Michael Jackson

Better be oppressed than oppressor

I was reading a Victorian novel (“Robert Elsmere” by Mrs. Humphry Ward) when I came across the words of the title of this article.  They evaluated the English rural poor’s squalid, unsanitary living conditions in the 1870s compared to the landlords’ and aristocrats’ luxurious lifestyles.  Oppression can be manifested in dispossession, persecution, slavery, serfdom, pogroms, legal disabilities, and job, educational, and housing discrimination.  There are many oppressed and oppressors today.  Among the oppressed one can name Chinese Uighurs, Russian ethnic minorities, Turkish Kurds, Iranian Baluchis, West Bank Palestinians, and American Blacks.  In all these cases the oppressed group largely lives an inferior life in terms of economics, freedoms, rights, mobility, education, and health compared with the dominant national majority.  Those in the dominant group may be direct or indirect oppressors but they benefit in some ways from the oppression of others.

So what can this article’s title mean?  It is not true in terms of lifestyle or freedom.  The oppressor possesses these bountifully compared to the oppressed.  It cannot be in happiness or fulfillment.  Oppression makes these rare, fleeting, or unobtainable for the oppressed.  The only area of being “better” is in a moral sense.   The oppressor, directly or indirectly, benefits from the oppression.  It is a moral failing to benefit from another’s suffering.   The oppressor generally does not feel this or rationalizes his way out of any negative moral self-judgment.  The oppressed is a passive sufferer; the oppressor is an active exploiter.  The oppressed may benefit from the moral upper hand, but that benefit purchases no food, shelter, sustenance, or health.  Possible advantages for the moral upper hand are a sense of moral self-worth, and, for some religious adherents, a passport to heavenly rewards after one’s earthly demise.

However, these reasons of moral self-approval and afterlife religious reward mean little or nothing to most of the oppressed.  In our modern world, far removed from the religiosity of Victorian England, it is better to be the oppressor than the oppressed.  Best of all, be neither. Yayha Sinwar, per my limited knowledge, wants to be both oppressed and oppressor.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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