The Grievance Engine
The Fallacy of Weaponized Empathy
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a grievance as “an actual or supposed circumstance regarded as just cause for complaint.” In our current environment, where feelings transcend facts, grievances are used to drive and amplify false narratives for political and personal gains. The Grievance Engine is about control.
Often the crafted narratives actively block the truth from being discussed at all. Topics ranging from the decay of the nuclear family to education and immigration are manipulated using weaponized empathy to limit debate. It’s much easier to demonize and dismiss someone outright rather than engage in a cogent argument to support a belief.
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“But you don’t care about X?” is a standard weaponization tactic.
Wanting to be tough on crime, you don’t care about criminals (mostly assumed to be unfairly convicted).
Generally supporting law enforcement, you don’t care about victims of police brutality.
Believing immigration should be done through legal channels, you don’t care about immigrants.
Worrying about the decay of the nuclear family and the rise in fatherless homes, you don’t care about single parents or “alternative families.”
Caring about freedom of speech and association, you don’t care about victims of “hate speech.”
Being concerned about “The Twitter Files,” you don’t care about the welfare of an ex-Twitter executive (whose sexuality makes them part of a so-called “protected identity group”).
Wondering about election integrity and voter ID, you don’t care about minority groups (Georgia and “Jim Crow 2.0”).
Believing it’s inhumane to allow and enable people to live on the streets, you don’t care about homeless people.
Questioning the merits of teaching through the lens of Critical Theory, you don’t care about “honest history.”
Of course, the logical consequence of these narratives is “you are a bad person and are not worth being heard.” Weaponized empathy is a motte and bailey fallacy designed to stifle discussion and dismiss opinions outright. It’s a forced morality binary: you are either seen as ultimately good or bad with no nuance at all.
The Perpetually Aggrieved
Everyone has grievances. However, not every grievance rises to a level that deserves amends, and not every perceived grievance is genuine. Habitually and preemptively assuming injustice or negative bias is unhealthy and counterproductive. Complaining is contagious, and it’s easier to blame others than to take ownership of our circumstances.
Although sexism, racism, and discrimination exist in America today, most interactions you will experience have little to do with your sex, race, skin color, or religion.
“Political correctness is just fascism pretending to be manners.” - George Carlin
While helping others is a laudable goal, the projection of grievances on behalf of others has become an industry in itself. The concept of “privilege” allows the creation of arbitrary “protected identity groups” that are considered beyond reproach. Projection of guilt and the demonization of others are hallmarks of this savior syndrome. It allows hatred in the name of inclusion and acceptance when the reality isn’t either inclusive or accepting.
Critical Theory is not critical thinking. It demands an illogical assumption of injustice and unfairness before evidence is presented. It begins with a predetermination something is problematic and then fills in the blanks to justify grievances and responses.
Teaching through a lens of grievance isn’t simply another perspective. Essential to this lens is a call for actively dismantling structures and systems predetermined to be unjust. Labeling grievances as built-in or systemic while disingenuously avoiding discussing all potential variables involved is dishonest.
What Can We Do?
Grievances don’t create, build, liberate, or empower. Discernment matters. Disparate outcomes aren’t always a result of injustice or unequal treatment. Correlation does not imply causation. People are individuals, and guilt is not collective. Trauma does not create an identity. Words aren’t violence. Hurt feelings aren’t “harm” or a chronic disorder. Your feelings are not any more important than mine. And in reality, truth is more important than our feelings. We can’t control what happens to us, but we absolutely can control how we react.
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