An excerpt from Professor Melvin J. Lerner’s book, The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion.
The central theme of the “Belief in a Just World” theory creates a rather chilling image of humanity. It begins by describing how we live in a society that tolerates the widespread suffering and deprivation of innocent victims. Then the evidence is added that, for the sake of our own security, we either avoid these injustices, or we add to them by finding reasons to condemn the victims. We do this for quite understandable reasons. We want to – have to – believe that our world is so constructed that terrible thing happen to people who deserve them because they were “terrible” to others.
When our behavior is described in this bald, dramatic fashion, it becomes clear how disturbing such knowledge must be to our self-image and to our sense of security. To the extent that the findings and the metaphorical description of the relevant processes are persuasive, then we must feel degraded. Not only is there the implication that we may be directly responsible for adding to people’s misery by our rejection, but the reasons for our actions seem not only selfish, but rather petty and simpleminded.
That is a very difficult pill to swallow, and an immediate reaction is that I am a much better and sensible person than that. I am not that selfish or callous, and certainly not so naive as to try to maintain a fairy-tale image of my society. Only a fool would try to pretend that it is a just world, and it would take a sick fool to condemn innocent victims in order to protect such a foolish belief.
It is with thoughts such as these that the exploration began. At its best, it took the forms of fascinating experiments, which served to clarify and elaborate the processes underlying this belief in a just world, an our reactions to victims. And if the analysis of these efforts is correct, they produced a completely unintended bonus as case studies of the motivations underlying the “Belief in a Just World” – as this belief appears in all of us, even social psychologists.
From Chapter 6, Reactions to the Belief in a Just World Theory and Findings: The ‘Nay-Sayers’
Ever noticed some of the most severe critics of “disgruntled” franchisees are other franchisees themselves? Most usually shown through contempt and thinly-veiled hostility but through isolation also.
Everyone’s internal tendency to blame the victim for their misfortune leads, in my experience, to the difficulties and quick dissolution of any franchisee associations, other than the lapdog advisory councils.
— Aeschylus 525 — 456 BC