It’s interesting to try to see things through a lens of mimetic theory. This is just a fancy way of saying that human/communal behavior is based around a cycle of these three phases:
Communal desire - a group of people forming and growing who all want the same thing
Rivalry - the group reaching a point where they start fighting over that thing
Scapegoating - the herd finding one person/group at the margins to blame for the herd’s rivalry and killing/ousting them to bring temporary harmony before the cycle starts again
I’m always looking for who the scapegoat is in a certain situation.
(BTW, and this is no partisan statement: Our president’s “success” is based on his ability to shamelessly scapegoat groups of folks who live just outside the margins of his base.)
Right now, I’m seeing the mouths of people in my peer group (white middle-class progressives and liberals) foaming with vitriol against a couple of different types of folks at the moment.
Quick side-note: What’s interesting about a scapegoat is that in order for the scapegoat to be a scapegoat, those who scapegoat the scapegoat can’t see this person/group as a scapegoat but rather as a true enemy.
And so, I saw myself HATING a couple of types of someones just a week or so ago...
People who don’t follow “social distancing” (totally bad terminology, btw, but we talked about that yesterday) rules drawn out by medical professionals.
People who hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
My inner dialogue went like this: I mean, what the hell?! Why are Sharon and Linda who live in the giant homes across the street buying all of the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, canned foods, and oat milk?! Now the people who need them most can’t buy them.
And listen to the doctors, for Chrissakes! Stay home! Wash your damn hands! Stop touching your face! My wife and I are doing it, why can’t you?! We can work from Zoom and homeschool our daughter and order groceries online without too much trouble. We’re PRime members! Why isn’t everyone a Prime member?! I mean, seriously, it’s just for a few weeks - but maybe we should do this for months! Whatever it takes, we should just. Do. It.
But then it dawned on me a few days ago… Wow… There are a lot of folks who CAN’T do what we do…
Maybe they literally CAN’T afford to NOT go in and stock the shelves at the grocery store they work at.
Or maybe they’ve just laid off an entire crew of lovely people after years of building a company based on high morale and now they have to go NOT STAY AT HOME in order to maintain what’s left of their business so they can those lovely people back when this thing lifts.
Or maybe they’re a single mother (or a married one whose husband is drunk, absent, and/or abusive) with three kids who are all at home with pent up energy and all kinds of emotions who can’t neatly unpack groceries like that crafty little YouTube video shows us to do it.
I could go on with examples… And I fully get it, we don’t want this thing to spread. We all have to do what we can and I’m thankful for folks who are helping others keep this thing contained.
The essence of what I’m saying is that it isn’t so easy for a LOT of people to follow the pandemical purity laws that are being set into place. And a lot of those folks are being scapegoated right now.
Of course, people are idiots. My wife saw a group of teenagers out playing tackle football in the park yesterday. People are still hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and LaCroix.
Humans have always been and will always be irrational fear-based creatures. We’re mortal and we’re all terrified of dying miserable deaths. All of us.
I’m not saying that those we’re scapegoating are right and they should just keep doing what they’re doing. I’m just saying that by scapegoating them, we harden our hearts and lose our humanity because we de-humanize them.
They say that the ego speaks first and it speaks the loudest. This is what we’re seeing now. People have been scrambling and doing what they can to retain what little control of this shitty situation they can. We’re all doing this and we all have different ways of looking at the world and our situation. We also have different socio-economic means and levels of privilege that drive us.
I hope the voice of the survival-based ego subsides and a bigger, wider, and more expansive voice starts to emerge in the human heart.
Let’s see who we’re scapegoating right now. This turns both us and them (whoever the ‘them’ is for you and your group) back into humans under the same restraints that only appear different.
Grace & Godspeed,