Secrets about People: A Short and Dangerous Introduction to René Girard 1/2

Alex Danco, 2019-04-28

MK: I have to admit: I can’t get enough of Alex’s writings. And also there’s a long way for me as an intellectual to grasp his cultural genius. Sorry if I cut this piece of his too short.

We don’t want things, we want to BE things

  • We learn by watching and copying others. And we learn how to want.

  • The desire to belong is still in our DNA, and it comes from other people.

  • [MK: it’s a known psychological trick: to convince others and yourself that you don’t need a drink you say: “I’m not a drinker” instead of “I don’t want to drink”.]

  • The whole idea is to find a peer set with whom one wants to associate.

  • Ex: teenagers who want to belong are flexible with their likes (music, style, whatever).

  • The outcome of this self-deception is lying and pretending.

  • The right outcome is humility: one doesn’t become a copy of their idols.

  • Narcissists, on the contrary, want to be the best versions of themselves, and hence very unhappy as it’s unreachable.

The model vs the obstacle

  • (2D) Simplistic approach: Hero —> Goal <—> Obstacle.

  • (3D) Idealistic approach: Hero <—> Ideal. A human wants to become the Ideal and is mimicking the Model.

  • And yes, in simple speak people want the status.

The status

  • Models and their admirers ultimately become rivals. [MK: this is so important, especially for kids]

  • Instagram: it’s about the other person and the emotions (not always nice) about them.

  • A person can direct its anger outwards and actively pursue objects or experiences turning one into the model. Can blame the other person for one not being able to become like them. Or can be narcissistic and blame oneself on not being able to become that idealised version of oneself.

We do not fight because we’re different; we are the same

  • The amount of distance between the subject and the model makes a big difference.

  • The “external mediators”, an ideal model far removed from the subject (a hero, a god, etc.) is an unreachable role model, not a peer.

  • “Internal mediators” are the role models where a two-way relationship is present. What starts as a role model (what you want to want) turns into rivalry, and herein lies the duality: you want to become another person, but there’s a stigma of being a copycat. It’s even worse for narcissists who are rivals with themselves.

  • When the role model is far away – it’s safe to admit the fact that they’re a role model.

  • The dynamics with a close role model are usually negative: what starts with admiration turns into envy and opposition. This can be symmetrical, too.

  • Internal conflict: trying to be someone and at the same time trying not to show the process of becoming this someone. Causes shame.

Small stakes have the fiercest fights

  • People think the rivalry is about an object, not the relationship —> thing get intense.

  • The smaller the object – the uglier the fight gets.

  • The smaller the stakes – the more similar competitors are [otherwise the object is not equally valuable to them]

  • The smaller the stakes – the harder it is to justify the conflict over them. [Rivalry over big goals is socially acceptable]

  • Smearing the opponent’s reputation to hide one’s own jealousy and secret admiration.

  • Such conflicts end up being about nothing, and they spiral out of control, no reconciliation possible.

  • The solution is the differentiation (in terms of position, distance, power distance, etc.) to ensure no tit for tat violence can emerge.

Violence, Scapegoating and Blame

  • In homogenous societies conflicts magnify and are very hard to deter as the enemy is internal.

  • While the advantages of being alike are known, the conflicts are bound to occur.

  • Conflict resolution: finding a scapegoat [the alleged root of the problem] and forcing it out or killing. It’s someone neutral and innocent.

  • In modern societies people resort to blame, and it often feels good.

  • In work environments this is all too common.