2014-08-29

Mind the Scapegoats


The "scapegoat mechanism", as it has been theorized by René Girard (Violence and the Sacred, 1972), allows us to understand many phenomena in culture, but especially in politics-religion and morality. But it also offers a particularly useful tool for comparing, for measuring the degree of progress of a society, if this is possible at all. That may also be done by confronting the different modalities of sacrifices celebrated by different cultures. This exercise of comparison is particularly revealing when it comes to two confronted cultures, or better, when one of them is a colonizing civilization, which precisely legitimizes his aggression against the other appealing, more or less explicitly, to the old myth of the cultural superiority.

But, what if, instead,
we measured the degree of progress based on the "sacrificial mechanism"? What if the most advanced culture was actually that which had managed to develop these sacrificial rituals, to transform them into an almost harmless festival, into an almost entire symbolism? What if the most advanced was that which had managed to opportunely "waste" its surplus capital (Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, 1949) instead of launch it towards an endless cycle of reproduction, before it becomes too maleficent? What if the most advanced culture was actually the one that just managed to ward off its evil side, to expiate its guilt, instead of permanently transferring it outside its limits?

Image after Ed Kashi's camel ritual slaughter, Lahore (2010) [fu/fd] and Pete Souza/White House's Osama Bin Laden raid (2011) [fu/fd].