Are We Scapegoating Planet Earth?

Dear Dr. Scapegoat,
How do you correlate scapegoating with environmental destruction? Some people say that the feminine is on the rise in the 21st century? If this is truly happening and strengthening, how will that affect scapegoating? Is a world without scapegoating a utopia? Thank you for sharing your wisdom. — E

Ah E, you ask difficult questions which others with greater wisdom than Dr. S would have a difficult time answering. In my TEDx talk I mention humanity’s scapegoating of the environment as an ongoing and accelerating reality. It’s a strange idea, unless you accept my very broad definition of scapegoating, which includes targeting not only people but ideas, concepts, and the most all-inclusive reality of our beautiful and fruitful planet Earth.

The human group is entirely nurtured by Earth, but as a group of billions we both take it for granted and actively destroy it. That is, we are only just beginning to include its presence in our species’ decisions even though, like the proverbial elephant, it is always in the room with us.

Paradoxically, by this attitude we scapegoat ourselves, as well as most life on the planet. We and all life forms are more vulnerable than our host planet. But scapegoating groups always try to exclude the difficult and the creative. Nothing new here.

On this scapegoating blog I have noted that females are the most frequently scapegoated subgroups in our species and not just by males. We actively scapegoat nurturance and perhaps this is the link you are after in the second part of your question. I would like to hope that a resurgent feminine would change our attitude to the Earth. But I have rarely seen a group in which scapegoating isn’t a powerful presence. Still, healing our scapegoating fixation is my greatest hope, even if, as of right now, it appears Utopian indeed. — Dr. Scapegoat


  1. Hello E and Dr. S. The beginning of the end of Scapegoating may have been very clearly described by the Jewish mystic Jesus of Nazareth. Most of the stories he taught dealt with terminating Scapegoating violence, to the point of demonstrating its futility and unconscious source ( ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do).
    He was quite clear; without scapegoating violence, the ground we’ve built our civilization on crumbles. That’s what he meant by saying ‘ Behold, I take away the sin (scapegoating violence) of the world’ . He meant that through the memory of his innocent murder, we may see our folly and begin the long process of understanding this and building the world anew. He wasn’t Glib. Without scapegoating, which we all engage in, our very identity is taken away, and the fiery sword of imitative chaos is unleashed.
    I wonder how strange his early followers must have felt, scratching the surface of this knowledge, failing miserably to implement it, and later, even to recognize Him.
    So the end of Scapegoating is a conflagration, an end time.
    I wonder how we’re doing, in this time of trying to let go of our old culture building methods? Will we let go of our violent , falsely justified accusations?
    And what could replace that?
    In the time of Advent, and Hannukah, I wish us all a light in the darkness, that our darkness comprehends not!
    Sorry for the long windedness, I left so much out, for which I apologize, of the thinking of people who may have more substantial answers for you.

    • drscapegoat says:

      Mike: I will get back to you on all this. It goes to the heart of both our concerns. For the moment you should know that I’m talking in Seattle , second weekend of January for the friends of Jung there on scapegoating in which Dr. Girard is well reresented. I’m on to him!!!

  2. Mike Saatkamp says:

    Dr. Scapegoat,
    What a deep a rich and potentially fruitful site this is. for my participation, as long as it works for the group, I’d like to attempt to represent Scapegoating from Rene Girard’s literature. I will fail utterly in the attempt, but Dr. Girard’s thought is essential (I believe) to comprehending scapegoating violence.

    I said in the above post that the result of the end of scapegoating, at least initially, will be terrible violence. This, of course is a terrifying thought.

    As an introduction to Dr. Girard’s model, here are a few basic principles;

    1) People are imitative. This is a hard idea to digest here in the USA, where we step forward with such vigor, claiming individuality. Girard says this is not so, we are imitative to our core. Imitative in the way we talk, move, think, and most deeply, even our desires are imitations of the desire of others. While superficially dismissible, this idea carries force, especially in light of the emerging research on mirror neurons and attachment behavior.

    2) When our desires are triggered (by the perceived desire of another), envy and covetousness are generated, and imitative chaos follows. The social chaos that follows is intolerable, due to violence and quarreling.

    3) The social chaos becomes so vicious that eventually someone will be targeted with an accusatory gesture. ‘It’s the black guy’, or ‘It’s Sadaam Hussein’. The accusatory gesture aligns the attention of the group with lightening speed, and group coherence results.

    4) The scapegoat is violently murdered and the ensuing calm (from the coherent action of the group and absence of envy) leaves the the group feeling ‘Surely, God is with us, the real people.’ Peace is sustainable only as long as the dismembered scapegoat is recalled, and the blame for the previous chaos stably remembered and attributed to the scapegoat.

    Dr. Girard has demonstrated, I think convincingly, that this pattern of maintaining social structure through scapegoating is a worldwide phenomenon. He claims it is the basis of civilization, even in small groups of humans far back into antiquity. When the force of the accusatory gesture is diminished , presumably by exposure to wisdom, and in Girard’s view, to repeated exposure to the story of Jesus unjust murder and all of the acceptance of strangers he showed in his life, we are at risk. We have nothing on which to focus our attention when social chaos arises, and the gesture is not effective, at least not entirely. Perhaps we’re seeing this as when President Bush had difficulty getting public support for war in Iraq, even with massive promotion of his vile deeds, real and imagined.

    If anyone has any thoughts on this model, I would love to discus it, here or anywhere. The literature that Girard has explored is global in its observation, from Shakespeare, to the Bible, to Dostoyevsky. I personally take great heart, though I’m not precisely sure in what way, in seeing the link of scapegoating theory with the Gospels. If Girard is right, then the entirety of Jesus life was about the disentanglement from imitative violence. What a shock it must have felt like for his companions to understand this, how weird they must have felt. Well, anyway, it makes me feel weird too, though oddly centered and empty in the good way.
    Does Scapegoating underly the Shadow, in Jung’s terms?
    If scapegoating violence is what Jesus’ stories of acceptance (Lepers, prostitutes, Samaritans, murderers) were about, is this what his companions were ‘Saved’ from?
    Since this behavior is universal, can we see a solution, or integration, for global learning about it’s mechanical nature, and maybe the development of a little interior freedom for more people?

    I’ll shut up and see if anyone wants to counter or query.



  3. drscapegoat says:

    Mike : Girard is an important philosopher but the religious halo in his later work is suspect for many. Is he a “true believer?”
    Dr. S

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