$68,000 is a lot of money.
If it’s a bill from the police, one assumes it must be for some serious wrongdoing.
But to charge such a sum for the wrongdoing of others? It seems crazy.
Friday night in Melbourne was chaos at an event featuring international “alt-right” speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. Antifa and a milieu of left-wing groups were kept at bay by riot police. One protester managed to charge onto the stage inside the event, but was stopped before she reached Southern.
Such violent and ugly scenes are now normal in Melbourne.
I watched at our event with Eric Metaxas as the tiny and overwhelmed police unit gave up. Protesters blockaded the entrance and shouted in the faces of guests, “Go home bigot, go home.” One supporter told me he had been groped as he battled his way through the crowd.
Then a fight broke out. Two opposing groups within the protest itself beat the stuffing out of each other. A man was left writhing on the ground, bleeding from his head.
The police had known for a long time that the event was on and protesters were likely, but they barely showed up. And then they gave up.
Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful to the officers who were there – but someone in HQ had underdelivered.
It was a similar routine at our Safe Schools event with Professor John Whitehall and Dr Elisabeth Taylor.
Andrew Bolt cancelled his Melbourne book launch after calls from violent protest groups to make it “a thoroughly unpleasant affair.”
Margaret Court faced similar treatment when she visited Melbourne in June last year.
Southern and Molyneux are the latest in a long line of examples.
The question is this: who are the victims, here?
It seems the police are not sure.
They issued a $68,000 bill, not to the violent and rioting protesters, but to the peaceful organisers of a straightforward speaking engagement.
They justified their actions by claiming that they have the “right to charge any event organiser for the use of police resources.”
Commander Tim Hansen reflected, “it is disappointing that we had to use significant resources to mediate between two groups with opposing views.”
The thing is, the police were not “mediating” between groups of opposing views. Neither were their resources being “used” by event organisers. In reality, the police were controlling a violent group of protesters, and it was those protesters who were responsible for using police resources.
So why send the bill to the wrong people? Why punish the innocent?
I fear that this trend reflects a broader societal change – a change to the way we understand victimhood. That is, who is guilty and who is innocent; who should be punished and who should be exonerated.
Victimhood is becoming a status we can claim because of the group we belong to. We can be permanently victimised because of our race, sex, gender, or a plethora of other attributes.
This means that, because of my group identity, I can be an innocent victim or a guilty perpetrator.
For example, blacks are victims of whites. Women are victims of men. Homosexuals are victims of heterosexuals. Transgenders are victims of cisgenders. Pretty much everyone is a victim of Christianity (with the possible exception of Jews).
When it comes to politics, most are victims to the oppressive right-wing.
Suddenly it matters far less what someone has actually done in a particular situation. It matters far more who they are.
This holds true for determining who is guilty and who is innocent.
It also increasingly holds true for determining who is right and who is wrong.
Winning an argument is no longer about appealing to the truth, but rather one’s victimology. Pull the race card, and the white person loses. Pull the sex card, and the man loses. Raise the spectre of “religion” and the Christian loses.
So much of what passes for modern debate is really about victimhood. A man’s view on abortion is dismissed because women are victims. The truth about abortion doesn’t come into it. Likewise, statistics about African gang violence are dismissed by pulling the racist card. The truth about these matters is no longer the point.
It even comes up in more subtle ways. Last week I wrote an article on euthanasia, and one of the first Facebook comments attacked me for having an opinion on the sufferings of others, about which I couldn’t possibly know a thing. Again, the truth about euthanasia is made irrelevant. Again, the commenter has made themselves the victim. Therefore, they win and I lose.
The victim card will win all arguments. We are becoming a victim culture.
But alarmingly this new victimology is affecting how we determine who is guilty of wrongdoing.
The views of right-wing speakers are oppressive to the menagerie of protesting victim groups. Theirs is the guilt.
So the $68,000 bill goes to…
More generally speaking, this cultural shift has broad and sometimes subtle consequences for the way we think as Christians, so we must be forewarned.
Ultimately the victimhood narrative is destructive of good character.
When we live in that posture, we are turned in on ourselves. Our proclivity is to become self-centred, hyper-sensitive, blind to our own wrongdoing, self-righteous, and to despise others for their “privilege.”
See, if we are victims, then we are seldom wrong. We are seldom guilty. We are seldom to blame. Those are all problems caused by others.
The paradigm is consumed by the idea that others are to blame. We accuse liberally, we blame ourselves insufficiently. It breeds resentment but not humility.
In truth, we should be looking within ourselves to see our failings, not our self-righteousness. And we should be looking outside of ourselves to grow, not to blame others and justify ourselves.
Living as a victim is the antithesis of the outside-of-ourselves, others-centred, self-sacrificial call to love that rests on the Christian and is modelled in Christ.
The Biblical example of Jonah is apt.
Jonah enjoys the grace of God for himself, having been saved from drowning and being eaten, despite his disobedience. But he despises the grace of God on others, raging over the repentance and salvation that comes to the Ninevites.
Why? Because he thinks he is the victim. He is forced to go where he doesn’t want to go. He gets a sunburned head. A random plant he took a liking to died. The world is against him.
Meanwhile, he is basking in grace for himself, and the souls of thousands of others are being saved.
But here’s the tragedy: his victim mentality makes him blind to goodness itself.
I would that we could all know the liberty and clarity of self-forgetfulness.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:3-8]