The Responsibility of the Victims
by Donald O. Wagner - 1939
IN A recent essay Bertrand Russell warned against the fallacy of attributing a superior virtue to the oppressed. It easily leads, he pointed out, to an excuse for refusing to aid them. For if the victims excel the rest of us in certain qualities of heart, mind, and spirit, perhaps their excellence is caused by the oppression itself; therefore why emancipate them? The warning is just and necessary. But a footnote should be added to it on an opposite fallacy. The underdog is often wrongly assumed to have lost one virtue completely, namely, his initiative. While the first delusion absolves us from helping him, the second absolves him from helping himself.
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