Sunday, 24 January 2010

Does Society Need Victims?

We have talked about victimisation of individuals and now I want to meander a little into the bigger picture. I want to see if society as an animal group needs victims in order to advance it`s group needs and, if it does, whether there can be any wider explanations found for mass persecutory uptake.

We know that societies have hierarchies, underclasses, bullies and victims, successful people and failures. This may well be unavoidable even as a society, in the name of human rights or civilised behaviour, strives to drive out inequality. In my view, humanity doesn`t ever advance in terms of how we treat each other, it just applies itself to better conduct in some societies around the world at different times, whilst brutal behaviour dominates other societies. Things change only in as far as which nations are committing atrocities, or not, at certain points in history. But why does it happen? Is there something else at work here that we don`t see?

It is hard enough to take a look at our less honorable, half concealed and misunderstood impulses, and the mechanics of relationship in this regard that are all around us, let alone to try to fathom how we humans are motivated in terms of our animal selves in relation to the animal-pack. I find it easier to look at these phenomena interpersonally and within small groups, then to check out the psychology macrocosmically. The psychology invariably checks out!!!!!

Let`s look at how an element of interpersonal psychology transfers easily to the wider scheme of things: We have just examined why and how a compartmental conscience aids in disavailing someone of guilt and that within the compartmental conscience various strategies may be used to achieve this..the guilt-shift being one primary example. We know that the guilt-shift functions to demonise someone else in order to, firstly, disencumber the guilty party of responsibly and, secondly, to shift guilt overtly,publicly, from the guilty to the innocent so as to protect the guilt-laden.

So now, how does this microcosmic psychology transfer to society as a whole? We have seen how a group, such as our examples, protect their members and how they deflect the guilt of one of their fellows onto others. Of course, there is both a need and an advantage in doing so: If priests or doctors allow outsiders to know of their culpability the whole group becomes tarnished..and this affects everybody. For a professional group to be publicly discredited is a very big deal for all the players, they all potentially look guilty (as priests do to many people).

From our understanding of small-scale psychology and it`s relation to group psychology, we see that guilt-shifting is a very necessary off-load and certainly essential to group survival. In society in general though, I think that this need still fulfils, even, as in group psychology, if some, or many, or most people aren`t guilty at all.I believe that there is an unconscious drive in us as pack-animals to off-load guilt even if we personally have no guilt whatsoever.For example, it is our instinctive dislike of, or nervousness about, our societies weaker members that betrays our group guilt even if we don't personally victimise or abuse....

And what does this result in ultimately? This manifests in the demonisation and persecution we see emanating from the big cogs in our societies. An example from history would be the 17th century witch hunts, but societal guilt-shifting is alive and kicking today!

In my next blog I want to look at examples of this phenomenon. Hope you can tune in...

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