An interesting post about populists. I think this point can be extended.
Find a wound common to many, someone to blame for it and a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys…if you’re not among the victims, you’re among the culprits
OK. Conservatism: there are always victims and culprits, and that’s OK. God and the King say so. Classical Liberalism: whatever God or the King may say, you can avoid being a victim by your own hard work as long as no bastard interferes. Marxism: some people are victims because they are workers and must sell labour to survive. As a result, the culprits can always exploit them because the workers are forced sellers. That’s why the culprits get rich. All post-Marxist movements: we assert that the same insight applies to us.
The common feature here is that there’s a determinate standard of victimhood. The rich man is in his castle and the poor man at his gate because He made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate. (Yes, we sang it in 1980s Yorkshire.) The working class is exploited because they’re workers, and further, they’re poor. Women are exploited because they’re women. So on and so forth.
The populist genius is to deny this stricture. Access to justified indignation is fully democratised. No matter how petty your grievance, you have it on an equality with everyone else. Swimming the Med away from your rapists? OK, but the bins here are only collected every other week, and my GP is Polish. Who cares? This is the populist moment – standing over the temporarily uncollected rubbish, you rage as if you had a real problem. The Germans have the useful word Wutbürger, which means an angry citizen or maybe an angry bourgeois. A valid but wrong translation, though, might be a citizen of anger, clutching a puce passport issued by the ungovernable state of rage. Other political movements tell you to wind your neck in and concentrate. Populism enrols your risible whining in its wider crusade towards wherever.
Endlessly expandable victimhood has an important consequence. The set of culprits can – must – expand to include all the grievances anyone could possibly have. In practice, this means that the culprit can be either left vague, or else selected as the moment demands, left to the performer’s unique interpretation.