Posts Tagged ‘René Girard’

Tribes, Tribute, Attribution, Scapegoat

April 27, 2017

Human beings are fundamentally tribal. Without a tribe, survival was unsustainable. A father baboon, with mummy and the kids, is just food, for a leopard. However, a large male leopard going to drink will be attacked by a mob of baboons, and will have to flee for dear life. The power of the tribe is how baboons survive: they need to get to very dangerous water holes and rivers, every day, in scorching hot Africa. Baboons also learned how to conquer the savannah, and they can do so, only because they are military.

It’s not any different for human beings. True human beings are larger than baboons (but not larger than the giant baboons who used to roam Africa, before humans extinguished them). But human beings’ only defense is weapons, best used as a fighting army, not the giant, lethal canine teeth of baboons. Moreover, human beings have higher metabolic needs than baboons, not just from larger size, but also vertical posture, running and sweating (not just sitting in trees when threatened, waiting for danger to move on). Most importantly, human beings have large brains which are so energy greedy that human had to eat flesh, muscle, animal fat, replenishing marrow and the rich brains of prey.

A tribe of 100 humans, comprising 20 warriors, had supremacy on the savannah. All animals knew this, from hyenas, to buffaloes, down to crocodiles and snakes. Only another tribe could stop it. 

Sacrificing the occasional scapegoat makes the tribe stronger, more unified, better fed, cognitively satiated. By the way, those obsessed by God, may, thanks to God, engage in criminal behavior, and this all the more, the more vicious and violent the so-called “God’ is. Just ask Erdogan.

Thus fascism (obeying the alpha males strictly in case of conflict) and tribal hatred became fundamental in human ethology: they made humans, and even proto-humans possible. That’s why we share these traits with chimpanzees.

So now, here we are. All human endeavors are influenced by the  tribal spirit. Yet we are 8 billions, our tribe comprises eight billion, not just 100 individuals.

Indeed, we have solidarity, whether we like it or not. If one billion died off on the other side of the planet, it’s extremely likely that our own fates, our entire species, would be threatened by the same menace which killed our fellow-men, far away. Far away is not what it used to be. Our ancestors threw a rock 20 meters, now it takes 20 minutes to hit anywhere significant, with the Sun’s own thermonuclear fusion.

Of course, the formation of tribes, and achieving a sense of existence, thanks to tribes, is not the only concept which characterizes humanity. Intelligence is even more so. Searching for truth is formalized as “science”. Now a massive economic activity.

However, science, even science is still informed by the tribal spirit. This is why various tribes, even scientific tribes, can, and will, take violent, aggressive stances. Far from being a secondary characteristic, an anecdote, the aggressivity in science is front and central. One way to do this, is to steal others by attributing tributes falsely. This has real consequences on the evolution of science, and of thinking in general. For example, my misattributing the heliocentric theory, inertia, the theory of relativity and evolution, the subtleties, or depth, of the real creators was forgotten (the real creators being respectively Buridan, not Copernicus and Newton; Jules Henri Poincaré, not Einstein; and finally Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, not Darwin).

Buridan anticipated Riemann’s description of force, the meat of “General” Relativity. Poincaré, creator, with Lorentz of local space and time theory, anticipated it was not the end-all, be-all (as Quantum Physics says). And Lamarck, well, turns out to have been much more right about evolution, than even his most determined supporters anticipated…  

Notice this: the concept of “tribe” brought that of tribute, attributing, even “peer” as in “peer review”. Science is all about tribes… from the very language it uses! (I am aware of “Science Wars”, “Postmodernism”, Popper, Kuhn, etc… But, in some ways, I am going further, and I do know science quite well.)

So what of the concept scapegoat in all this?

Scapegoatism holds the tribe together by example.Here I will refer to Girard, long a professor at Stanford (a place I graced with my presence too). I have generalized the Scapegoat Theory (which is thousands of years old), by a more general form, Moral Displacement Syndrome. But let me give here Girard’s simple minded description.

René Girard was born on December 25, 1923, in Avignon, France.

Whereas the philosophers of the 18th century would have agreed that communal violence results in a new social contract, Girard believes that, paradoxically, the problem of violence is frequently solved with a lesser dose of violence, a sort of vaccination.

When (Girard’s concept of) mimetic rivalries accumulate, tensions grow until they reach a paroxysm. When violence is on the verge of terminating the community, very frequently a bizarre, but well-known, psychosocial mechanism arises: communal violence is all of a sudden projected upon a single individual (or a group, for example, the Jews in Europe; an example the Catholic-by-avocation Girard would have noticed, is the legend of Jesus, the mythical founder of Christianism, who ends and is reborn and brandished, as the eternal scapegoat).

Thus, individuals who were formerly struggling this way and that, now unite their efforts against someone, or some group, chosen as a scapegoat. Former enemies now become friends, as they communally participate in the commission of violence against a specified enemy.

The scapegoat re-activates the fascist instinct, satisfying the tribal nature. The scapegoat is also cognitively satisfying, as the scapegoat’s alleged crimes provide with a theory of the adversity which unfolded, now supposedly solved with the punishment of the scapegoat.

It can happen in all sorts of weird ways: for example, the “democrats” rule, under Carter, Clinton, Obama (and even G.W. Bush whom the so-called “democrats” supported in his invasion of Iraq) was completely disastrous. Actually under Obama, inequalities reached a new peak, never reached before, and officially 23 millions, under Obamacare, have strictly no health insurance (according to the Obama administration itself), and so on. Whose fault is that? Donald Trump, a racist xenophobe busy marrying foreign women, they explained.

The same happened in France: if all is terrible there, a “Republican Front” will rescue the nation by opposing scapegoat Marine le Pen, and alleged anti-European who is a European Member of Parliament. Similarly, in Great Britain, if the country became so rich, so fast, it’s all the fault of the European Union and its millions of immigrants.

A concept can become a scapegoat: if Germany was bad, the Nazis explained in the 1920s, egged on by plutocrat Keynes, a British economist and propagandist, it was because of the Versailles Treaty.

In North Korea, the entire planet is a scapegoat, thus the necessity to prepare nuclear Armageddon ASAP. 

This being said, there are other ways than finding a scapegoat to unite a people, such as a common project involving the power of the entire group, united (exactly what baboons do, several times a day, foraging together, or marching to and from water, both under military watch).

If one wants to understand people, their ideas, their feelings and their moods, one has to understand tribal effects.

Patrice Ayme’

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Moral Displacement Syndrome

March 3, 2017

Abstract: Let me introduce you to Moral Displacement Syndrome. Moral Displacement Syndrome (MDS) is not just a general form of denial. Scapegoat Theory is only a particular case of MDS (clown Girard, see below, has built an entire philosophy around Scapegoat Theory, see below). One can guess the existence of the former, MDS, from the latter, the Scapegoat, by mimicking what is done in mathematics.

Moral Displacement Syndrome replaces and displaces proper explanations, which don’t miss any relevant dimension, with simplistic, at best irrelevant red herrings. In a world where understanding is the foundation of morality, MDS is a grave sin.

Much moral posturing is actually obvious MDS, starting with all superstitious faiths.

MDS does not always arise from the sadistic, cruel, vicious, selfish instincts. A potent force behind MDS is economy of thought. For example, explaining everything with “God” (or “Dog”), and its few commandments, enables to feel full, with an empty mind.  

Thus there is an even more general theory which looms in the distance: Cognitive Displacement Syndrome (and MDS is a particular case).

***

Building Psychological Theories As One Builds Mathematics:

Any mathematical theory starts with a set of axioms. They are then animated by so-called “standard, second order logic”.

Axioms themselves are abstractions of properties distinguished out there: circles are perfectly round, circumference over diameter is pi, lines are perfectly straight, angles of a closed figure add to 180 degrees, etc.

However, one often can build powerful mathematics by taking out some axioms.

For example, the preceding axioms about circles, pi, straight lines, angles are, it turns out all more or less related if one relaxes those axioms. In other words, relaxing axioms make a theory less logically rigid, and then more general, and its logic become more complex.

***

Scapegoat Theory:

Normal Scapegoat Theory accuses somebody, or a category of people, to have morally failed, or to be the cause of something adverse. Thus scapegoats deserve of punishment, or the world will be much improved by eliminating them. (Either because “god” says it, or because that moral failure is viewed as a cause of an ongoing problem). In the West those scapegoat people are often those which the Bible/Qur’an recommends to kill (homosexuals, apostates, non-believers, adulterers, fashion criminals, etc.).

In reality, things of the mind always go meta big time: 

Metapsychological analysis should always have the last word, beyond the most basic psychological analysis. Analysis without meta-analysis is a carriage without a driver.

Metapsychological analysis should always have the last word, beyond the most basic psychological analysis. (Actually if is an idea implicit, but fundamental to justice.) Psychological analysis without meta-analysis is a carriage without a driver.

***

Moral Displacement Syndrome Is A Generalization Of Scapegoat Theory:

Simply remove the aggression in scapegoat theory. And then remove the scapegoat. What’s left? A moral or logical system of mind which is false, yet imbued with a feeling, or at least an exhibition of a feeling, of moral superiority.

Even after removing the scapegoat itself, those affected with the scapegoating mood will be still imbued with aggression. Aggression has to do with a cocktail of neurohormones and the hyper activity of attack organs (for want of a better term) in the brain (for example the agdmydala which promotes fear and doing something about it, namely counter-attacking).

Removing an object of anger, does not remove the anger state. This is demonstrated neurologically, and this also why angry people tend to kick stuff, slam doors, clench teeth, indulge in road rage, and snap back at completely innocent third parties.

A vegan may face us, and insure us that she is not more aggressive than a cow (not knowing, as vegans do not, that cows are actually very aggressive, and will fight). So let’s remove the aggression. What’s left? The moral obsession. The obsessive moral contraption which occupies their otherwise blank minds.

Hawking himself stubled on an aspect of the Moral Displacement Syndrome

Hawking himself stumbled on an aspect of the Moral Displacement Syndrome

***

Moral Displacement Syndrome Is Ubiquitous

Trump Derangement Syndrome is a particular case of Moral Displacement Syndrome .  

MDS consists in attributing problems to the wrong cause. For example, after the launch of the First Crusade, in the Eleventh Century the Jews were accused of lots of evil they had nothing to with (or then in the most devious fashion, as privileges given to them under the Carolingians made them natural scapegoats for the true culprits; accusing the Jews enabled the feudal magnates who destroyed the Carolingian empire to escape suspicious).  

The plutocratic order ruined Europe and the Americas in recent decades. Instead of accusing themselves, and the global plutocracy which enrich them, through the media they own, the plutocrats trotted out a number of culprits: the European Union, Donald Trump, etc…

Theresa May announced the death of everything: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere.” In other words, supporting the planet made you nothing. You are at moral fault by not supporting Europe, because you support nothing, so you are a nihilist, claims PM May.

***

Moral Displacement Theory Is All Over Officially Promoted Morality:

Vegetarianism, veganism, (many kinds of) Buddhism, and, of course, Abrahamism are examples of Moral Displacement. In Christo-Islamism, lack of submission (to “god”) is viewed as the cause of all moral ills. So doing, lack of submission, truly, to the Lord, king, dictator, duke, count, emperor, etc. is made into a moral fault, whereas it’s only a fault of a criminal sort, in a system which is itself criminal.

Not cultivating the propensity to obey infamy was made into a religious, moral fault. The cult of, and obedience to the chief was made into the ultimate morality, by pretending it was a divine command.

***

Fake Philosophy: René Girard’s Mimetic Madness:

I have to mention in passing, for (contemporary philosophy) specialists,  René Noël Théophile Girard, a Mr. Scapegoat of Biblical proportions. He was a great pillar of the Franco-American plutocratic order. Girard’s fundamental ideas were that desire is mimetic (i.e. all of our desires are borrowed from other people), that all conflict originates in mimetic desire (mimetic rivalry), that the scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture.

These ideas are, of course, stupid beyond belief. If Mr. Leopard if roaming the forest searching for the nice curves and lustrous fur of Ms. Leopard, it’s not by mimetism. And, if, instead he falls on Mr. Girard, or his ilk, and eats him alive, this conflict would not have been caused by mimetic desire.

I am not just criticizing as if I were a “chatbot”: all sorts of neurological studies and neuroimaging have proven that there is desire, and rewards, beyond mimetism.

Girard also thought that religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry, and that the Bible reveals these ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism.

This splendid stupidity, of course, made Girard a great support of the plutocratic system (lauding the Bible/Qur’an), and he spent years as a tremendous mandarin in Stanford, and was elected to the French academy. Girard was also awarded the Order of Isabella the Catholic, butcher of Jews, Muslims and smart people, by the Spanish hereditary Pluto, H.M. King Juan Carlos, descendant of Louis XIV of France, butcher of Protestants.

***

Conclusion: There is lots of fakery out there. Even worse: a meta-morality is ubiquitous: a generalized tolerance for fakery. Tolerance for fakery is a meta-mood: let’s tolerate what should be obvious superchery. Tolerating obvious fakery, here, there, and soon everywhere, feeds cognitive nihilism. Surprise, surprise, this is how plutocracy rules over the minds of the insects, out there.

Patrice Ayme’