The Social Justice Drama Triangle

A societal backdrop

I am worried. I see significant changes in the last ten years with #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, cancel culture and the social justice movement. On the upside awareness on injustices is improved, but on the downside I see a resurgence of the Drama Triangle, both on a personal and a societal level.

The Drama Triangle, first described in the 1960’s by Dr. Stephen Karpman, is a very helpful model to see how an unhealthy relationship dynamic is being perpetuated. For the Drama Triangle we need three roles. All three of the roles —Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor— are very fluid and can switch easily. 

I would like to change the labels a bit and name them Oppressed, Oppressor and Judge. Below I will explain why.

Social Justice

A race to the bottom, while nobody is watching anymore...

Oppressed, Oppressor and Judge

Why these three labels? Well, I want to align them with the narrative of the social justice movement. This movement is a product of post-modernism, a social philosophy that is based on the following -loosely paraphrased- assumptions:

• Knowledge and truth are socially constructs, not objective facts
• What we believe to be “true” is a function of social power: the oppressor writes the dictionary.
• Power is generally oppressive and self-interested (and implicitly zero-sum).
• Thus, most claims are actually power plays, or strategies to legitimize power. 

So, what used to be labels, facts and figures are in this ideology signs of power struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor. If you change the language, you can change the power struggle and rescue the oppressed from their position.

To do that you can identify the oppressor and the oppressed and use language as a weapon in order to create a new world. And the person that is woke enough to pass judgment on what's going on in the world, will take its responsibility and seek justice. Hence Oppressed, Oppressor and Judge.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Just go and sit behind your keyboard, walk around with a picket, chant slogans and the world will be a better place.

But, who says that the interpretation of the narrative is correct? Especially now we have established that truth is just a social construct and any claim towards the truth is just a strategy to legitimize power. And who says that changing the narrative will create the exact societal change that you envisaged? Can we force a certain future?

For more background information, I refer to this very succinct resource. Let's now move away from ideological theories, and move towards a fictional case. I call it the 'tit' example.

The 'tit' example

Imagine that someone, say a non-binary person, who identifies themselves as they or them, is offended by a cis-gendered, slightly heterosexual male person that shouts out, slightly inebriated: "Oh man, this party is the tits!". They believe that this man has little respect for women, by using female anatomy as a pejorative, as the male use of 'tits' is a sign misogynistic oppression.

The accused can then retort that he feels muzzled by the offended's accusation. This will have the accused enter the same power play that the accuser identified in the first place. Then the two of them have entered a Race to the Bottom, ergo who is the biggest victim. More about that later.

Alternatively the accused refuses to join the accuser in that same power play. He can do that by either ignoring them or by using arguments and reasoning; for instance he could come with etymological facts that tits were once used non-vulgar or explain them that 'the tits' are used non-pejorative and mostly positive in his slang.

There they are, as a social justice warrior, picketing, writing manifests and perhaps typing fervently on social media, and nothing changes. Well, time for Defcon2: Calling out the man that didn't want to join their power struggle. The accusation is no longer that the use of the word 'tits' is problematic, but that the person is problematic. So the argument has become ad hominen, a personal attack.

If that person still shrugs his shoulder, believing that their problem with him is not his problem, then they -upset that he ignores them- resort to Defcon 3: cancelling. They will start a petition to remove that person from his position or to ban him from speaking or publishing. If that fails then Defcon 4 is put in place, accuse anyone that is not joining their struggle, from being problematic too, for whatever reason. This can be the publisher, the employer, or the entire cis-gendered heterosexual male population that hasn't spoken out yet.

Sounds familiar?

Now imagine that this scenario is becoming more and more rampant, not only regarding gender, but words that relate to race, religion and sexual orientation are all deemed offensive, and the user and anyone that doesn't want to join your power struggle and apologize, condemn or distance themselves are complicit too.

Does that sound familiar too?

Now imagine that all these groups are seeking validation for their cause, but there is only so much empathy, compassion and attention to go around. People have gotten tired of apologizing, distancing, condemning and cancelling. Then two things seem to happen, each in their own Bubble: 

Move towards Provokers
Firstly, I see more and more a counter culture formed in which people 'who say it like it is' are revered, regardless if these people respect common decency rules, or even speak any verifiable truth (since truth is just a social construct). Let's call these people Provokers. These Provokers are embraced with a sigh of relief. People were sick and tired of the whack a mole minefield where no one was sure anymore if they offended people, got called out or even cancelled for associating themselves with problematic people. The price for this sigh of relief is handing over reason and rationality to these populists, rather than taking it back to themselves. Even more so, the more pressure people feel from the Oppressed, chances are that the more they move from Independent, to Alt-Right to Far Right.

Race to the Bottom
Secondly, since the oppressed groups are all competing for the same validation and attention, they have entered a race to the bottom, who is the biggest Victim and can pull the most oppressed card, and who can point fingers at the biggest oppressor? Increasingly small transgressions are cause for deep hurtful feelings and escalation to Defcon 2-4. Where once 'faggot' was demeaning, then 'homosexual' became offensive and now 'sexual preference' has become problematic. The price for this race to the bottom is creating an audience for more and bigger Victims triggering an audience for more and bigger Provokers. For instance, first there was the popularity of Jordan Peterson, a decent human being, who resisted legislation that compels speech, then we got a huge fan base for Joe Rogan, who has a firm opinion, but mixes it with an inquisitive mind and sharp humour, and now we have 70+ million electoral votes for Donald Trump.

Where is this trend going? If Provokers fuel Victims and vice versa, and the two audiences gets more and more isolated in their own bubble, then my prediction are dire, very dire....

How to get out of this Loop?

So here we are, watching how this unfolds...

You might say: "I won't enter this Drama Triangle. if I defend myself, I act Oppressed and blame the former Judge to be the Oppressor, and the former Oppressed is likely becoming the Judge." OK, fair enough, we got that covered.

But what if you get called out, or even cancelled? It's very tempting to go all anti and join the Populist Bubble, which will feed the Post Modern Bubble and vice versa, ad infinitum... So perhaps that will not work either. I am pretty sure I will be tested and tempted in the near future, because of this website, we'll see.

What we can do however, is focus on us and not the other! Analogue to getting out of the drama triangle we can start to become aware whenever we step into the drama triangle. Then neutralize this dynamic by guarding our boundaries, show integrity, speaking our truth, allow that truth to be tested, receive and take in feedback and improve our skills day by day.

We will not have any safe space, our feelings will be hurt, but feedback is the breakfast of champions and it will serve a better version of us. We will then start to feel good about ourselves, we might inspire people along the way and we will develop a skill set that allows us to do everything that social justice warriors might fail in, like set up a socially responsible company, finance initiatives that empower minorities, create a platform where dialogue is encouraged and become the change!

Does that sound attractive?

It might sound attractive, but beware. All of us want to feel good about ourselves, but very few want to do the hard work. The hard work comes with failures, disappointments and shattered delusions. However, my experience is that at some point you start to see the humour in all your delusions and blind spots and you become more and more compassionate for being less than perfect. once that happens, every time you find out that you are not as amazing as you secretly thought you were, it's a small victory on yourself.

And, even though you will remain a deeply flawed human being, you will get much more attractive, sexy and authentic than before. And for me it was and still is worth the ride.

So what do I aim to offer?

My mission is to give tools for men (and women) to sniff their armpits, to improve their skills and to learn stuff about themselves that most people didn't dare or didn't have the awareness to tell you. Basically stuff that I wish I was told when I was growing up. 

It can relate to sexual, seduction or relationship skills, awareness on our behaviour, practicing integrity or gaining new insights on handling drama and fights.

In my opinion, most problems are solved with awareness and skills and most awareness and skills can be trained. So there are no excuses.

I will mostly share from my own experience, Feel free to ask me to cover a topic, always happy to share my ideas.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Still interested?

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