Consent of the Victim

Hate your stinking dead-end job? Feel like nobody listens to you, the office is full of idiots, your friends suck and you’re wasting your life every day? It all boils down to Consent of the Victim.

It’s tax season and people have finances on their mind. This is an easy trigger coming just a few short months off of Christmas Presents, Annual Raises, and Holiday Bonuses. Or the lack thereof. No one ever said the world was fair. Or that it was just. Or that everything will even out in the end. But just perhaps these dissatisfying cubicle situations are more fair than we think. Maybe you can be an active participant in your own rescue.

What is Consent of the Victim?

The term is one with awful connotations and, for those familiar with it, the term can bring an emotional response. In no way am I speaking of criminal law, or precedent, or anything remotely to do with any of that. Here I mean it use the philosophy of law definition as a prism to view our own personal discontent:

Help Me Out With this, New Jersey

(T)he victim’s voluntary and serious agreement or submission to the alleged criminal conduct or the result of that conduct. Definition from New Jersey State Judiciary.

They further elaborate so:

(C)onsent may be openly expressed, implied, or apparent from the victim’s willing participation in the activity in question.

In other words; if you are a consenting victim, you asked for it. And you’re complaining about something you brought on yourself.

Breaking the Corporate Victim’s Mentality.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Here, Cassius is trying to convince Brutus that Caesar is NOT A GOD. He has no dominion over him other than that which Brutus ascribes. Were they not both born free men under Roman law?

What about you? Were you not born free? Do you think that what troubles you is some sort of cruel twist of fate or Providence? Have you no recourse to change your circumstances? Must you play the role of a victim or can you state: ‘By natural law, I was born free. I deserve better. And I will now refuse to consent to making myself miserable?”

It’s Not Limited to Your Office!

This lesson applies to the rest of your life. Overweight but that’s really your parent’s fault? Tired of the dog peeing on your rug? Not have a date for Friday night because all members of the opposite sex are evil? Feel like your life is a joke and you’re just not making a difference because no one will let you?

Chances are there is less fault in their actions than there is in your refusal to accept responsibility for your own actions.

Pissed Off Right Now?

Great! That’s mean’s I touched a nerve. Now do something about it. Make whatever is troubling you your next Big Rock project.

Don’t be a cynic. Don’t complain about work. If you aren’t happy with your compensation, ask for a raise or find a new job. If you don’t like your boss or your coworkers, find a new ones. If you don’t feel like you are being valued properly, go find other people who do. If you don’t like your job, create forward motion.

Be resilient.

There is no law written that a sacrificial cubicle sheep has to play the part assigned. You have it within your own power to change your own circumstances. All that remains if for you to go do it.

Have you made the change from corporate victim to something else? Tell us below.


I read a great article on cynicism this weekend. It was written by a guy who’s job it is to interview achievers of our time for a Men’s magazine and extract useful bits of abstraction that the rest of us not wearing cleats, flying our own gulf streams, and otherwise being awesome can apply to their lives. Along the way he’s met politicians and artists, hall – of famers (or to be hall of famers) of nearly every sport, and other famous public icons. Talk about your jobs that don’t suck.

In this article he takes all of those interviews and mashes them together to see what pearls of wisdom he could extract into greater trends, truths, and advice. For those who haven’t read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this is the same model – although a cottage consulting industry and religion hasn’t yet risen from this work. (See that? That’s cynical!)

True Believers

At the core he talks about how cynicism is ultimately self-defeating and that he couldn’t find one truly successful person who was a cynic. It’s almost like cynicism is the opposite of success. The article author talks about a downward spiral (referred to eloquently in his work as the ‘bitch cycle’) where you complain and moan and generally don’t accomplish great things.

Seth Godin has a great short on the Lifecycle of the Skeptic. In another article, We Can Do It, he has a great quote:

Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far.

Are They Right?

When I think of the most successful people I know, the author’s right. Empirically I can’t find many. Most of those in popular culture that I can think of exist in the entertainment industry. And they are successful at being cynical. I know one guy who is successful by conventional methods (high paying job, nice house, etc) but he’s such a cynical SOB that I can’t really put him in the successful category. At least not in the kind of success I envy category. He’s more in the ‘kinda pity him’ bucket.

What About Me?

If you knew me early years you would have labeled me a cynic. My attitudes and actions would have strongly landed me in that camp. I don’t think I am now. I certainly have cynical qualities and they shine in full glory some times. And, in retrospect, those times gain me nothing aside from a small sense of catharsis. My greatest victories came from an unshakeable belief in something (usually myself) and a correspondingly low amount of major failures have come from a lack of skepticism.

My bouts of cynicism have always been preceeded by greater periods of enthusiasm and for that reason alone I hope that at heart I truly am an optimist. Maybe all succesful skeptics are really that; cynical optimists. Take those famously successful entertainers I mentioned before (Carlin, Black, Bourdain.) The heart of their comedy is a cynical interpretation of life. But the punchline is always some sort of hope. Perhaps Carlin himself sums it up better than I could: “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.”

Fighting Cynicism

As a recovering cynic I have no good idea on how to solve cynicism. I do have a few good ideas on how to fight it though:


(Yes, I did read Harry Potter. All of it. And your point is?) At the place I work there is really only one manager that is fun to work for. He has a great way of dispelling cynicism in a twofold manner. First he makes you realize how silly your cynicism is and secondly he helps you realize that there is a way to reinforce and repair your disappointed ideal. That’s a pretty effective combat strategy.


I dislike the phrase “finding your passion.” (It brings to mind potheads playing hackey sack all day and skipping classes. ‘I’m finding my passion, man!’) Leo of Zen Habits has a good (non-hippy) guide here for doing so. If you’re working on your passion it’s hard to be limited by cynicism. I guess that’s why, despite the politics, is why I love the West Wing series so much. Smart, driven people doing passionate work.

Wake up the Sleep Walkers

Cubicle Warrior fav and Non Conformist, Chris Guillebeau has an effective strategy for combating other cynics in his post Welcome to the Real World. And that’s ‘welcome to the real world’ as in they lyrics from John Mayer’s “No Such Thing”

“Welcome to the real world”, she said to me
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white

What About You?

Do you think cynicism holds people back or is it a natural, equal and opposite reaction to a pollyanna-like naivety? Is there a such thing as unhealthy skepticism? If so, how do you fight it?