Scapegoating has been used by human communities to restore harmony and achieve peace since the beginning of civilization. The problem with scapegoating is not the result – peace is a good thing – but with the method used to achieve it. The costs of that method are measured in endless cycles of human suffering.
The Hidden Costs of Scapegoating
Scapegoating works by hiding the victim’s suffering so that scapegoaters never realize just how awful a deed they have done. With the suffering hidden, scapegoaters can continue to do harm while never doubting their own goodness or their victim’s guilt.
Someone to Blame
How is the suffering hidden? For scapegoating to occur, a community must agree on a target who can be blamed for anything that goes wrong. Sometimes a community just needs someone to BE wrong all the time, so they can know they are right. It really doesn’t matter if the person is actually guilty or wrong, as long as everyone agrees on it. That agreement allows the community to act against the scapegoat and feel justified. They can hate, abuse, ridicule, neglect, expel, wound or kill the scapegoat and actually experience feelings of joy and well-being afterward. Because the scapegoaters believe in the guilt of their scapegoat so completely, they are blind to the scapegoat’s suffering.
If You Have a Scapegoat, You Don’t Know It
No one wants to be a scapegoater. It’s an awful thing and we all know that. But the tricky thing about scapegoating is that if you are doing it, you are absolutely blind to it. What you think you are doing is being good by standing up against injustice or evil. You absolutely believe that you are right and the one whom you are scapegoating is no innocent victim at all, but someone who deserves to be hated. So how do you know if you are really standing up to injustice or just torturing some innocent victim?