While it may appear that an individual wronged will be obvious, whereas the individual doing the wrong will be obvious, in some cases, the differences between the wrongdoer and the victim can blur and be difficult to determine. In terms of wrongdoers, these individuals are motivated by personal or financial gain, while the victim is victimized through financial loss. These determinations may be difficult to determine.
Profile of the wrongdoer:
Wrongdoers can be grouped into the following categories; opportunists, losers, the malicious, conformists, fanatics. While these groups are listed as separate categories, there is a small amount of overlap among the different groups. For example “opportunists, losers and the malicious are all animated by desire for gain.”(Elster 2004, 141) These groups of individuals seek to exploit the victim for the desire for gain (personal gain, professional gain, financial gain). In terms of the malicious wrongdoer, the gain they are seeking will be psychological satisfaction from seeing others being harmed, the loser will also seek psychological gain, and the loser has been in a subservient position and had made the choice to ally him or herself with the “in group” or wrongdoer against the victimized. Conformists these individuals have no ideological belief one way or another but have chosen to ally themselves with the wrongdoer or regime in charge because they are motivated by “fear of material loss”. (Elster 2004, 141) These individuals join or support a wrongdoing regime because they want to keep what they have even if holding onto material possessions means exploiting others. The final group of wrongdoer is the fanatic. Of all the profiles examined this is the only group that has an actual ideological reason to victimize a group. Their opinions on the nature of the victim will not change.
Profile of the Victim
Victims are victimized through material loss; this concept leads to the first type of victim, or victimization through material suffering. This sort of victimization has been defined as “property can be real or personal, if personal, it can take the form of physical objects or financial assets. One form of material suffering is the destruction of property.”(Elster 2004, 168) Material suffering can take several forms for example in this form of victimization the victim will lose some form of physical property either through destruction or through government seizures.
Personal suffering this is the form of victimization that would be “stereotypical” or when there is a direct violation directed at individuals or groups within a society. The determination is based around individuals of a different race, color, religion, socioeconomic class, gender. , To cite Elster this is explained as follows, “In an autocratic regime, even those who are not the target of overt repressive measures may suffer from everyday harassment and petty persecution.” (Elster 2004, 175)
Intangible suffering is a catch all category for those that have been victimized indirectly, included in this category would be individuals whose family have been forced out of business or descendants of those killed in slave labor camps, these sorts of victims will also be prevented from holding certain positions due to religion, race, and gender. “Consists of the lack of loss of opportunities. Under an autocratic regime, certain opportunities may be denied to all citizens, denied to specific groups or restricted to privileged elite.”(Elster 2004, 180)
Within the wrongdoer/victim spectrum, the victim can become the wrongdoer as in the case of Mossad of the “The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, otherwise known as the Mossad, has been appointed by the State of Israel to collect information, analyze intelligence, and perform special covert operations beyond its borders.”(About Us n.d.) This organization was founded to track down enemies of the State of Israel after World War II (Nazi war criminals). This was a case where the formerly victimized became the wrongdoer in an attempt to punish the original wrongdoer. This becomes difficult to define who is more responsible for the wrongdoing, the original wrongdoer or the victim/wrongdoer.
Another potential gray area would be the mitigating circumstances behind the wrong doing. One example is instrumental justification or “the claim that working for the oppressive regime was a necessary condition for being in a position to work against it.”(Elster 2004, 149) It may be difficult to determine if a wrongdoer was partaking in wrong doing for any personal motivations outlined above or it they believe that the only way to work against the wrongdoer was by working with the wrongdoer.
Without wrongdoers there would be no victims; however it can be difficult to identify who was the wrongdoer and who was the victim. As this essay has demonstrated, victims can potentially become wrongdoers and in some cases the wrongdoer may have (or believe he has) a justification for being part of the wrongdoing.
Elster, Jon. Closing the books: transitional justice in historical perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
"About Us." Israel Secret Intelligence Service. http://www.mossad.gov.il/Eng/AboutUs.aspx (accessed July 27, 2012).