Scapegoats

Count Leinsdorf, like many in Europe at that time, had a dislike of Germany. But Diotima had a great liking for a particular German, Arnheim, and this difference had begun to have a subtle cooling effect on their relations.

Even though she never failed to treat the great nobleman with all due reverence, something had gone out of her radiance toward him, something like the change from a summer sun to a winter sun. (I,558)

The world apparently needs its negative entities, images of the unwanted, which attract to themselves all the disgust and disharmony, all the slag of a smoldering fire, such as life tends to leave behind. Out of all the “could be” there suddenly crystallizes, to the stunned amazement of everyone concerned, the “it is,” and whatever drops away during this disorderly process, whatever is unsuitable, superfluous, unsatisfying, seems to coagulate into the vibrant universal hatred agitating all living creatures that is apparently so characteristic of our present civilization, which compensates for all our lack of satisfaction with ourselves by allowing us to feel that easy dissatisfaction so readily inspired by everyone else. Trying to isolate specific scapegoats for this displeasure is merely part of the oldest psychotechnical bag of tricks known to man. Just as the medicine man drew the carefully prepared fetish from his patient’s body, the good Christian projects his own faults onto the good Jew, whom he accuses of seducing him into committing advertisements, high interest rates, newspapers, and all that sort of thing. In the course of time people have blamed their troubles on bad weather, witches, socialists, intellectuals, generals, and in the year before the Great War, Austrians saw a most welcome scapegoat of sort in Prussian Germany. Unfortunately, the world has lost not only God but the Devil as well. As it projects its unwanted evil onto the scapegoat, so it projects its desired good onto ad hoc ideal figures, which it reveres for doing what it finds inconvenient to do for itself. We let others perform the hard tricks as we watch from our seats: that is sport. We let others talk themselves into the most one-sided exaggerations: that’s idealism. We shake off evil and make those wo are spattered by it our scapegoats. It is one way of creating an order in the world, but this technique of hagiolatry and fattening the scapegoats by projection is not without danger, because it fills the world with all the tensions of resolved inner conflicts. People alternately kill each other or swear eternal brotherhood without quite knowing just how real any of it is, because they have projected part of themselves onto the outer world, and everything seems to be happening party out there in reality and partly behind the scenes, so that we have an illusory fencing match between love and hate. The ancient belief in demons, which made heavenly-hellish spirits responsible for all the good and bad that came one’s way, worked much better, more accurately, more tidily, and we can only hope that, as we advance in psychotechnology, we shall make our way back to it. (I,559-560)

 

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