A documentary examination of the rise of “victim” status and the corresponding decline in personal responsibility. [Executive Producer: Victor Neufeld/ Journalist: John Stossel/ 45 min/ Documentary-Educational/ Individualism, John Stossel]
No trailer available.
If it seems to you that nowadays people are taking less responsibility for their actions, you’ll find plenty of evidence for that here. In this interesting and well-organized film, ABC’s John Stossel examines two particular trends in that regard.
First, Stossel looks into the decline in personal responsibility among the poor, a decline largely caused by government social programs. These social programs are, of course, motivated by kind intentions. But as he demonstrates, their downside has been to make people less likely to help themselves. In particular, their unintended effect has been to produce an underclass habituated to welfare, drugs, etc.
Second, Stossel examines the decline in personal responsibility among the middle class. Encouraged by large legal settlements, ordinary people now sue each other in droves for every self-inflicted and/or imaginary wound, readily blaming others for their woes.
And as people adopt the role of “victims,” it changes them. You can see that in Stossel’s interviews here. What these “victims” have to say about themselves and their difficulties is telling, often revealing a shocking degree of self-delusion, cynicism, and hopelessness.
So what’s the solution? Stossel says that to overcome problems people must believe they can overcome them. As an example of the power of this dictum, he examines the success of Caribbean blacks in the U.S. They face racism as much as anyone and yet succeed in spite of it. Why? Because they are empowered by the belief that they can succeed.
This is a very persuasive documentary, in part because Stossel makes his points in such a common sense way that disagreement appears foolish. Above all, by demonstrating the debilitating effect that too much kindness has on personal independence, he manages to criticize it without seeming unkind himself. This would be a good film to share with liberal friends, to communicate to them the limits of well-intended largess.