Easier to blame people for their suffering than to perceive injustice

The researchers and trauma experts Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane write, “Reason and objectivity are not the primary determinants of society’s reactions to traumatized people. Rather … society’s reactions seem to be primarily conservative impulses in the service of maintaining the beliefs that the world is fundamentally just, that people can be in charge of their lives, and that bad things only happen to people who deserve them.”

I have frequently seen such irrational and defensive “conservative impulses” applied to organizational systems over the years, but perhaps never more than when I have collaborated with child protective services (CPS) workers and firefighters. Both groups have gruelling, scary, demanding jobs, and yet the way people react to them is strikingly different. CPS workers carry a heavy burden of feeling that they are hated—by everyone. Firefighters, on the other hand, tend to have the benefit of an age-old image of them as saviors and heroes. This contrast speaks to every level we’re touched on: the personal, the organizational, and the societal.

van Dernoot Lipsey, Laura and Connie Burk. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. 2009. p. 30–31 (ellipses in original)

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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