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About the Author

Robert Stefanicki
Journalist (Warsaw, Poland)

Old salt international affairs writer. At present freelance (looking for a job!), most of his professional life worked for the largest daily in Poland. Focused on Asia and Middle East, where witnessed some dirty wars, now more and more interested in development and other global issues. In collusion with Institute of Global Responsibility, our new and fast growing NGO. Self made photographer (see my website), scuba diver, sailor, cyclist and movie addict.

Post

Scapegoating

Published 27th June 2010 - 9 comments - 5389 views -

You’d never guess whose blame is that housing prices Beijing are surging. Prostitutes. At least that’s what Chinese state media claim: the city's xiaojie (mistresses) are renting too many apartments, pushing up prices, so it is impossible for city residents to gain a foothold on the property ladder. Skeptics say the working girls are just a scapegoat for the real offenders – local government officials. Full story is here.

Humanity have been using scapegoats for ever, as an effective way to shift the blame and appease the public opinion. Scapegoats are good for buying time, for diverting attention from the real cause of the imminent collapse and for appeasing the fury of discontent citizens.

Ancient Greeks practiced a scapegoating rite in which a cripple or beggar or criminal was stoned, beaten and cast out of the community in response to a natural disaster, such as a plague, famine or an invasion. Later witch-hunt was practiced during the time Rome was facing economic crisis, and it’s still going on in some part of Africa. Jews were number one scapegoats throughout the times, peaking (but no ending) in Holocaust.

What are the pet culprits today? Probably immigrants, blamed for all economic woes and declining identity of Western societies. In Poland some are fond of pointing finger at Russia or Germany at any occasion, and we are not alone: Slovakians look cross at Hungarians, Bulgarians at Turks, Austrian at Germans, French at Britons (to limit this count to Europe only).

But what are “development community” – if I may use this vague term – scapegoats? If Cuba is not paradise yet, American embargo should be responsible. Anything goes wrong in Palestine, must be fault of Israel. Africa cant’ get out of poverty? Let’s bash World Bank and IMF. Crisis – lynching bankers seems handy solution. HIV or mounting farmers’ debts – always good to point at greed of multinational companies.

I don’t claim above statements are not true at all. And don’t take it personally, since 99 percent of the posts on this platform I consider thoughtful. But if you surf through the global web, you should know what I mean. Eagerness for simple, immediate solutions, lemming-like rush, blindly following cliche, that may look fresh and revealing, but in fact are old and weary. All this creates the risk of falling into a trap of rejecting good ideas only because they come from usual culprits.

One example.

During 2005 UN World Summit member states included in the Outcome Document a concept called Responsibility to Protect (R2P), first coined by The African Union. In short: a State has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. If a State is manifestly failing to do it and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.

In 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decided that the time to implement it has come. Not so fast. The debate in General Assembly got drowned in ideological statements and historical discussions. Anti-P2P camp has interesting composition: Cuba, Venezuela, Sudan (enemies of US), Egypt, India, Pakistan (friends of US). In US themselves, administration of Barack Obama backs P2P, in opposition to conservative isolationists, Bushy neoconservatives (who “don't want America to be forced to anything”) and... leftists.

Key participants in a debate was Noam Chomsky, who in his statement called Japan’s attack on Manchuria, Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler’s occupation of parts of Czechoslovakia – and of course American militarism, imperialism and double face – to prove that virtually every use of force in the international affairs has been justified in terms of R2P, always accompanied by lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect the suffering populations. Since Mr. Chomsky has some followers in development world, the good idea is beeing killed from the wrong side. In fact R2P has got muti-layer mechanisms preventing abuse, and if should be criticized, that only for being too weak.

My point is: if IMF has got a good idea, it’s no shame to support it. If there is a chance to expose rascism, then limiting it to Israel (what happened to NGOs declaration at Durban conference) is counterproductive. And not everything wanted by US government is wrong despite – I know, I know – Vietnam, Granada, Salvador, Indonesia, Iraq and Marylin Monroe.

featured image: Edvin Aitken


Category: Politics | Tags:


Comments

  • Bart Knols on 27th June 2010:

    Excellent blog, important points - many thanks for this. My last blog about DDT is a great example of what you outline nicely here - the whole world seems to condemn the use of DDT, and only a handful of people argue fiercely that it is necessary, at least for the moment, to control malaria and save lives with it in Africa…


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 27th June 2010:

    Cool. Very nice. I agree in 100% Are you still looking for a job? Polish media needs you wink


  • Radka Lankašová on 28th June 2010:

    Great post, Robert.

    “Ancient Greeks practiced a scapegoating rite in which a cripple or beggar or criminal was stoned, beaten and cast out of the community in response to a natural disaster, such as a plague, famine or an invasion.”

    Ancient Greeks had one individual who was blamed for whatever reasons. Nowadays scapegoats are whole nations or big companies which usually employ a lot of people (dozens of thousands). It is very, very dangerous.


  • Robert Stefanicki on 28th June 2010:

    @Bart: Interesting post about DDT, I missed it earlier.

    @Iwona: Yes, they need me, just they have not realized it yet.

    @Radka: See, in some cultures there is a post of “voluntary scapegoat” - a tribe or a family traditionally destined to accept all sins, bad luck or diseases from other people. Very handy. And they usually live well of the job.


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 28th June 2010:

    Great post, Robert!

    I guess this scapegoating can tell us a lot about the nature of homo nonsapiens. “It ain’t me, babe, it ain’t me.”


  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 07th July 2010:

    I agree - it’s a great post. Scapegoating on all levels - individual, national, etc. is what often prevents us from solving problems.


  • Luan Galani on 07th July 2010:

    I couldn’t agree more with you all. Marvellous post, Robert. So thought provoking…thanks.


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 15th July 2010:

    I just find the nice sentance in the book I’m reading Gazmend Kapllani “The short book about crossing boarder” - it’s about refugges from Albiania in Greece. He wrotes they felt as the Scapegoating and that you are becoming scapegoating usually not for rich people but for poor one. Those who do not read but watch TV only… by the way it’s great book so I recommend to everyone.


  • Sylwia Presley on 25th July 2010:

    Very valid points!


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