Thoughts on the “defeated people syndrome” – the effects of being defeated

Here’s a thought I had:

In a recent conversation I said of some interesting things about “the South”.  This is the Confederate states of the Civil War, in the southeastern part of the U.S., also called ” the old south”.  For many of us, this part of the U.S. has always appeared a little different and even strange.  They seem to have these unique ways and mentalities that are not seen anywhere else.  I am no expert on “the South”, and wouldn’t say I knew a lot about it, but I have always thought there was something that I’ve never heard anyone else mention.  This is primarily that some of the character and mentality of “the South” originates from the fact that they lost the Civil War.  I tend to think that this plays a far bigger role than it seems.  Some of the things this caused, in “the South”, include things like:

  • They stick to their own unique ways and are unwilling to change
  • They are proud of their past
  • There is a tendency of rebellion
  • They are suspicious of foreigners, even people from different states
  • There is often a contempt or hatred of black people showing the effects of the Civil War (I tend to believe these feelings directed toward black people are not necessarily a “hatred because they’re black” but because they are a symbol of losing the Civil War . . . in other words, its less about race than people make it out as)

I’ve written of similar ideas in this article:  Thoughts on the effects of resentment by the South as a result for losing the Civil War, the effects of tribal mentality, the problem of democracy in social transition, and other things.

I then went on to say that the effects of a “defeated people” are far more important than it may seem.  In fact, it has great impact as when a people are defeated they it can hit them to the core of who they are, what they stand for, their identity, and value in the world.  As a result, being defeated is not a small thing that just “passes away” after a while.  Its effects can last for generations.  In fact, my inquiry is that the effects of being defeated could last centuries and may never leave a people.  I ended up calling this phenomena the “defeated people syndrome”.


In this article, I use the word “defeated” to mean that someone, or something, has overcome a people in some way and they must conform to its ways.  In other words, a people go from “they are determining their life and situation” to “something else is determining their life and situation”.  In this way, being “defeated” means that you no longer have “control” over your life, situation, or surroundings because something has imposed itself upon you and robed you of your “control” . . .  

“Control” and its Effects

This reveals the importance of “control”.  When I say “control” I mean that you are actively a part of your life, situation, and surroundings.  I do not mean it the context that you “are controlling things”.  In many ways, “control” means that you are “actively following what happens in life and playing a part” versus just “lounging about not caring whats going on about you”.  In this way, “control” can really be said to be a control of self, that one is controlling the fact that one is alert, awake, and open to ones surroundings.

As a result of this “control”, your life, situation, and surroundings become a part of you and who you are.  This reveals the fact that we, as people and human beings, are more than our individual self’s . . . our situation and surroundings are a big part of us.  Therefore, our association with them play a big part in who we are.  To have “control” of our situation and surroundings make us more than our individual self’s.  In a way, we become part of our “world” that is about us.  We as if develop a relationship with this “world”.  This causes something like an “expansion of self” which causes a number of things such as:

  • Pride
  • Purpose
  • Place
  • Meaning
  • Identity
  • Dignity
  • Integrity
  • Self-respect
  • Self-esteem
  • A sense of being a person
  • A sense of being a part of the world

These create what can probably be called a “self-honor”.


I would describe some qualities of “self-honor” as:

  • It is a reaction to ones action of association with world
  • It is personal and, accordingly, affects ones person deep down
  • It is a result of a relationship
  • It involves ones association with the world
  • It creates a confidence in that association

I tend to believe that “self-honor” shows that we instinctually need an active and good relationship with the world.  It hits very deep into ones soul, to the core of a person.  This is because, in many ways, “self-honor” is the result of the satisfaction of an instinct, of what can be described as the “instinct of being a person-in-the-world”.  In some sense, one could describe “self-honor” as an “establishment and confidence of the need for ones self to be in the world as an active and significant participant”.

When we do not have this we tend to be “cut low” and become like “half people”, so to speak.  This is exactly what “defeat” does.  In this way, “defeat” tends to disrupt an instinctual tendency.

I’ve written about “self-honor” in an article:  Thoughts on “self-honor” and the “instinct of being a person-in-the-world”

The Person versus Society

The main benefit of “self-honor” is on a personal level.  In other words, its a result of a personal relationship.  But, as part of this association with the world is the association with others . . . society.  This creates something like a dilemma:

  • A too strong of a social sense can undermine “self-honor” by taking away its personal quality.  In many ways, we could probably say that the first “defeat” of humanity is a larger and more controlling society and social system.  This robs a person of “self-honor” by depriving them of an association with world and making a person a “puppet to society”.
  • Society is often a good backdrop and foundation for a persons development and association with the world.  In this way, a persons self rests on a good society and culture which defines life, gives it meaning, and so on, allowing for a better and more personal relationship with the world.

These are as if diametrically opposed and contradict each other.  Not only that, society may help one person but impair another person.  In this way, society can be a source of “defeat” and of support.  This reveals a number of things:

  • “Defeat” is a social phenomena.  It has root in human society and is reflects the conflict between self and society.
  • “Defeat” is a human phenomena.  This more or less means that the only things that cause “defeat” is human-based.  A naturally tragedy, for example, does not cause the effects of “defeat”.  When one suffers “defeat” it is a result of something human.
  • Defeat” is not necessarily a defined and concrete thing.  It often depends on where you stand or look at things.  This can make “defeat” unclear and vague in some cases.

When a people are “defeated” by a foreign group of people they still suffer “defeat”, even though they may not understand them or their language.  This shows that if a people are “human” we see it as part of our society, even though they are alien to us and not formerly accepted as part of our society.  We may describe them as inhuman-like, perhaps as animals, but we still see them as people and, accordingly, as part of human society.  We could maybe call this an “extended human society sense”, that anyone “human-like” is inherently part of human society.  Because we see them this way anything they do is treated as if they are part of our society.  As a result, any defeat, conquering, or any similar thing entails the same phenomena and reactions that are found in ones society.  In this way, “defeat” is not a phenomena strictly a result of being conquered, enslaved, etc., by another people, but is a social phenomena found in human society.  In fact, my observation is that most “defeat” happens within a society and is not dramatic or violent.  Sometimes, its even called things like”progress” (of course, whether its progress or not often depends on where your stand).  Sometimes, it happens so gradually that one doesn’t even notice it!

Overall, though, it seems that “defeat” describes a conflict of person versus society.  In many ways, society tends to win, because of its power, but the human instinctual fight to maintain themselves (in “self-honor”) perseveres.  In this way, one could also say that”defeat” is a conflict between society and instinct. This shows that society clashes with instinct or, to be more precise, the instincts that create society clash with other human instincts.  Or, to put it another way, the instinct for society and the instinct that causes “self-honor” tend to clash.  

The Progression of “Self-Honor” and the Effects of its Disruption

There seems to be a progression to “self-honor”:

  1. The development of a people-to-world association with the world
  2. That this association creates a sense of “control”
  3. That this “control” creates a sense of respect or “honor” of ones self 

When a person is defeated this progression is upset.  Basically, defeat begins when a persons association with the world is prevented from happening.  This is because someone or something prevents it from happening.  As a result, the next stages do not take place and you lose “self-honor”.   

The association with the world is disrupted in a number of ways:

  • Ideologically – a peoples ideology and beliefs are replaced by another
  • Authority – a peoples authority is replaced by another
  • Organization – foreign ways are forced upon you that you can’t relate to
  • Physically – a people is forced to live a certain way

In “defeat” there is a change from an established and accepted association to an alien one.  This “alien” quality disrupts, impairs, or destroys a peoples association with the world because its not “a part of who they are”.  As I said above, in an active association with the world the world becomes a part of you, it becomes an extension of you, an “extension of self”.  A “defeat” is when something human and social comes that puts upon you an alien association with the world that is not a part of you.  As a result, the “extension of self” is destroyed.  It basically undermines an existing association and causes a lose of “self-honor”.  I often compare it to an “uprooting”.

The lose of “self-honor” causes things like:

  • Degradation of self.  You are “beaten down” or degraded in some way.  You become less than a person . . . an alienation of self.
  • There’s little or no bond between you and the world.  There is now something “in the way” of you and the world . . . a disconnect with the world.

In these ways, the loss of “self-honor” causes an impairment of self and ones association with world.  This causes many qualities associated with the “defeated people syndrome” (see below).

Being defeated

There are a number of ways people are “defeated”:

  • In a war . . . this is being “conquered”
  • In some dispute . . . such as having to change to someone else’s point of view
  • It is imposed upon you . . . such as that you are now required to do this or that
  • A change that happens gradually . . . such as a slow gradual change in way of life

As a result, defeat can take place in many different ways, from drastic to mild.  Naturally, the more dramatic the defeat the more of an effect it has.  This does not necessarily mean that it is long lasting.  Sometimes the gradual less dramatic defeats can have more impact.  It seems that what most matters if its long lasting or not is if its hits ones sense of being deep down, of who one is . . basically, ones sense of self-honor.  This has more impact than if its dramatic, violent, tragic, disastrous, etc.  If it hits that “sensitive nerve” then it will have more impact than if it doesn’t hit that”sensitive nerve”, even though it may be more dramatic and even tragic.

A defeat can appear in several ways:

  • Imposition . . . having to follow things that are alien to you
  • Ideologically . . . there’s a change in world perception, belief, explanation of world, etc.
  • Way of life . . . how one lives changes

One form of defeat is often called “oppression”.  This is a longstanding condition where someone or something has “control” over you in some way.  Its not a defeat by a situation, such as a war, but a defeat by a condition.  This could appear as a government forcing you to do something, a religious belief forced upon you, forced slavery, and such.  Oppression robs you of “control” just like any other form of defeat . . . it just appears differently.  In this way, it is a defeat.  But, nowadays, many people are professing that they are being oppressed when there is none.  What they are usually speaking of is an oppression that existed “yesteryear” and that no longer exists.  This is a form of fixation which plays a big role in this syndrome (see below).

In many ways, to be defeated means that one has to, or is forced, to change without things like:

  • An understanding of it
  • An acceptance of it
  • As something that is a part of who one is or ones culture

This causes something like a disconnect with themselves and their surroundings.  In this way, the “defeated” people often as if end up erecting a wall around themselves . . . the “wall of the defeated”.  This often does things like:

  • Tends to distance the people from the world around them
  • Makes them live in their own world
  • Makes them suspicious, paranoid, and frightened of the world outside

In this way, to be “defeated” means to become removed from themselves and the world, to be separated from them.

Some common causes of “defeat” include:

  • Being conquered by another people, whether by military force or other way
  • Having something imposed upon you, such as a belief system or some form of control
  • Conversions of some form, such as religious conversions
  • Conflicts, dilemmas, and other problems caused by too many people living in a small space . . . overpopulation
  • Being exposed to new ideas and beliefs, whether they are beneficial or not
  • The creation of organized societies, such as an Empire
  • The creation of some new things, whether they are beneficial or not
  • Living in an artificial way, such as having people or machines do things for you all the time

The effects of all this causes many qualities to develop . . .


The loss of the association with world, and “self-honor”, causes a number of qualities  such as:

Blindly Agreeing with the New Conditions

  • A tendency to side with the conquerors or people or situation that is in control
  • Blindly obeying the “powers-that-be”

In many cases, the easiest thing to do is to”just agree” or “go along” with things.  Oftentimes, this becomes something like a show or performance and hides how people really feel.  As a result, many defeated people have something like levels to their mentality that can often be contradictory.  For example, agreeing openly but disagreeing privately.

Desire for the Past

  • A desire of the return to former glory of the pre-conquest days
  • A worshiping of old ways
  • A continual inquiry into the past and the ways of the past

Some people will become very pre-occupied with older ways, wanting to revive them in some way.  I often think that this is an origin for an interest in a lot of history, of museums, reenactments, and so on.  Much of these things seem to have a lot to do with the “defeat” caused by the modern world.  I think it also creates an interest in things like survival, living “simply” or minimally, “off the grid”, hunting, and so on.

The Desire for Hope

  • They fabricate new things to worship
  • They worship anything that appeals to them
  • They easily believe in things
  • A worship of overcoming and overpowering things
  • Religious fanaticism

“Defeat” often leaves an emptiness inside.  As a result, many people will seek for some form of hope, whatever it may be.  Really, what many people really want is not believe but the “self-honor” that was lost in the “defeat”.  This, I suspect, is one reason why these attempts at belief and hope tend to fail.  They are actually not seeking them.

Seeking a New Direction

  • A tendency to look at another direction to go in life

The sense of “defeat” often prompts people to move or migrate somewhere.  In addition, it makes them change in some way, such as in a profession.

Bad Feelings about Self

  • A tendency of self recrimination and self accusation
  • Feelings of shame
  • Low self-esteem and self respect
  • A self-contempt

The conflict, and despair, of “defeat” can turn bad feelings toward ones self.  I’ve often wondered if the preoccupation with “sin”, that became so prevalent in the Middle East and figures so prominently in Christianity, originates from the overpopulation and conflicts that were happening before the birth of Christ.


  • A tendency to bicker and moan about things
  • A tendency to never be satisfied with things

It seems that, for some people, this becomes the only means to “vent” the effects caused by “defeat”.  They end up finding faults with everything.


  • A tendency to denial or refusal to accept situation
  • An inability to comprehend what happened
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Feelings that there are no answers

Some people can have a hard time digest “defeat”.  They don’t know how to view it or interpret it.

Finding Scapegoats

  • A tendency to blame, accuse, or claim someone else is at fault
  • A tendency to refuse to see themselves as the source of a problem
  • A tendency to see ones self as always innocent

Bad Feelings for Others

  • The worship of rebellion
  • A resentment, dislike, or bitterness
  • Desire for revenge
  • A tendency to hatred

A Loss of Control of Oneself

  • A tendency to anger and outrage
  • A tendency to violence
  • A tendency to drunkenness, drug abuse, and such

With the loss of “self-honor” a person loses self respect and can sink into a pit of despair which can make them do many things.


  • Always feeling threatened in some way
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of being vulnerable
  • A low self-esteem
  • Never being able to be happy

An Affinity for Causes

  • Becoming engrossed with revolutionary ideas and thinking

Identity Problems and Alienation

  • An uncertainty of who one is
  • An inability to adapt
  • A feeling of being removed from life
  • An apathy and lack of ambition

“Living in a Shell”

  • They erect a wall around themselves and their surroundings
  • They live in their own world
  • They become oblivious to the rest of the world
  • They become ingrained in their own mentality and points of views

Inability to Let Things Go

  • The defeat is something that’s always on their mind
  • They as if continually relive the defeat
  • They continually see life in the context of the defeat

Becoming Pigheaded

  • They only see their side of things
  • They are uncooperative

The Creation of Alternate Ways of Association with World

  • Creating philosophy to explain world
  • The pursuing of knowledge
  • Creating machines

Battle Trauma

  • If defeat comes as a result of war, or military action, the “defeated people syndrome” can take on qualities of battle trauma (I’ve written a number of articles about battle trauma in this blog)


Overall, I tend to feel that the “defeated people syndrome” has played major roles in society through the centuries.  In many ways, we can say that through the centuries humanity, as a whole, has been defeated so many times, and in so many different ways, that there are very few people in the world today who has not been defeated in some way.  This means that humanity, as a whole, is suffering from the “defeated people syndrome”, at least in some way.  One could even go further and say that its qualities define the modern world.  Perhaps we could say that humanity, as a whole, is now “defeated”.  Because this is the result of the accumulations of events, over centuries, we can speak of this as the “accumulated defeats of humanity”.  

There are many forms of this accumulated defeat:

  • Military defeats
  • Political defeats
  • Religious defeats
  • Ideological defeats
  • Defeats of ways of living . . . progress, development
  • Overpopulation and its effects
  • The effects of the greater controlling system of a large society

These accumulated defeats has caused many things such as:

  • It has affected how people behave and interpret things
  • It has affected peoples behavior and actions
  • Its effects has become a part of their identity

The effect of all this is that it has made defeat a way of life . . .


Many cultures, and peoples, have made defeat a way of life.  This means that they have made some of the traits of the “defeated people syndrome”, described above, a way of life.  As a result, it has become a source identity, of meaning, of how to live, as well as a character trait. 

Examples include:

  • The Jewish people . . . who turned Moses escape from the tyranny of Pharaoh into a religion
  • The British . . . who made the rebellion against the Norman Conquest an endless never ending cause for freedom against oppression that dominates British thinking
  • The U.S. . . . who have made the idea of independence, as a result of the American Revolutionary war against the British, as the primary motive of life
  • African Americans . . . who have made slavery into an ever present fact in their life, even though it doesn’t exist anymore

And the list goes on.

It seems that once defeat becomes a way of life it is hard for people to let go . . . it becomes too ingrained.  This is one reason why it has become so accumulative.

“Fixation on Defeat”

One of the things that is particularly apparent is that they seem as if “stuck” in the conflict and can’t let it go.  This is the “fixation on defeat”.  This refers to how a defeated people often cannot let the defeat go.  As a result, they are as if continually “living it” endlessly, generation after generation.  This can go on and on for centuries.  The best example I can think of are African Americans who are continually complaining about a problem that has not existed for centuries . . . slavery.  Its like they won’t let it go.  Another good example is the British with their continual worry over oppression and freedom.  That mentality originated with the Norman Conquest almost 1000 years ago!  This tendency to fixation is one of the reasons why there has been such an accumulation of defeat in humanity . . . one defeat builds on another.

The “Uprooted Dilemma”

It seems, to me, that this tendency to fixation seems related to “control” I described above.  Once they lose “control” they lose their “self-honor”.  This causes a disconnect with the world and with themselves.  In other words, a defeated people have became “uprooted” and are as if tumbleweeds blowing in the wind.  Their “uprooted” from themselves and the world.  Because of this “uprooting”, they cannot regain “control” and “self-honor”.  In other words, once a people are uprooted its hard for them to regain roots again.  They act like tumbleweeds in life, tumbling along.  I call this the “uprooting dilemma”.

Reliving the Defeat

As part of the “uprooting dilemma” they are as if forever stuck in the time when they suffered defeat and lost their “self-honor”.  Its almost like they are forever trying to relive it so they can carry on after that point.   In a way, they are trying to resolve the defeat by reliving it.  They interpret the world, and life, according to the defeat and their reaction to it.

The “Uprooted Way of Life”

Many people in the world, I feel, have been so uprooted by defeat that they have no roots at all.  In this way, there has developed an “uprooted way of life”.

Some qualities of this way of life include:

  • They tend to not believe in anything
  • They tend to not belong or associate themselves with anything
  • They tend to focus only on living day-to-day and what it entails
  • They tend to be shallow and have a shallow view of life
  • They tend to be preoccupied with trivial whims
  • They tend to have many qualities of the “defeated people syndrome” described above

Its like a bunch of people who are “moping along in life”, almost like lost children.  In many ways, the “uprooted way of life” describes a defeated people who have accepted it.

Solving the Fixation Problem???

Some things seem to have helped this fixation, such as:

  • Forgetting over time
  • New things

These do not describe a situation where the defeat is resolved.  Instead, it shows a situation where the defeat is as if replaced, by forgetting or something new.  It seems, to me, that very few “defeated peoples syndrome” are actually resolved.  That is to say, this is not a problem that has a solution.  It seems that the conflict continues on but in different ways:

  • It is continued by attitudes
  • It creates a world view based on defeat that affects how they interpret life
  • It is replaced by new defeats

The “New” as a Form of Defeat

One of the great illusions of a solution is the appearance of “new” things.  The “new” things give the illusion of resolving an existing defeat but they are often defeats in themselves and cause a whole new form of defeat syndrome.  In this way, a form of defeat is caused by “new” things.  This, in fact, is one of the great causes of defeat by the modern world.

The “new” does this a number of ways:

  • It replaces or alters ones association with the world
  • It starts to take “control”
  • It is not based in ones culture or belief system
  • It “came from nowhere”
  • It happens too rapidly

The effects of these is that it destroys ones “control” and “self-honor” just like any other form of defeat and causes the same qualities of the syndrome described above.  But the “new” has the quality of “novelty” which, in a way, gives the defeat a “pleasant” quality.  In this way, it creates a “pleasurable defeat” . . . one willingly offers ones self to it, oftentimes.

A lot of what is “new” is not created by a “people” but by things created by people.  One thing this shows is that defeat is not always by another people but they can also be caused by the creations of people.  A “new creation” can have as much effect as a conquering.  Of course, it has different qualities, such as that people generally are not killed, but it does the same thing.  In fact, I’m under the impression that the “new” is actually worse than a conquering because of things like:

  • It is often pleasing in some way
  • It is very controlling
  • It is a creation and does not have a human face

As a result of these, people are more likely to “buy it”, so to speak . . . they believe their own defeat!  In this way, the “new” is probably the worst form of defeat of all.


It often makes me wonder what people are like who have not been affected by the “defeated people syndrome”. The only people I can see who would not display this would be some primitive tribes.  I have never actually met those people though.

Living in the U.S. I see the effects of the “defeated people syndrome” everywhere I turn:

  • The country was founded on British principles of oppression and freedom originating from the defeat of the Norman Conquest
  • Most of the people who migrate to the U.S. are people who are defeated . . . that’s why they come here
  • The culture is fixated on defeat

Defeat is around every corner, in one form or another.

It makes me wonder how one can overcome this syndrome and its accumulated effects.  Personally, I don’t see how.  There’s a number of reasons why:

  • It seems too ingrained in things
  • Everyone displays its qualities
  • There are too many versions of it
  • Modern society is a society that inherently causes defeat
  • The problems of overpopulation just make it worse

It just seems to me that “defeat is everywhere” and there is no escaping it.


What all this seems to suggest to me is a number of things:

  • The importance of ones surroundings
  • The importance of ones control and participation in ones surroundings
  • The importance of the effects of ones control and participation in ones surroundings (the creation of self-honor)

It shows that our association with the world plays a major role in life, happiness, and contentment and affects our view of ourselves, our dignity, self-respect, etc.  When something takes that from us . . . such as defeat . . . it can affect us in negative ways.  

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Battle trauma, Dehumanization and alienation, Historical stuff, Identity and identity problems, Modern life and society, Overpopulation and its effects, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Society and sociology, The 'system', 'systemism', and the power structure, The military and war and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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