Video from the Raven Foundation
The "Girard Effect" has been an idea/concept that has actually shaken our world. Yet many have not heard of him.
Girard said that our thought process are triangular or Memetic. We don't desire things in a straightforward way. We imitate and want things others want. Advertising and consumerism operate on these principles. Children want what the other child has and then we find ourselves as adults doing the same thing and then even further on the chain we have dictators and politicians doing this. This leads to conflict
Girard's thinking is a broad understanding of human nature, human history and human destiny. His controversial conclusion: Religion is not the cause of violence; it was, in ancient societies, a way of solving it.
People are social creatures, and their behavior is based on imitation. if we look around at our culture we see how even we have adopted and copied ways of speaking, ways of doing and thinking. Much of what we are as individuals is copied from our families and culture.
"We don't even know what our desire is. We ask other people to tell us our desires," he stated at a lecture at Stanford's Old Union. "We would like our desires to come from our deepest selves, our personal depths—but if it did, it would not be desire. Desire is always for something we feel we lack."
Envy and resentment are the inevitable consequences of this drive toward mimesis. ( The deliberate imitation of the behavior of one group of people by another group as a factor in social change). These emotions, in turn, fuel conflict; it occurs whenever two or more "mimetic rivals" want the same thing, which can go to only one. It might be a woman, a presidency or a research grant. Many religious and social prohibitions are designed to regulate and control such conflict.
"When we describe human relations, we lie," Girard said. "We describe them as normally good, peaceful and so forth, whereas in reality they are competitive, in a war-like fashion."
Within a culture/society such conflict seeks a release, and the chosen party is a scapegoat. A third party which is often an outsider, an immigrant, a woman, someone who is disabled or disfigured, a king or president is blamed and/or demonized for having caused the conflict. Yet Scapegoats are not seen as innocent victims; they are determined to be guilty the cause of the problem or conflict. The mob calls for a sacrificial victim as the mob itself creates a sense of normalcy and common ground.
"Joining the mob is the thing that people don't realize. They feel the unity but don't interpret it as joining the mob," Girard said.
The mob always prevails as the victim is killed, exiled, tortured or otherwise done away with. Rivals reconcile, and peace and unity are restored to the community.
"If you scapegoat someone, it's a third party that will be aware of it," Girad said. "It won't be you. Because you will believe you are doing the right thing. You will be either punishing someone who is guilty or fighting someone who is trying to kill you, but you are never the one who is scapegoating."
Video from Imitatio video
How does this relate to America today? Are we seeing scapegoating in our culture right now as we speak?
"The first culture which rebels against that system is the Jewish culture," Girard stated. Girard explains that the Bible is counter-mythical and over a period of time (centuries), the books of the Old Testament begin to interpret mankind's scapegoating mechanism. While the Old Testament describes and often celebrates violence, they eventually begin to question the mechanism start to fight it as well, often in opposition to God's will.
Many of the psalms "show a narrator who is surrounded by a crowd of good-for-nothings, who are trying to encircle him and turn him into a victim." The story of Job also is revealing: "It's a small community, but he's been the dictator for years. Everybody loves him, he does no one any harm". "One fine morning he wakes up, and everybody is against him. His three 'friends' are ready to explain how bad he is now. And everybody is ready to explain how bad he is at the same time. He has turned from the absolute hero to the scapegoat of the community. Job is like a long psalm and shows you what happens to communities. No myth will ever show you that."
Video from Word on Fire
The climactic and ultimate victimization was realized in the "Passion of Christ."
"Jesus accepts to be the victim, and we don't really know why," he said. "There, what the Gospel said is that it is God himself who has allowed all this scapegoating, and says, 'You can forgive me, since now I am ready to become your victim myself.'"
Thus, the world has arrived at a dangerous point, Girard said. The mechanism of scapegoating has been seen through; the escape valve is gone. War no longer "works" and no longer resolves mimetic rivalry among nations. While wars were once organized and carried out by states, concluding with a treaty and one side's defeat, now individual actors can instigate acts of war in a free-for-all. Moreover, the actors may insist on their own martyrdom to aggravate the conflict, rather than resolve it.
In modern Christian language when Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me,” he meant; be willing to lay aside your envy and anxiety about whether you’re better than the next person. The reality is there is nothing glamorous or desirable about dying on a cross.
It’s ugly, nasty, and completely foreign to our existence. When you’re willing to carry the Cross in public, you’re saying no to the culture of materialism, glamour, envy, and violence. You’re saying very loudly that I don’t care about all that stuff. So when we arrive at the point we are willing to carry it in public, as Jesus did, you’re a witness to the reality that the culture of glamour, envy, and violence has no power.
The life of the world then thrives and flourishes when people see that the culture of glamour, envy, and violence has no power.
Start now and learn to carry your Cross!
Rene Girard died November 4, 2015 at the age of 91.