cover image A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character

A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character

Charles J. Sykes, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-312-08297-0

In a trenchant and tonic analysis of America's loss of backbone, the author of The Hollow Men alleges that we have become a nation of self-proclaimed victims. ``I am not responsible; it's not my fault'' is the common refrain linking compulsive gamblers, co-dependents in dysfunctional relationships, obese people ``oppressed'' by narrow restaurant seats and others who claim victim status, Sykes charges. He excoriates the psychiatric profession for continually inventing new disease categories and lashes our ``therapeutic culture,'' which turns everyday difficulties into certified psychological problems. He stretches his argument too thin, however, when he attacks '60s activism, and ``victimist explanations'' of inner-city poverty and youth crime that, in his view, have distorted our criminal justice system, schools and urban policy. Even here, though, he scores points, calling upon Americans to dismantle the culture of victimization by recognizing personal responsibility and refusing to reflexively blame others. His sometimes shrill critique of sensitivity workshops, Afrocentric scholars and minorities ``embracing their victim status'' will make this book controversial. (Sept.)