“The Old Wrong”: Victimhood as the Refusal of Self-Knowledge

“The Old Wrong”: Victimhood as the Refusal of Self-Knowledge

Written by E.J. Hutchinson |
Friday, July 22, 2022

For we are ever complaining and grumbling, refusing responsibility for our wrongs. Rather than owning up to original sin, we wish to see ourselves as its unfortunate victims and those who are most offended by it. And here is the paradox: in making himself a Satan, always accusing God and his brother, man attempts to make himself God, viz. the one whose righteousness and goodness has been offended by original sin.

In Er (He), a collection of notes from 1920, Franz Kafka makes the following remark:

Die Erbsünde, das alte Unrecht, das der Mensch begangen hat, besteht in dem Vorwurf, den der Mensch macht und von dem er nicht abläßt, daß ihm ein Unrecht geschehen ist, daß an ihm die Erbsünde begangen wurde.

The original sin, the old wrong that man committed, consists of the accusation that man makes and does not cease making: that a wrong has happened to him, that the original sin was committed against him.

(The translation is my own.)

This is, it seems to me, a very perceptive analysis.

In biblical terms, of course, it is not quite true that passing the buck was the original sin, which consisted of unbelief as manifested in eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Still, what happens almost instantly upon that transgression? Well, passing the buck: “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:12).[1]

Why does Adam say this? The text does not specify, but one can speculate: he felt guilt; he felt shame; he wanted to save face; he wanted not to be at fault.

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