Monday, December 18, 2006

Denial, Displacement, Scapegoating

Fantastically good essay (in my opinion) linked over at the GA Blog
really nails it, I think.

No, this is not a return to political/cultural commentary. It is a chance to test out my blockquoting capabilities (achieved by using the edit function to steal 'n paste the tags from Athos' post).


Key graphs:
One result of that transposition, the record shows, has been the creation of a world of political scapegoats for the unease and anxiety that are the unwanted companions now of Westerners everywhere. These scapegoats, perverse non-explanations for what really ails us, can be identified by features common to the breed everywhere: The passion invested in them by their antagonists is disproportionate to any real problem the scapegoat represents; they are invoked to explain more about the world than they do; they capture some part of the truth, i.e., have a degree of verisimilitude without which a scapegoat cannot exist; and — also like scapegoats everywhere — they pose no threat of retaliation for their overburdening. They are scapegoats in the classic sense: metaphorical beasts seen not in their own right and reality, but rather as communal vessels carrying a political and psychological weight beyond themselves for reasons of communal relief.

In sum, to judge by current intellectual trends, many post-9/11 attempts to diagnose the American soul, both here and in Europe, have served less to clarify reality than to gravitate toward safer and more palatable substitutes. It is a fraught, fascinating spectacle worth exploring in detail — the more so because a parallel outpouring of books, especially from the contemporary European front, makes very clear what today's obvious displacements of political passion are really about.


Read the whole thing, as they say in the blog world.

9 comments:

Athos said...

Eberstadt offers a multi textured analysis, Porthos, full agreement. Sort of a sober, Mark Steyn with a keen psychological macro understanding of scapegoating AND of what/how Bailie understands as hypocrisy. That is, rather than point a finger at the vvery real and threatening bully, find a safe, not-likely-to-retaliate entity on whom to foist one's venom.

America is the political safe scapegoat victim for EU Enlightenment types - the ones who've been most willing to turn over all their national security needs to NATO, which in turn has been heavily underwritten by the USA.

The Catholic Church, Catholic Truth and the very foundations of Europe are the spiritual scapegoat, three in one and one in three. Did I say spiritual? Try source of truth (epistemology), source of selfhood (ontology), source of hope (soteriology), source of what it means to be human (anthropology).

Very good analysis. Thanks for finding and posting it, Porthos.

Athos said...

Another thing: by scapegoating the Faith and America, there is an unnamed, unthematized attempt to capitulate Islamists by scapegoating. Much like warring family members try to find a mutual enemy on whom they all agree is the "real" problem -- externally to the family like the preacher at church -- or internally, the "black sheep" of the family.

The idea is so ludicrous as to seem incredible. But to the weaker party hypocritically suggesting the idea as a "peace offering" to the violent, dysfunctional family member, hey! it's worth a try (if I don't get beat up). The point is that at some level, it IS seen as hypocrisy.

But it's also a stupid idea and doesn't address the real problem, as Eberstadt knows and points out.

The real problem is a growing element of the sacred, understood from the pov of mimetic theory, cloaked in the religious sanction of Islam.

Sadly, the lack of influence of the Gospel there doesn't do much to keep Islam from being hotwired and taken off on a highly destructive joy (?) ride.

Athos said...

Spero News reports that Hans Neuenfels, the man who created this controversial new arrangement of the Mozart work, has refused to consider deleting the scene with the severed heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon here

Aramis said...

Aye …, the ‘ol fill-me-with-something-anything-nihilism-addiction of denial, displacement, scapegoating; you hear it here and you hear it at the start of The Bacchae, where the chorus proclaims the transformation of a culture by lulling the people into a fatigue of effortless effort of the Dionysian frenzy. (Hey, I thought I had to slip in something of our study of “Let This Mind Be in You.”)

Aye, and Athos probably could snip a quote or two from our friend, Walker Hunt Golding’s classic, The Dionysus Mandate to elaborate or rather connect the dots of what Eberstadt is saying when describing our present state of denial, displacement and scapegoating to the lull before the frenzied dance that always ends in homicidal murder. Authors such as Eberstadt can't seem finally to say (for fear of being kicked out of academia, I guess) is that fact of sacrificial murder as the Gospels come out and pronounce judgment on us. (We are better able to see this today because of the help of Girard.)

Bailie points to another anthropological fact from his discussion on The Bacchae: quoting from the play, “… do not mistake the rule of force for true power, men are not shaped by true force.” If you think it is a rational or physical matter of keeping order, you better guess again. Religion is the principle means of order for any and all societies.

Athos said...

Too right, Aramis, on all counts. The denial and displacement continues in the subtle spheres of concentric circles away from Mother Church too, truth be told.

The best lie, C. S. Lewis said, is the one closest to the truth. In this case, the truth of the CROSS. For, while such an impossibly undeniable truth exists that the Cross of Our Lord reveals nearly all, it is not all. Oh no.

To pull what I want out of Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Teaching of Mother Church, and magnify it to the displacement of what "I" consider to be of lesser value is the very definition of heresy.

What good, what damage has been done in the name of "Christianity" - a lesser thing in comparison to the Catholic Church - by this pick-n-choose emphasis on what "I" deem fit?

Dear old GKC said it all in Orthodoxy

And who, while we are discussing conversion, is that "I" to whom "I" refer so glibly, prithee tell? Dost thou knowest, pilgrim?

Aramis said...

What is the eye that you poke at, dear Athos? Is it receiving or projecting? Is it open to sights or simply closed, as if the eyelid can really protect it from the world?

The "I", dear tell us, the eye.

Aramis said...

Dear me, look what I found...

Orthodoxy

What a find.

Athos said...

I am jibing at the goad of lunacy being proffered at yon discussion list regarding protestant interpreters of Rene Girard (Heim) on two fronts:

(a) The "I" that we - and they - take for granted when we speak in first person singular is not so strongly fortified as many think. Only the converted "I" in a state of grace, that is, in full connection with the True Vine, Jesus Christ, by means of the Sacraments he provides in the Church can see and hear and understand aright.

(b) Secondly, the hubris that thinks it can pick and choose from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church what is "really" (!) important is absurdism run amok. It is also the motivation for schism, heresy and other wounds to the Body of Christ.

What ho!

Athos said...

To continue our little discussion re: Bailie's series on conversion, it is akin to the below:

The philosopher Gabriel Marcel captured the essence of Christian conversion and the psychological freedom it entails when he said that genuine selfhood involves “the subordination of the self to a superior reality; a reality at my deepest level more truly me than I am myself.”

In a milieu that is fraught with opportunities for inadequate, quasi-conversions, it is abysmally sad to think how often the one Source of substantive selfhood, faith, hope, love and all the rest that gives human life meaning that is true, good and beautiful is summarily rejected out of hand because of self grandizement in the form of gnosis and/or dionysian transcendence today.

Scholars no less than thoughtless youth fall prey to it, eh?