ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Why Should I Continue Asking Questions?

Scapegoating to creative responses

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
  1. A promising Bollywood actor committed suicide and we started the discussion on nepotism. (It’s not known yet why he committed suicide and so on, though many attribute it to depression and then depression to nepotism).
  2. A narrative that is promoted in India when we do have a border issue with China is #boycottChina.
  3. Migrants suffered tremendously during the lockdown, especially in the cities. People blame governments, the attitude of city people, and so on.
  4. An elephant was killed in Kerala (India) and the brutal killing caught international attention.

What is the connection between these news items? The most significant one may be that they were all viral news items in the Indian media. There was a serious issue (death/war/suffering) and we were all interested to find a scapegoat — a character to carry the blame and the responsibility. Who conducts the investigation? It is irrelevant…. But as soon as one is convicted based on some consensus, the issue loses its potential and is forgotten. We wait till a similar issue happens.

Scapegoating in the Philosophy of Rene Girard

Rene Girard is a French-American philosopher, who spoke about scapegoating. I would like to speak of his four concepts — mimetic desire, mimetic crisis, scapegoating, and a ritual. I am paraphrasing him in a simpler language.

Mimetic Desire: Once the basic human needs are fulfilled, human beings started looking to fulfill other desires. Here, we do something called mimesis (or copying the desires of others or the groups). Thus many of us would like to take vacations at a particular place, watch a movie, or do a particular type of activity. This also some form of expression in terms like peer pressure and so on. This mimetic desire is more a collective activity than an individual one, which can lead to co-operation or crisis.

Mimetic Crisis: This happens when many of us desire something which is in short supply and in extreme cases, crisis leads to violence.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Scapegoating: What is the best way to stop the violence? We need to find a scapegoat, who is crucified at the altar for the crime of violence. Modern systems of the judiciary can be at times a means to prevent the violence or to prevent scapegoating.

Ritual: We create a ritual out of the same that the act is remembered and it is a prevention against that form of violence. Rituals can have a secular or religious form.

Practical Application

We can take the example of the pregnant elephant to analyze the situation. The initial situation is that we had the tragic death of an elephant. Thanks to the popularity of social media and awareness of the rights of animals, it became a trending story. Many felt sad and disgusted about the situation, which spread like a wildfire (mimetic desire). The sadness and anger lead to some form of online violence directed against the government of Kerala, people of Kerala, and to the farmers of that region. Now we need to find a scapegoat to resolve the situation or to stop the violence. Probably many were keen on pointing to the inhuman manner of killing done by the farmers, and they are primary targets of being scapegoats. Some might say that they have done the horrendous act and those farmers are not scapegoats, but real villains. Some political parties tried to find scapegoats that suit their political game. Finally, one person was arrested, the anger is subsided and things are back to normal. We may continue to celebrate it as a ritual on special occasions or anniversaries, by sharing some images or news items in the social media.

What is the problem with this narrative? Am I attempting to justify that killing? Absolutely No. Does it point to something deeper? One of the responses is that it points to the rut in human behaviour. Maybe, it has some truth, but is it the whole story? We forget very easily that farmers do such things because it is a matter of survival for them. Thus, the tendency to find a scapegoat helps us to apply a bandage, and forget that we need a systemic reform. People in authority always prefer bandages to reforms and social media helps in the process.

Few Creative Responses

Is it time to stop asking questions? It is time to keep on asking questions till we reach the deeper layer of the problems and take actions at that level, rather than playing to the tunes of the game of scapegoating. I have a few examples.

  1. One of my engineering friends and his wife started an initiative. You can read about a farmer’s catalogue of experiences on their farm. One of his articles titled, “is human progress =econimic progress” could be taken as the starting point. I am sure many people do ask this question (at the level of mimetic desire). But many of us don’t go any further but find a set of scapegoats, which could be governments or industries. I agree the governments and industries are villains, but we too are villains in some way. And Sudhakar and Noushadya have attempted to give their own response (not to find a scapegoat and live happily ever after). To quote one of their aims

One of our objectives with the farm in the long term is to build a community of people living in the farm. By end of 2020, there will be space for ~10 people to stay full time. By 2023, we hope to be food and energy self sufficient in 90% of our needs.

2. In the midst of a great drought in western Maharashtra (India) in 1962, MPSM Nashik started their initiatives. Today, their mission is

We are committed to Rural and Tribal Awakening (“prabodhan”) through community organisation, economic growth, educational initiatives and natural resource development without prejudice to caste or creed.

3. To give an example from Sierra Leone, Augusta Ngombu is an activist who died at the age of 23 because of AIDS. After a childhood suffering from slavery, violence, and prostitution, she was rescued at the age of 16. She started schooling, learned cooking. At the age of 19,

In 2016, she opened the program Girls Os+, a refuge for girls who, like her, fall prey to underage prostitution. She gave them cooking lessons, so they too could have a future.

Takeaways

Examples are plenty if we open our eyes and are willing to see. They don’t attempt to find scapegoats. Or they are not satisfied with a ritual celebrated on special occasions.

They fight the system as activists and as people who attempt re-creation and renewal.

Ask Questions — — We can find scapegoats.

Keep on asking questions — -We find responses and solutions.

Have the courage to act on the responses.

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

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arun simon

arun simon

A Jesuit with all the crazyness… Loves Jesus…Loves church, but loves to challenge too… Loves post modern philosophy & Gilles Deleuze.. Loves deep conversations…