuation of patriarchy.
The victimizer-victim dynamic is one of the 3 laws at the heart of patriarchy. To end patriarchy we must consciously end our acquiescence to being victims—and victimizers.
Image: Gate, Dachau concentration camp, World War II (public domain)