On the sacrifice of the scapegoat:

“But the scapegoat was not always reviled. As noted above, the sacrificial victim sometimes came to be revered after the event – even to the point of becoming over time a founding hero for the community. The Greeks celebrated Prometheus as a sacred pharmakos (scapegoat) after he had met with his sacrificial fate, and we witness a similarly retrospective apotheosis of scapegoats across a variety of foundational myths – Osiris, Romulus, Christ, Orpheus, Socrates, Cuchulian. Such figures, though invariably ostracized for excoriated by their contemporaries, became hallowed over the ages until they were eventually remembered as  savior gods ho restored their community from chaos to order. They re-emerge out of the mists of time as miraculous deities who managed to transmute conflict into law. But this alteration of sacrificed ‘aliens’ into sacred ‘other is, of course, predicated upon a strategic forgetfulness of their initial stigmatization, that is, the fact that they were originally victims of ritual bloodletting…

A genuinely peaceful community would be one which, Girard contends, exposes its own strategies of sacrificial alienation and enters the light of ‘true fraternity.’ It would be a society without need of scapegoats…such a community would commit itself instead to principles of ‘transcendence’ beyond time and history. It would take its lead from the exemplary action of Christ, who underwent death on the Cross in order to expose the sacrificial lie for once and for all by revealing the innocence of the victim. The sacrifice to end all sacrifice.

In short, peace requires nothing less than the decoupling of the stranger and the scapegoat. And this means acknowledging that the genuine ‘other’ is always guaranteed by a radically divine Other – an asymmetrical, vertical alterity irreducible to the envious ploys of mimetic desire. Girard, like Levinas, calls this ethical alterity – even if it addresses us through the face of the other – God.” – Richard Kearney,  “Strangers and Scapegoats” in Strangers, Gods and Monsters. 

 

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