Scapegoating and Social Violence

Violence in Ferguson, MO

Violence in Ferguson, MO

The violence in Ferguson shakes up a whole nation and we immediately look for people to blame.

That’s the problem.

The mark of Cain in the human condition is that we always, instinctively look for someone to blame: someone else. Anyone else.

If there is a problem on an individual level or community level we become defensive, justify ourselves and seek to shift the blame.

It’s there in that most profound of stories–the Garden of Eden.

Father God: Adam. Did you eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Adam: The woman made me do it.

Father God: Eve?

Eve: The devil made me do it.

Bingo. There it is. Right at the beginning.

The need to blame lurks like a dark shadow in the heart of man, and when blaming does not solve the problem the person doing the blame does not come back to blame themselves, but continues the cycle of blame.

The need to blame becomes more urgent. The evil of the other person or group of persons being blamed becomes greater in the blamer’s imagination.

A scapegoat is found, and that person or group become the focus of all evil. Everything is their fault. Everything evil is laid at their feet, and once they become the locus and focus for evil it is not long before they can be destroyed, and not only destroyed, but the blamer will feel good for doing so.

All the evil is placed upon the scapegoat and then the scapegoat can be destroyed–and if the scapegoat is destroyed through violence even better for the violence has always been lurking within the blaming mechanism.

The violence has always been seeking a way of expression. The violence, by its very nature, needs to be vented and needs to be directed towards someone or some group.

This is the underlying cause of social violence. It has little to do with the police killing an unarmed man. It has everything to do with the underlying cycle of blame that lies at the depth of society and therefore at the depth of a multitude of human hearts.

Who is to blame? The rich people say the indigent poor are to blame. The poor say the greedy rich are to blame. The blacks say the whites are to blame. The whites say the blacks are to blame. The Jews blame the Palestinians. The Palestinians blame the Jews. The Protestants blame the Catholics. The Catholics blame the Protestants. The young blame the old. The old blame the young. The men blame the women. The women blame the men.

You see how it goes.

In the end, who is to blame?

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