Facing 2015: Some old and new ideas



Dr. Scapegoat feels obliged to reiterate what we all know. Scapegoating is alive and well as never before. There are so many areas of the world, so many nations and corporations, so many political and family system, where this well understood process holds sway.  As 2014 draws to a close, there is little evidence of a concerted effort to face up to the small and large catastrophes we all create by overtly participating in creating victims or just looking away. All of us.

Scapegoating is a human species addiction. It began in our very earliest moments and was certainly handed to us by our primate ancestors. We’re very good at it: seeking out useful scapegoats/blaming others/ “passing the buck.” As I’ve discussed in posts through the years, there are advantages to many members of the group who scapegoat. We gain resources, power, and prestige at the expense of those that we expel and weaken. We gain group homogeneity which helps us feel competent in many group tasks though rarely the most creative ones. And, paradoxically, the scapegoat, we, may gain as well, that is if we survive and are not crippled by becoming victims. We may feel free of constrains, more able to create our own life and even a new world around us. But the dangers and trauma of both roles, scapegoat and scapegoater, always overweigh any of these gains. Eventually.

Recent knowledge about scapegoating dynamics may help though combating scapegoating requires moving insight into action and sacrifice, a rare commodity in a world captivated by individualism. Social media may be a help as well. It alerts us to Ferguson, to honor killings, to ‘legalized torture’, and a variety of other classic scapegoating maneuvers. It certainly helps us to organize on line, and more rarely, in the field. But it also allows us to feel better about what we don’t actually do. An email or a tweet helps us believe we have done something important so we can go about our lives as if we have acted more meaningfully.

There needs to be new reflection leading to action, and strategy to go with the new knowledge and communication technology.   Three ideas (of many) for 2015.

1) We all need to take our ‘ interconnectedness’ much more seriously. We don’t really believe it. Climate is a good model for our denial and inaction. We behave as if we won’t be effected. We also act as if our actions help, the ones that make us feel better but do little to effect the problem  We can’t continue to act like Colonials, living off others pollution because we all are victims as well as perpetrators.

Interconnected means that every decision we make goes into a collective hopper with negative consequences, many unintended. I think this is because we dont carry our  analysis far enough. Why? Mostly  because we see that  it leads toward us! So we need to create  larger-than-comfortable decision trees and algorithms in all our decisions and actions.

Decisions usually are made in remarkably small systems. A scapegoating analysis of a larger system, such as climate change or war, must be complemented by intense analysis in the very small groups that move these behemoths. And these little systems–work groups, families, friendships et al  are the hardest place to make changes because we need them so much. It’s where we recognize how fragile and imperfect we are, but also how we enact our personal and collective shadows onto the world.

2) With more than seven billion people we have to re balance individual and collective thinking.  Human’s motivation and action is infinitely complex, rarely follows what we hope for ourselves, and require  infinite compassion for self and other. We are capable of  empathy in small doses but carrying that over to group and collectives is far more difficult. Group processes can seem seperated from individual behavior.  Scapegoating defines that denial. We rarely accept our complicity as self-serving individuals. It is because we so rarely sacrifice ourselves as individuals, even a little, that we end up being a part of the negative scapegoating dynamics of larger system.

3)  Lets reconsider our defenses against this complicity. for example we increasingly use  poetry and poetic language as comfort food to counter our pain and guilt around how we do scapegoat others. Verse about love and forgiveness (and truth, kindness and world peace) are great things but they must not become musak for our conscience.  Passionate closing benedictions can become selfie apologies devoid of real feeling or insight. We would all do better to keep these loving feelings and values in our hearts and minds rather than  using them as veils for the shadows we create around us.

Best wishes for the new year.

Dr. Scapegoat

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