JH: Western society has transitioned from an honor culture to a dignity culture and now is shifting into a culture of victimhood. In the culture of honor, each person has to earn honor and, unable to tolerate a slight, takes action himself. The big advance in Western society was to let the law handle serious offenses and ignore the inevitable minor ones — what sociologists call the culture of dignity, which reigned in the 20th century. It allows diversity to flourish because different people can live near each other without killing each other. The past 20-30 years, however, has seen the rise of a victimhood culture, where you're hypersensitive to slights as in the honor culture, but you never take care of it yourself. You always appeal to a third party to punish for you. And here's the big concept — you become morally dependent. Young people are becoming morally dependent; they are also less able to solve problems on their own. An adult has always been there somewhere to protect them or punish for them. This attitude does not begin in college. Students have been raised to be morally dependent.I am thinking about making a list of the microaggressions that I would complain about, if I believed in that sort of thing. It is hard to go anywhere with insults against whites, Christians, fathers, scientists, wealth, Western civilization, freedom, productivity, etc.
HEM: The shocking part is that colleges are abetting the infantilization of students. For example, they sponsor “puppy days” so that students can pet dogs to relieve the — oh horrors! — stress of exams. It sounds so innocuous but providing such Pooh Bear crib comforts is flat-out capitulation to weakness.
JH: Moral judgment is not about finding the truth; it is more about broadcasting the kind of person you are to people that you want to like you. You might call it moral posturing. Getting angry about microaggressions shows that you are championing victims. In a victimhood subculture, the only way to achieve status is to either be a victim or defend victims. It’s enfeebling. When victimhood becomes your identity you will be weak for the rest of your life. Marty Seligman has been talking about this for decades. This is a good way to make people learn helplessness.I get the impression that J. Haidt is getting disgusted about his fellow academic leftists. Yes, they are always moral posturing about being a victim.
Update: See also this Atlantic article on sheltering college students from micro-aggressions.