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The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854. Hunt had this framed in a picture with the quotations "Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried our Sorrows; Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4) and "And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited." (Leviticus 16:22)

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. The rite is described in Leviticus 16.

Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish [1], the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.


[edit] Biblical scapegoat

[edit] Origins

A concept superficially similar to the biblical scapegoat is attested in two ritual texts in archives at Ebla of the 24th century BC.[2] They were connected with ritual purifications on the occasion of the king's wedding. In them, a she-goat with a silver bracelet hung from her neck was driven forth into the wasteland of 'Alini'; "we" in the report of the ritual involves the whole community. Such 'elimination rites', in which an animal, without confession of sins, is the vehicle of evils (not sins) that are chased from the community are widely attested in the Ancient Near East.[3]

[edit] Etymology

The word "Scapegoat" is a mistranslation of the word Azazel (In Hebrew: עזאזל) originated by William Tyndale in his 1530 Bible, and appropriated in the King James Version of the Bible (Leviticus chapter 16) in 1611. Confounded by the word, Tyndale had interpreted Azazel as ez ozel - literally, "the goat that departs"; hence "(e)scape goat." According to the Talmud, Yoma 67b, Azazel is a contraction of az (harsh) and eil (strong) and refers to the most rugged of mountains. This identification is supported by Rashi, the great Medieval grammarian, who interpreted Azazel to be the name of a specific mountain or cliff over which the goat was driven[4]. According to R.H. Charles, it was called so for its reputation as the holding place of the fallen angel of the same name[5]. Modern scholars generally reject Tyndale's interpretation and favor one related to a fallen angel/evil demon interpretation. Today in modern Hebrew Azazel is used derogatorily, as in lekh la-Azazel ("go to Azazel"), as in "go to hell".

[edit] Christianity

In Christian theology, the story of the scapegoat in Leviticus is interpreted as a symbolic prefiguration of the self-sacrifice of Jesus, who takes the sins of humanity on his own head, having been driven into the 'wilderness' outside the city by order of the high priests. Also see John 1:29 and Hebrews Chps. 9-10

[edit] Girard's socio-religious theory

The Christian anthropologist René Girard has provided a reconstruction of the scapegoat theory. In Girard's view, it is humankind, not God, who has the problem with violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism[6] is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. Girard contends that this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The difference in this case, Girard believes, is that he was resurrected from the dead and shown to be innocent; humanity is thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken. Satan, who is seen to be manifested in the contagion, is cast out. Thus Girard's work is significant as a re-construction of the Christus Victor atonement theory.

[edit] Metaphor

When used as a metaphor, a scapegoat is someone selected to bear blame for a calamity. Scapegoating is the act of holding a person, group of people, or thing responsible for a multitude of problems. Related concepts include frameup, patsy, whipping boy and fall guy.

[edit] Political/sociological scapegoating

Scapegoating is an important tool of propaganda; the most famous example in modern history is the singling out in Nazi propaganda of the Jews as the source of Germany's post-World War I economic woes and political collapse.

Scapegoating is often more devastating when applied to a minority group as they are inherently less able to defend themselves. A tactic often employed is to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as guilt by association.

"Scapegoated" groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: adherents of different religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.

In industrialised societies, scapegoating of traditional minority groups is increasingly frowned upon.

Mobbing is a form of sociological scapegoating which occurs in the workplace.[7] A summary of research on workplace mobbing by Kenneth Westhues, Prof. of Sociology University of Waterloo, published in OHS Canada, Canada's Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 8, December 2002, pp. 30–36.

"Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life. ... Mobbing can be understood as the stressor to beat all stressors. It is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate."

[edit] Scapegoating in sports

In sports, scapegoats are common. In baseball, Bill Buckner is blamed for losing the 1986 World Series due to a critical error, and in Japan, the Hanshin Tigers blame the Curse of the Colonel on their repeated failure to win at the Japan Series. Fan Steve Bartman was blamed for interfering with a foul ball that could have been recorded as an out for the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 National League Championship Series and would have sent the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 58 years.

In American football, Scott Norwood is blamed for losing Super Bowl XXV for the Buffalo Bills by missing the probable game winning field goal.

Andrés Escobar, a Colombian football player, scored a goal against his own team (an "own goal") in the 1994 World Cup, which caused his team to lose the match and be eliminated from the tournament. Escobar was later shot dead when he returned to Colombia - and many believe his own goal was the motive for his murder.

Marc-Andre Fleury, a Canadian ice hockey goalie is blamed for losing the 2004 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships gold medal game to the United States. As he came out of his net to clear the puck out of the defensive zone it bounced off Braydon Coburn's leg and into the empty net.

Herschelle Gibbs is held as the scapegoat for Australia's triumph and hence South Africa's exit from the Cricket World Cup of 1999 for dropping Australian captain Steve Waugh, who went on to score a century to lead his side to victory and survival in the tournament. When the two sides met again in the semi-final South Africa were eliminated. Gibbs' was particularly criticised for the nature of his drop. Having seemingly caught the ball he instantly attempted to toss it into the air in celebration, but the ball spilled loose in the process, Gibbs thereby failing to secure complete control. Immediately after the incident Waugh reputedly told Gibbs, "You've just dropped the World Cup". Both parties have subsequently denied this.

[edit] Scapegoating in psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems. In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with certain personality disorders.

[edit] Scapegoating in ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks practiced a scapegoating rite in which a cripple or beggar or criminal (the pharmakos) was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster (such as a plague, famine or an invasion) or in response to a calendrical crisis (such as the end of the year). The scholia refer to the pharmakos being killed, but many scholars reject this, and argue that the earliest evidence (the fragments of the iambic satirist Hipponax) only show the pharmakos being stoned, beaten and driven from the community.[8]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ The Golden Bough pp569 Sir James Frazer, Worsworth Reference ISBN 1 85326-310-9
  2. ^ Ida Zatelli, "The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: The Evidence of Two Eblaite Text", Vetus Testamentum 48.2 (April 1998:254-263).
  3. ^ David P. Wright, The Disposal of the Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press) 1987:15-74.
  4. ^ Chumash with Rashi, [1]
  5. ^ Enoch 1, [[The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament]], R.H. Charles Oxford: The Clarendon Press. [2]
  6. ^ The Scapegoat Model, Jean-Baptiste Dumont
  7. ^ At The Mercy Of The Mob
  8. ^ Frazer, Sir James, . The Golden Bough. Worsworth Reference. pp 578. ISBN 1 85326-310-9

[edit] Further reading

  • Berlet, C & Lyons, M. N: Scapegoating.
  • Carter, C. A: Kenneth Burke and the Scapegoat Process. Norman, USA, 1996.
  • Colman, A.D: Up from Scapegoating. Illinois, USA, 1995.
  • Douglas, T: Scapegoats: Transferring Blame. London, 1995.
  • Dworkin, A: Scapegoat: The Jews Israel, and Women's Liberation. London, 2000.
  • Engle, P: Mimesis and the Scapegoat.
  • Frazer, J.G: The Golden Bough [vol. 5]. London, 1993.
  • Girard, R: The Scapegoat. USA, 1986.
  • Perera, S.B: The Scapegoat Complex. Toronto, 1986.

[edit] External links

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