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Scapegoats

Siúil a Rúin

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In every society there seems to be a person designated as the scapegoat. That is, one who bears the blame of others. On the Day of Atonement the ancient Hebrews would take a live goat over whose head Aaron confessed all the sins of the children of Israel. "The goat, symbolically bearing their sins, was then sent into the wilderness." Because of the history of the term, it is especially appropriate when discussing this process of projecting the potential faults of a society onto the least capable individual, thereby ensuring that all members have the security of superiority.

In other societies we have the witchhunt, the village idiot, the celebrity tabloids. It appears to be a process by which the members of the society project their own fears and inadequacies onto a mutually designated individual. Perhaps by having a common enemy to ridicule, the group finds common ground that otherwise would not exist. What is especially fascinating to me is the evolution of the individual to respond to this peer pressure and 'become' the witch or the village idiot. It is a sort of degradation of the individual. When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.

It happens on online forums consistently - almost to the point of being agonizingly predictable. Why? Why do people participate in it? Is it a means to correct a problem? Does focusing energy and attention on a scapegoat lessen their impact on the society or does it make their behavior more prevalent? It actually appears that this process of scapegoating someone is nurtured and fostered with great focus and energy. That is why the question is so compelling to me. What is your take on this process, both online and in virtually every society?
 

disregard

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=When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.
This happens in almost every situation--abusive relationships, teacher/student relationships, parent/child relationships, peer-to-peer relationships (peer pressure) are the ones that come to mind.

I've never felt compelled to blame a scapegoat. I entertain the likelihood that there are two sides to every story, and there are countless factors that play into what you are witnessing.
 

Geoff

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In every society there seems to be a person designated as the scapegoat. That is, one who bears the blame of others. On the Day of Atonement the ancient Hebrews would take a live goat over whose head Aaron confessed all the sins of the children of Israel. "The goat, symbolically bearing their sins, was then sent into the wilderness." Because of the history of the term, it is especially appropriate when discussing this process of projecting the potential faults of a society onto the least capable individual, thereby ensuring that all members have the security of superiority.

In other societies we have the witchhunt, the village idiot, the celebrity tabloids. It appears to be a process by which the members of the society project their own fears and inadequacies onto a mutually designated individual. Perhaps by having a common enemy to ridicule, the group finds common ground that otherwise would not exist. What is especially fascinating to me is the evolution of the individual to respond to this peer pressure and 'become' the witch or the village idiot. It is a sort of degradation of the individual. When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.

It happens on online forums consistently - almost to the point of being agonizingly predictable. Why? Why do people participate in it? Is it a means to correct a problem? Does focusing energy and attention on a scapegoat lessen their impact on the society or does it make their behavior more prevalent? It actually appears that this process of scapegoating someone is nurtured and fostered with great focus and energy. That is why the question is so compelling to me. What is your take on this process, both online and in virtually every society?

Is it not a logical end result of the human tendency to be tribal?

Tribalism exists, forms and reforms at all levels of human society and interaction. Witness how a family closes ranks when one of them is insulted, how an area resists a challenge by another, how a country stands with a continent, how the whole race would unite when challenged by an alien threat. Look how families, and races, and nations all look for ways to badge as what we are... tattoos, flags, colours, attitudes, shared religions, beliefs, cultural memes.

It is part and parcel of what we are. Although it makes us strong, helps us survive and prosper, it results in so many evils, racism...the lives of 10 citizens being worth more than 1000 foreign citizens (just watch the news for that to be confirmed in the public perception).

Anyway, enough of the tribalism summary. Tribalism creates scapegoats - it badges people as different. Different is to be rejected, difference is "out of the tribe". Our desire for tribal acceptance is what leads us to join the herd, as one is formed, on an outsider.

My conclusion therefore is that we gain psychologically more personally by joining the "tribe" that forms as an excluder group around a scapegoating, than we personally lose by rejecting them. This is further enhanced by our fear, if we do not join the tribe, that we too will be without tribe and scapegoated.
 

Siúil a Rúin

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toonia said:
What is especially fascinating to me is the evolution of the individual to respond to this peer pressure and 'become' the witch or the village idiot. It is a sort of degradation of the individual. When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.
This is interesting. What does it look like? How does it play out?

It's a complex interplay, but it has to do with putting them on the defensive to such an extent as to warp their natural behavior. Societies tend to be perceptive enough to attack the person at some of their vulnerable spots, but also tend to exaggerate these. When the person becomes engulfed in their vulnerabilities they lose themselves.

It has to do with undermining the person's self confidence and sense of worth. It is that self-respect that allows us to be our best, most thoughtful, funny, attractive, whatever. Attacking someone's vulnerable spots, exaggerating those criticisms is the most direct path to undermining the person.

Growing up I lived in over a dozen states in the U.S. and was continually exposed to different societies. It gives a unique perspective because each has different expectations of you. It takes tremendous backbone to stay true to yourself regardless of this tendency for humans to peck someone to 'death' like a bunch of mindless chickens. In high school I deliberately befriended the scapegoats publically to make people uncomfortable and question the underlying social assumptions. By listening to these 'scapegoats' then and now, an entirely new side to them is revealed. Seeing that contrast between who they are as the scapegoat and who they are when respected is a profound experience.

Even though this process has its roots in tribalism and can be explained, isn't the fact that we have enough of a frontal lobe to be able to examine it abstractly reason enough to question its validity? The benefits of tribalism are clear, however, I've managed primarily w/o it and have no regrets. Why give up part of yourself for the sole purpose of demeaning another human being? How does that not demean oneself?
 

Geoff

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Even though this process has its roots in tribalism and can be explained, isn't the fact that we have enough of a frontal lobe to be able to examine it abstractly reason enough to question its validity? The benefits of tribalism are clear, however, I've managed primarily w/o it and have no regrets. Why give up part of yourself for the sole purpose of demeaning another human being? How does that not demean oneself?

I quite agree. The trick will be convincing the other members of your species that demeaning others is demeaning in itself.

You will also need to find enough of them who use enough of their frontal lobe on such matters.

This stuff is endless reinforced, like you say, by experience and also by experimental evidence. Look what happens if you set up an experimental prison and put one "tribe" as the guards and one as the prisoners. The scapegoating happens very quickly, and even with everyone knowing that it is pretend, it quickly gets out of hand.

We seem hardwired for this.

-Geoff
 

Totenkindly

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What is especially fascinating to me is the evolution of the individual to respond to this peer pressure and 'become' the witch or the village idiot. It is a sort of degradation of the individual. When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.

I don't find that part very surprising:

1. It takes a very strong and self-confident (and experienced) person to believe in their own beliefs, when everyone else is telling them they are wrong and/or are attempting to cast them in a certain role. Remember that this is not just a direct thing ("you are such-and-such"), but every interaction with that individual assumes and tacitly pushes them into that role, and they would have to actually reject the framework of ANY interaction with others. This is nearly impossible if they are too young to have experienced the ability to see multiple frameworks and step from one to another.

2. Whether or not the attention is positive, it is still attention, and a previously ignored/unappreciated person at least finds purpose and meaning in the role of the scapegoat. They have people's attention. And a "witch" (as opposed to a pure scapegoat) is even more likely to feel powerful; they are set apart, they are given respect, they have CONTROL that they would have not otherwise had, a mystique. The role of the witch is actually a powerful one in those communities; they're alternate pathways to power.

3. The same thing goes hand-in-hand with #1, that the person -- even if their role is positive -- is still being given purpose, definition, and a role in the society. They have inherent purpose and meaning, as a scapegoat.
 

Geoff

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I don't find that part very surprising:

1. It takes a very strong and self-confident (and experienced) person to believe in their own beliefs, when everyone else is telling them they are wrong and/or are attempting to cast them in a certain role. Remember that this is not just a direct thing ("you are such-and-such"), but every interaction with that individual assumes and tacitly pushes them into that role, and they would have to actually reject the framework of ANY interaction with others. This is nearly impossible if they are too young to have experienced the ability to see multiple frameworks and step from one to another.

2. Whether or not the attention is positive, it is still attention, and a previously ignored/unappreciated person at least finds purpose and meaning in the role of the scapegoat. They have people's attention. And a "witch" (as opposed to a pure scapegoat) is even more likely to feel powerful; they are set apart, they are given respect, they have CONTROL that they would have not otherwise had, a mystique. The role of the witch is actually a powerful one in those communities; they're alternate pathways to power.

3. The same thing goes hand-in-hand with #1, that the person -- even if their role is positive -- is still being given purpose, definition, and a role in the society. They have inherent purpose and meaning, as a scapegoat.

What you are talking about is a "positive" enhancement of the individual as the scapegoat.. the power and attention, the control, the purpose.

This is quite different from toonia's line.. that the scapegoat is depreciated and disrespected. I accept her version, I am not sure I've ever seen yours. The closest would be that I have seen the scapegoat get increasingly noisy and disaffected, but I don't think they gain power as a result.

Agree? Disagree?

-Geoff
 

Totenkindly

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What you are talking about is a "positive" enhancement of the individual as the scapegoat.. the power and attention, the control, the purpose.

This is quite different from toonia's line.. that the scapegoat is depreciated and disrespected. I accept her version, I am not sure I've ever seen yours. The closest would be that I have seen the scapegoat get increasingly noisy and disaffected, but I don't think they gain power as a result.

I think it's the same thing as "negative attention" -- we see the pattern in kids who, if they cannot get positive attention, will settle for negative. Attention is still attention.

And, depending on the sort of "punishment" reserved for the scapegoat (which could be anywhere from death at one extreme to a less-odious "notoriety" at the other, some people who have no other options to them or could not fit in in another way will find whatever positivity they can in their position.

Perhaps I was thinking more of the "witches" in this sense, but you still see it happen. And there's obviously a psychological component where a person who feels inadequate and mocked/rejected will offer to be the pure sacrifice for their community (whether literal sacrifice or figurative) and thus invent meaning for their lives.

Or maybe I read too much dramatic literature. :)

In any case, it depends on the scenario and the culture.

heck, even Jesus was the equivalent of the "scapegoat" for his culture at the time -- or, rather, the "scapegoat" in old Judaism was a precursor for him.
 

Geoff

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I think it's the same thing as "negative attention" -- we see the pattern in kids who, if they cannot get positive attention, will settle for negative. Attention is still attention.

And, depending on the sort of "punishment" reserved for the scapegoat (which could be anywhere from death at one extreme to a less-odious "notoriety" at the other, some people who have no other options to them or could not fit in in another way will find whatever positivity they can in their position.

Perhaps I was thinking more of the "witches" in this sense, but you still see it happen. And there's obviously a psychological component where a person who feels inadequate and mocked/rejected will offer to be the pure sacrifice for their community (whether literal sacrifice or figurative) and thus invent meaning for their lives.

Or maybe I read too much dramatic literature. :)

In any case, it depends on the scenario and the culture.

Right! Actually... on further reflection, stockholm syndrome may have a place here in the dynamic. The scapegoat accepts the role, and the attention is one they crave, despite it being torture of the person's self worth/being/soul.

-Geoff
 

Lookin4theBestNU

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I have befriended many 'scapegoats' in my time, being the typical NF in such regard. My experience/insight has been different though when I spent time getting what I tend to believe the reasoning as to why they seem to conform to the expectations of such. I am currently studying one such person whom is 54 years old whom I consider to be my friend as I cannot help but study them. The underlying motivation from most of these people (including him) is intriguing to me. I have watched these people intently and it appears through statements they make upon digging deeper they find satisfaction and meaning in 'playing the victim'. I have seen it appear as excuses for never "making it" out in the real world once they become adults. I wouldn't say that I was technically ever a 'scapegoat' however I identify with those who are "strong" in a sense. I realized at an early age that I was indeed different in some way. I could never when I was young quite get to where I wanted to be socially. After some maturation I felt a sense of comfort/self acceptance in being different and unique. I would say that it has been unsettling as of late to talk with other another ENFJ, in a sense it scrambles my identity though I am not sure that I can explain that.
 

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For whatever reason (tribal/power dynamics) there is scapegoating, and on this board I wish it would stop. It's ugly. It upsets me (as little else does). Not to say that one can't critique another's post or simply dislike another, but shouldn't there be a line draw at sustained attacks?

Should one complain to the Mod.s?

offtopic: :) Lookin4theBestNU, I like your new quote.
 

Geoff

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For whatever reason (tribal/power dynamics) there is scapegoating, and on this board I wish it would stop. It's ugly. It upsets me (as little else does). Not to say that one can't critique another's post or simply dislike another, but shouldn't there be a line draw at sustained attacks?

Should one complain to the Mod.s?

offtopic: :) Lookin4theBestNU, I like your new quote.

Yes. If you feel you or someone else are being victimised, we'd rather know. We don't see everything, and every post, due to having our lives to live. Wait a minute...of course we see them all, not having other lives.

But, tell us anyway, please.
 

Siúil a Rúin

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This happens in almost every situation--abusive relationships, teacher/student relationships, parent/child relationships, peer-to-peer relationships (peer pressure) are the ones that come to mind.

I've never felt compelled to blame a scapegoat. I entertain the likelihood that there are two sides to every story, and there are countless factors that play into what you are witnessing.
Good thoughts. :party2:

It is fascinating the parallels that can be drawn between so many different types of relationships. Even though people are diverse, there are basic principles that influence us in many different contexts.
 

SolitaryWalker

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In every society there seems to be a person designated as the scapegoat. That is, one who bears the blame of others. On the Day of Atonement the ancient Hebrews would take a live goat over whose head Aaron confessed all the sins of the children of Israel. "The goat, symbolically bearing their sins, was then sent into the wilderness." Because of the history of the term, it is especially appropriate when discussing this process of projecting the potential faults of a society onto the least capable individual, thereby ensuring that all members have the security of superiority.

In other societies we have the witchhunt, the village idiot, the celebrity tabloids. It appears to be a process by which the members of the society project their own fears and inadequacies onto a mutually designated individual. Perhaps by having a common enemy to ridicule, the group finds common ground that otherwise would not exist. What is especially fascinating to me is the evolution of the individual to respond to this peer pressure and 'become' the witch or the village idiot. It is a sort of degradation of the individual. When the society you belong to finds you funny, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, whatever, it is a powerful subconscious motivator to live up/down to the expectation. I have seen it a thousand times and have experienced it.

It happens on online forums consistently - almost to the point of being agonizingly predictable. Why? Why do people participate in it? Is it a means to correct a problem? Does focusing energy and attention on a scapegoat lessen their impact on the society or does it make their behavior more prevalent? It actually appears that this process of scapegoating someone is nurtured and fostered with great focus and energy. That is why the question is so compelling to me. What is your take on this process, both online and in virtually every society?

Scapegoats are usually a consequence of our drive for self-affirmation. When we are denied what we want, it is usually easier for us to blame someone else for our mishaps as opposed to explore the possibility of us having failed at a task due to our own short-comings.

This tends to be common in human behavior. Not sure if I could say that this is immanent within our nature, but very many of us do have proclivities towards that. Extroverts more than introverts. As we can notice that they tend to be Extrapunitive as respectively to their natural outward focus, whereas Introverts intrapunitive.
 

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A scapegoat is selected due to being seen as slightly inferior to begin with, for whatever reason that is, or in the case of the origins, this was something they heaped everything they didn't want in the group upon, then removed it from the group.

I think you're seeing the effect of a group dynamic that is part of the self-healing nature of groups, where nonconformists are pushed out of the tribe for the sake of tribal coherence. It isn't scapegoating, it's more like circling the wagons and when one is damaged to the point of not being useful, you push it out and move the others to tighten up that location, or replace it with another wagon.

Effective groups need sufficient similarity, common goals, common culture, or some other commonality to thrive.

Back to the scapegoat: It's much like pushing something out of the circle, only pushing some aspect, which may or may not be true, on a particular thing/person, then pushing them out to cover the inadequacies of others in the group.
 

SolitaryWalker

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A scapegoat is selected due to being seen as slightly inferior to begin with, for whatever reason that is, or in the case of the origins, this was something they heaped everything they didn't want in the group upon, then removed it from the group.

, .

I can grant that claim, as again, it is clear that one need to be slightly 'inferior' in order to be bullied. On the social-emotional level, he would be excluded from the group, yet as far as the external formalities are concerned, he would remain on the inside, as it would be deemed by others that he serves a desired purpose.

But again, whoever the current scapegoat is, it is not always the case that he was once a member of the group and is now ousted. A scapegoat can easily be a rival.

This is where demonization comes in, which I'd argue is scapegoating also.


For example, in George Orwell's animal farm, Snowball(he was supposed to symbolize an emeny of Stalin) was blamed for the missing crops, when in reality it was a weather-related mishap. So scapegoat could be used as an explanation for the maladies the community has been afflicted with.

In the present day we could see an example of this in Israel, where the natives falsely blame the Palestinians for many of the problems the nation has incurred.
 

Siúil a Rúin

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Effective groups need sufficient similarity, common goals, common culture, or some other commonality to thrive.
What's interesting is that based on my background and mindset, the only type of group I desire to be part of is a diverse one. These are generally larger, more formal than the tribal group. Large metropolitan areas, large universities, professional organizations, etc. function with a set of formal guidelines that apply to all impersonally. They tend to examine the basic common denominators needed by all. Diversity creates a different type of interpersonal boundaries than the tribal group. It creates a hands-off mentality that requires objectivity and tolerance in order for cooperation to exist. It focuses on finding specific commonalities for specific goals, rather than attempting to make everyone's behavior uniform.

This increased tolerance of diversity is where humanity needs to lean in order to survive as a global village. Of course people will form myriads of small tribes in churches, communities, etc., but w/o isolation from the rest of the world, the ability to think with a different set of social boundaries will be necessary. Would this negate, or at least minimize, the need for scapegoating?
 

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What's interesting is that based on my background and mindset, the only type of group I desire to be part of is a diverse one. These are generally larger, more formal than the tribal group. Large metropolitan areas, large universities, professional organizations, etc. function with a set of formal guidelines that apply to all impersonally. They tend to examine the basic common denominators needed by all. Diversity creates a different type of interpersonal boundaries than the tribal group. It creates a hands-off mentality that requires objectivity and tolerance in order for cooperation to exist. It focuses on finding specific commonalities for specific goals, rather than attempting to make everyone's behavior uniform.

This increased tolerance of diversity is where humanity needs to lean in order to survive as a global village. Of course people will form myriads of small tribes in churches, communities, etc., but w/o isolation from the rest of the world, the ability to think with a different set of social boundaries will be necessary. Would this negate, or at least minimize,
the need for scapegoating?


From this we could reasonably conclude that encouragement of mindless conformity is responsible for much of scapegoating that we observe in society, and it would be congenial to see it decline.

Yet again, this will only take care of one specie of scapegoating. At that point we still have done nothing about scapegoating that results from 'bullying' and scapegoating of enemies.(Both of these stem from our need to seek self-affirmation)

I suggest that those problems can be rectified only from within. If we make it a point to avoid appeasing our tendencies to give affirmation to the self we will not have the problem of scapegoating because of bullying. And we will not have a problem of scapegoating in relation to racism (as depicted by George Orwell's allegory where Snowball was accused of stealing crops from the Farm in the Animal Farm)..Essentially... the problem of scapegoating... like many other problems with human behavior stems from our tendency to seek self-affirmation.. We have to go all the way down to the root for the most efficient remedies..
 

Totenkindly

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This increased tolerance of diversity is where humanity needs to lean in order to survive as a global village. Of course people will form myriads of small tribes in churches, communities, etc., but w/o isolation from the rest of the world, the ability to think with a different set of social boundaries will be necessary. Would this negate, or at least minimize, the need for scapegoating?

It's an interesting conundrum.

When the small established groups must vie for power (i.e., their success in getting what they want is dependent on them having some sort of control over others, or they end up being infringed upon or being controlled in some way), then the "scapegoat" effect is generalized to include ALL members of the offending group. [i.e., "Bleeding-heart Democrats have ruined the country" or "Republicans are all warmongering bastards", etc.]

Yet, if the groups do NOT have to fight for dominance within the culture, what we generally see is isolationsim. They are very content to exist within their own little boundaries and basically ignore the other groups... which prevents a cohesive instructive culture from being formed, they simply have their own little pocket fiefdoms.

What usually happens, at best, in that sort of scenario (where no group *has* to establish dominance in order to survive or get its way) is that a few independents/wanderers are capable of moving from group to group and included as pseudo-members -- and thus the best potential for change from outside influences comes from these pseudo-members, who are like bees pollinating flowers as they buzz around the social/cultural landscape.
 
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