The Effects of a Scapegoat

Why does a community need a scapegoat? The question is simple and blatant. The community is derived from culture and customs brought from older generations. Those within the core of society are not able to accept ideas that contradict the style of life within the society. Simply even considering those ideas would lead to a lack of faith and distrust among individuals within the society. In order to preserve cultural heritage, a scapegoat must be produced in order to answer differing ideas. The scapegoat includes all of the minority, the different and the unliked.

When considering the value of a scapegoat to a community, we must consider how a scapegoat is developed from the actions of the community. We’ve all seen this sort of scenario within history. The probably the most memorable event that relates towards scapegoating would be the rise in discrimination against jews during the rise of the Nazis (Amil). The whole idea of anti-Semitism has been prevalent in Europe for many centuries but in this era of modern history was it devastating. The Jewish population of Germany was blamed for its failure and loss in the first World War. The jews were even blamed for the Great Depression and the rage of the proletariat fueled discrimination of the jews. Germany needed someone to blame in order to unite the german people (Amil). Was it morally and ethically correct for the Nazis to scapegoat the Jews in order to gather political power? In the eyes of history, no, however, it was necessary for them to do so in order to achieve power. Is scapegoating a good thing?

The novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne offers further insight on the scapegoat’s necessary role in a community. The setting of the story was taken around the time of the First Great Awakening, which was an attempt to reinstitute religion into the American population. In the story, the protagonist, Hester Prynne, becomes a symbol for sin and reminder of sin to those within the Puritan town of Salem. At this specific point of history, people are becoming less interested in the values of Puritanism and are feeling less connected with God. The sin of Hester Prynne scares the individuals within the community of Salem and reminds them of the punishment regarding sinning. Furthermore, throughout the course of the book, Hester Prynne is shunned from the Puritan society and lives in isolation from the town. She even becomes a legend labeled as simply a symbolism for sin to most people. It’s only until she proves her worth to her community is when they begin to accept her back into it. It seemed as though that Hester burdened herself with the sin of the whole community. However, the church officials are essentially able to reinstitute the fear of being accused of sin into the mind of the citizens and create peace through terror. The authority was able to utilize the blame of someone in order to achieve civil peace. This leads to the question, Is scapegoating a bad thing?

Society seems to be reliant over the need of a scapegoat to have answers for the problems that are troubling it. Scapegoating undoubtedly has the potential to lead to peace through a negative method. It can save a community or it can destroy it. In an episode of the American television series “The Twilight Zone”, The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, it presents the destructive behavior and consequence of scapegoating. A series of paranormal activities leads to the conclusion that aliens are among the group of neighbors. From being desperate, the once-friendly-neighbors begin to accuse the very people that they were once close with as aliens. The neighbors of Maple Street continually burn bridges with one another in an attempt to run away from being scapegoated. The episode presents the case of how scapegoating can negatively impact a community.

Why does a community need a scapegoat? A scapegoat is ultimately derived from the intention to create peace through the use of a negative method. The intention is meant to be good. By blaming someone else, the select group is able to calm themselves and blame the singular individual. However many may believe that blaming an individual will lead to no accomplishments. Is scapegoating someone with authoritative power really the correct step in attempting to recognize the problems in modern American society? When we look at the context of America’s current state, what good will be accomplished by just blaming Barack Obama for his inability to answer the global issues and internal economic situation? The problem isn’t necessarily Obama, but it is our corrupt congress (Study: Congress). Blaming alone won’t solve anything.

Does a community need a scapegoat? To scapegoat an individual or group is the easiest way to answer something. However, simply just blaming something will not get anywhere. Just saying a line of a word will not accumulate any change or impact. There has to be action. Words can only go so far to change the course of history but unless there are feeling and emotion into force of action, nothing will happen.

-Zach

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