‘Tis the season for candor. Let’s talk about scapegoating … when your own inner turmoil reaches an unmanageable intensity, and at the same time, the members of your surrounding community each has a similar struggle … it is universal human nature that the group unanimously identifies someone outside the group as a perpetrator of evil (for some definition of evil). All the collective angst is directed at this demonized yet ultimately innocent victim. Only the specifics change. The pattern itself repeats endlessly. (Take a deeper dive on this topic with this book.)
Social media increases the intensity of the particulars. If you can look a little closer, past the emotional noise, you begin to see that their only true crime is being different than you. Regardless of whether the accusation is based on factual evidence, the intensity of the accusing community’s outrage directed toward the accused loses all sense of proportionality with respect to the alleged crime.
Who among us has no sin?
Let him cast the first stone.
With the likes of the main two candidates for the upcoming election, Conservatives and Liberals alike have their pick of targets. Another day, another controversy: even living under a rock, you’ve probably heard your neighbors yelling about what he or she said or did that is so terrible, you won’t believe it!
Unpack it a bit further. For this moral outrage to be effectively sustained, there must be some separation between the accuser and the accused. The distance from in-group to out-group will do. Conservative against Liberal gets highlighted in the political scene, but once your eyes are open to the phenomenon, you begin to see it everywhere. Racial tension, religious differences, gender identity, economic status – sociology experiments show that even a distinction as slight as different colored dots on the nametags handed out to conference attendees will cause ad-hoc groups to form. (For more discussion on arbitrary group reformation, check out this book.)
If my thesis is correct, and this scapegoating mechanism is endemic to the human condition, what hope do we have for a different outcome? I never thought I’d live long enough to say it, but the Beatles were right: all you need is love (love is all you need).
As it turns out, the life of Jesus sets an amazing example of love. Choose to emulate his empathy and compassion regardless of the stressors in your life. Close the gap with “other” and let your group identity grow to include all people.
… that they may all be one …
I challenge you to be mindful. Guard your words and your actions. Before you speak, is it true? helpful? informative? necessary? kind? If it’s none of these, wait. THINK about it.