is a side-effect of the use of Victim mentality as a tool for acquiring and maintaining power as well as compelling action.
Victim mentality is an acquired (learned) personality trait
in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the
negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that
were the case - even [in] the absence of clear evidence.
It seems to be much easier to unite people against a common enemy than in favor of a common good. That fact is not lost on those who seek power. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is an ancient proverb developed independently around the world.
We see it used today by politicians of all affiliations. We see "us little guys vs. those big bad guys" as a prevalent theme in music and storytelling. We see it in marketing, on TV, and in movies.
There are probably evolutionary (safety in numbers) and possibly cultural (weak overtake the strong as a common theme in storytelling) factors that would explain why it works.
The first few posts in this discussion were very interesting and focused on the usage of victim mentality to compel and escalate aggression.
The target action doesn't have to be aggression though. It could be a vote or a purchase or something else.
of the phenomenon is actually the sum of so many divisions.
This will be easier to explain if I use the context of your example where nearly all students in the student body felt excluded from the student body.
A particular student, any student, is subjected to a thousand different potential "leaders" cutting him off from "the enemy" into smaller and smaller groups of victims.
Consider your average series of TV commercials: he is a student vs. an anti-education politician, he is a PC vs. a Mac, he is a Yankees fan vs. a Red Sox fan, a nerd vs. a jock, his race vs. other races, male vs. female...the list could continue forever.
The sum of all of these divisions, for many, leads to a feeling of exclusion from any and all groups and adoption of a victim mentality in future scenarios; even in scenarios in which he has not been cast as the victim and isn't, actually, a victim.
is simple, find a common enemy.
Kidding aside, I would promote independence and self-reliance. These are not the traits of a victim. They provide a confidence that counters the fear employed by the various groups that want you to feel victimized in order to compel you to action.
How you accomplish that, society-wide, when so many players and particularly those in power have a vested interest in undermining it, is a whole new discussion.
Awareness is also a powerful tool in combating any manipulation.
I did find a lot of discussions about "breaking out" of a victim mentality with regards to a single individual. Nothing with regards to a society.
There is quite a bit of psychological study of victim mentality. Sociological studies would also be interesting but I had trouble finding any. Cultural anthropology may be another field with relevant information. Victim mentality is sometimes called martyr complex and has other names.