Saturday, July 18, 2015


Scapegoating occurs when a person externalizes responsibility for his or her feelings, stories or actions, and blames them on someone else.  The offender usually does not think of his reaction as scapegoating but as a reasonable and warranted response to an external provocation: “He or she made me feel, think or act this way.”

Scapegoating has been ritualized in certain cultures, keeping our collective conscience clean by displacing guilt onto a designated target which is then socially ostracized, or killed.

In secular cultures, scapegoating is still justified by assuming a god’s eye view, a position of undisputed righteousness which convicts and condemns: “X is just plain wrong!  Moral rationalizations like these can be so convincing that the target may actually find himself owning not only his own feelings, stories and actions, but the scapegoater’s as well.  Accepting fault or blame for others’ stories is what happens in false confessions.

Although there may be no external authority by which to defend our boundaries, when we mistake subjective valuations for objective truths, ignoring the difference between personal experience and the world at large, we expand our freedom beyond the borders of our own conscience and threaten to impinge on someone else’s.

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