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Analysis of Scapegoat Theory
The scapegoat theory suggests that frustrations lead to prejudice. Prejudice is commonly experienced in people who are disadvantaged in one way or another. Once an individual feels inconvenienced, such an individual will always seek for a measure to cub the prevailing situation. In this case, he has to seek a scapegoat. A scapegoat is an individual or a group of persons who unfairly bears the blame of others. Most people used as scapegoats are the minority within the society. Such people have little power and are safe targets. Scapegoat theory also states that prejudice occurs as members of a particular dominant group use discrimination against members of a weak target group. This is mainly to vent their frustrations and disappointments (Dollard, 1939).
We should understand what scapegoating is. We should not be confused by other conditions. Making an individual a scapegoat is different from holding someone account for what they had initially paid to do or for agreements made. As a scapegoat, one gets to have the feeling of, “I am alone and they are all together.” This is a common fear. The presence of a variation in relationships between people and within groups brings about this fear making someone feel uneasy and insecure (Brahm, 2004). Getting out of a relationship may also be the beginning of the move to scapegoat. Every time we begin moving from really connecting with people or begin gossiping about them, this is dehumanising them. These actions set the beginning of a dynamic that could end up in scapegoating.
Scapegoating others is also easy when we have gotten out of a personal association with them. The moment we scapegoat others, we are refuting that we are accountable for the state of the relationships. We blame others for individual difficulties. Every time we assert that another person is bad or did wrong, we are scapegoating (Brahm, 2004).
Let us now look at the origin of scapegoating. The origin of scapegoat dates back to the prehistoric periods of the Jewish era. It is believed that the term scapegoat originated from one of the two goats the Jewish high priest received in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement in ancient Israel. One goat was a sacrificial offering for Jehovah, the Hebrew God, and the other was a scapegoat to carry the sins of the tribe out of the community. During the sacrificial ceremony, the high priest lay his hands on the goat to be able to transfer the sins of the tribes to it. The high priest then sent the goat into the wilderness for people to remain cleansed. During this day, there is reconciliation of the Hebrews to their God, Jehovah (World Book Encyclopaedia, 1960).
Several theories have come up to try and elaborate the origin of the word scapegoat. According to Wikipedia, scapegoat is a mistranslation of the word Azazel, which originated from William Tyndale in his 1530 biblical translation into English, later making its way into the King James Version in 1611. He translated it as “the goat that departs” hence (e) scape goat. According to the Talmud, a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law and customs, Azazel is a contraction of az, meaning harsh, and evil, meaning strong, which one might speculate that it refers to the mountains where the goat was sent. Whatever the origin of the term at the time, Tyndale is credited for today’s current translation (Douglas, 1995).
Today, psychology uses the term to discuss certain forms of victimization. A child of an alcoholic family is deemed the scapegoat, for example, and may be the purpose of a parent's abuse and looking for professional help. The child is “innocent,” but takes on the blame for the concerns in the family. Historically, different groups of people have been victims of scapegoating. In Nazi Germany, Hitler and his military scapegoated the Jewish populace. The Nazis believed that the Jews were the reason for their societal ills and thought that if they eliminated the Jewish people, their concerns would be solved. At present in America, there are incidences of scapegoating of lesbian and gay groups. A few of heterosexuals, normally with strong religious inclinations, censure lesbian and gay people for the ethical crumble in America (Lane, 2000).
Advantages of scapegoating
Why scapegoating occurs is rather complicated. It is important to note that, scapegoating would probably not occur if it were not perceived as advantageous. Scapegoating serves to the favour of the dominant individuals who feel proud as they relieve their responsibilities to others. In most cases, the scapegoated person becomes the target for harsh life conditions. For example, it was simpler for Hitler to blame the concerns of the German civilization on the Jews than it would have been to understand the political changes that were happening at that time. Scapegoating creates a feeling of togetherness when people join to blame someone else. When the action favours the dominant against the scapegoat, the dominant group gets the feeling of accomplishment (Lane, 2000).
Another advantage is that it is a defensive procedure. It protects one from unbearable conflicts. In this case, the victim develops psychological defence. A significant plus in scapegoating is that the whole humanity or a whole social group is elevated in standing against the embattled minority or individual, and any communal behaviour is at the same time legitimized.
Effects of scapegoating
Scapegoating today is expressed to different members of the society and influences almost each person one way or another. Scapegoats can be directed effortlessly because of particular traits that they have or purely by qualities that they cannot manage such as their race or civilization. One apparent, but key effect of scapegoating is chauvinism toward marginal groups. This is a growing concern because it can results in stereotyping, and causes prejudice and unfair conduct to individuals for reasons not justified at all. Stereotyping is an express type of scapegoating because when one directs unenthusiastic generalizations to a group of people, others are charged for acts that are out of their individual control. Referring to the example of how Hitler charged minorities for concerns in Germany. The Jews were stereotyped as being uninformed and consequently, able to take on the responsibility of the majority.
Another effect is the caused by the presence of frivolous laws. The current laws and the court system believe that they can sue any offender and cannot take the blame for such actions. Individuals take advantage of these and resume to scapegoating.
How to avoid scapegoating
Scapegoating increases due to frustrations and when seeking an outlet for anger. Instead of picking themselves up and trying harder, the scapegoater will look for someone, to pin on the blame. The blame often lands to a co-worker, friend or loved one. We should at all costs avoid resorting to scapegoating. Eventually, the effects of these actions get back to us. We are living in difficult times and thus we are here - to learn; to grow; to evolve. Blaming others for self-educed problems is not learning. Assigning a scapegoat ensures the real possibility of the problem resurfacing later in life, bigger and much more complicated than it was originally.
There are various ways to avoid blaming others but doing so requires an acknowledgment of the problem. We must recognize that we are the originators of both the good and bad that occur in life. Unfortunately, individuals are quick to recognize the good they do and ignore the bad. The toughest challenges that we have in life provide the most profound lessons. However, if one resorts to scapegoating he/she will not learn the intended lesson, and will have blown an opportunity for spiritual growth (Squidoo, 2006)
We should also uphold personal dignity and pride. It is not good to tarnish the names of others to look good. It is always good to tell the truth and deal with the consequences without playing the blame game. Many people do not believe on spiritual contracts. This means the person that has caused the most pain in life is a soul that is part of your spiritual contract. One of these souls is supposed to teach the lesson of humility, morality, selflessness, materialism, unconditional love, or a variety of other spiritual lessons.
Another strategy is to accept relationship challenges. Two or more people who come together to form a partnership will share both success and failure. This shared culpability works the same way in business and personal relationships. More often than not, both parties share blame when a union does not work. It is not her fault, and it is not his fault. Everyone did the things that added to the relationship and also did things that subtracted from the union. One should thus put in mind that there are challenges in any given union (Squidoo, 2006).
We are in need creating a revolution that may alter the centre of notice from spotted persons or minorities, to whole groups and societies. We should strive to ensure we avoid scapegoating because; causing tragic happenings appear to explode from nothing. History teaches that scapegoating of minorities has led to disaster and in the end, to the self-destruction of the aggressive group. Scapegoating of exceptional individuals has been associated to the decline of countries and civilizations. We will not continue dwelling on that. Everyone has an obligation of acting rightly according to the norms and values set in the society. If this is not adhered to, hate would sooner or later appear legitimate or necessary in the society.