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

Alex Danco, 2019-04-28

Part 1

Hierarchy and Religion as early defences

  • Hierarchy helps resolve conflicts: the one higher up is sufficiently far away and differentiated —> if people are not peers, there’s no jealousy.

  • Hierarchies don’t fit our modern understanding of fairness / equality, but they suppress violence (esp. in the old times when it was very relevant).

  • Authority works best when it’s “natural” (mandate of heaven, divine right, etc.) rather than meritorious (CEO) as it can’t be challenged.

  • Example: CEOs (merit) are in many ways less effective than founders (divine right). Not possible to challenge the founder’s title as it’s out of reach.

  • Envy to become a founder is productive in starting new companies.

  • Similar thing with religions: god / priests are not your peers. And this allows suppressing conflict.

  • Human sacrifices are no different from scapegoats —> the community celebrates the return of differentiation.

  • … but this all only provides temporary relief, as the root of the issue is still there.

What about the modern life?

  • The internet brings people together —> reduces distance, increases the peer set and the unhealthy wishing as a result.

  • Instagram allows people to see and envy their peers 24/7.

  • Social networks in general perpetuate this lack of distance and are not making people happier.

  • Trumpism – the rejection of the idea that we are and ought to be undifferentiated.

  • As funny as it sounds, diversity is the answer. Diversity of experiences, backgrounds, cultures. But it’s easy to confuse discrimination for diversity.

  • Cancel culture is the modern scapegoating when someone gets sacrificed for something justifiably wrong within their peer set.

  • If the victim is not neutral, it’s a tit for tat revenge.

  • However, not everything is lost as social networks once again give rise to one-on-one conversations; smaller private groups succeed public groups. Who gets into one’s peer set again gets under one’s control.

  • Relationships get from “opt-out” back to “opt-in”. No need to look good in front of everyone, pick your targets wisely.

  • Group dynamics (originating with the peer set) are responsible for some of the bad things happening; you pick your heroes and models – or not, and that’s fine.