I am reading Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard. And I am convinced that this is an important book.
I am on the second chapter Sacrifice, Founding Murders, and the Scapegoat Mechanism. Everyone ought to read it – because its logic is so simple. He states the obvious – that sacrifice was fundamental to all human societies. In the Temple in Jerusalem ritual animal sacrifice was performed every single day – by the highest religious authorities. When the Romans finished after their War, there was not one stone left standing on another in the whole city.
The Jews had to flee all directions. All their religiosity didn’t do them much good.
Some of these Jews became Christians, who did not practice animal sacrifice (because Christ had been sacrificed instead) and this has been regarded, rightly, as an improvement. But our innate murderousness merely moved underground – and Christians engaged in Righteous Wars (where the Infidels were slaughtered) as much as anyone else.
Thinkers have always wondered why people were so violent – and Girard provides a simple answer – sacrifice (a violent act in itself) was necessary in order to keep social violence from getting out of control.
Lately, we have been congratulating ourself on the decreased numbers of deaths due to violence – compared to our past (WWI and WWII, for example) when huge numbers died this way. The Cold War was just that – not many people died because of it. The USSR was destroyed – with enormous consequences. But the human population continued to skyrocket.
What was not noticed was the subtle deaths of nearly everyone. People still looked like people, walked like people, talked like people – and so on. But were not thinking and feeling like people. They had become Consumers instead.
Because, I believe, we had all been offered up as willing sacrifices on the altar of Progress.