Is it possible to end violence in the world?
In our day and age, violence is legitimized and sacralized – as it’s always been. Nations rise and declare war on each other on the grounds that seem perfectly justifiable.
Since times immemorial, people have believed in sacred violence because there seems to be no other way to set things right when you have been wronged. If a member of another tribe kills someone you love, it is impossible to replace this person by finding an equivalent. There is no equivalent.
How do you then compensate for the loss? How do you appease the wrath? What do you do with the pain? What sacrifice is sufficient to restore peace in your soul?
The usual reasoning goes like this: I must make the offending party pay with something they hold dear. They must sacrifice someone they love. It can’t be just anyone. It should be someone pure and perfect, a holy sacrifice. A king, a maid, or a child. There is a strong mythology developed around the sacred victim because it seems to be the only workable solution.
“The victim becomes sacred and the process of sacralization remains a fundamental structure of all archaic religion.” Rene Girard
When the sacrifice is made (usually by violence), peace is restored. Wrath seems to be appeased. Or is it? In any case, it seems to work for a time – at least, it dulls the pain well enough.
What is the theory of Rene Girard?
Rene Girard, a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher, said that people have only two ways of dealing with violence in this world. One is to look for a scapegoat. The other one is to become a scapegoat – willingly.
The first way is pagan. All pagan religions sooner or later come up with the idea of a scapegoat – someone who will bear the guilt of all.
The second one was epitomized by Christ – an innocent scapegoat who willingly takes upon himself the guilt of all the transgressions.
Rene Girard says,
“Christianity must be the religion of the end of sacrifice, because it says that there is only one victim, who is God.”
Pain always pushes us to look for a scapegoat. Until our pain is healed, we will need a sacrifice to appease our own anger. We will lash out. We will demand a sacrifice. We are hurting, so we need to hurt. We can’t just leave it like this. So, we will ALWAYS find a scapegoat – someone who will pay the price.
The trouble with this approach is that it DOES NOT heal the pain that caused the violence in the first place – it only dulls it for a while. By lashing out against our chosen scapegoat, we feel a temporary relief from our pain but the root of it remains. We will be relieved for a while until something else or someone else triggers our pain again.Continue reading “Rene Girard on How to End Violence in the World”