“In spite of its victims without number,” Girard writes, “Hitler’s murderous enterprise ended in failure. It has had a twofold effect: it has accelerated the concern for victims, but it has also demoralized it. Hitlerism avenges its failure by making the concern for victims hysterical, turning it into a kind of caricature.” (176)
Again, Girard opposes myths to the Gospels and the Bible in general by saying that myths assume the guilt of the individual and by this fact the righteousness of the lynching mob; while the Bible in its stories unfailingly affirms the innocence of the individual.
This view seems open to an objection. Why not focus on justice rather than “victims”? Sometimes the state punishes justly; and sometimes it viciously punishes an innocent victim. Is it not our obvious human duty to discriminate between these two situations? Why oppose myths to the Gospels rather than learn from both? Surely, not every person presently in prison is an innocent Christ-like victim. Isn’t execution of justice a non-trivial task?
Again, Christ may forgive all sins, but the human political authorities need not and probably cannot. Girard argues: “We cannot call the [principalities and] powers simply ‘diabolical,’ and we should not, under the pretext that they are ‘evil,’ systematically disobey them.” (98)
What is true, of course, is that one cannot be both an accuser and defender of the same person at the same time. You are either part of the crowd demanding one’s death, or you risk your own life defending the accused person. You are either deeply immersed into the warm unanimous and anonymous oneness of the mob to which you happily “belong”; or you are on the receiving end of the mob “justice” for daring to think for yourself. But is there no way to be neither the pathetic victim nor the evil unjust accuser? Is our only true choice between being a cringing cocksucker and a cruel tyrant? Between a submissive slave and ruthless dominating overman? Can’t one live his life in peace?
Now not every “victim” is a victim of human injustice; one can be a victim of bad genes or cancer or alcoholism or even of “circumstance.” In this sense victimism is more general that justice.
But also less general: a “victim” is someone unjustly wronged regarding something very specific; he is innocent of the particular crime he is accused of, but he need not be an angel overall. Like all other people, he, too, is full of flaws. For example, he may eagerly himself turn into a persecutor at the first opportunity and falsely accuse another.
A bit of theology will illustrate the issue. The Original Sin consisted in the misinterpretation of the fact that human beings have an overabundance of potential. This was taken too far into the idea that humans can determine their entire nature, that they are omnipotent over what they shall become, as though a combination of prime matter and God. The mimetic contagion may be an application of this error: when a mob unites into a unanimous violent force, its actions supposedly create right and wrong, justice and injustice. Oedipus was not merely guilty; he was guilty because and by the very fact that he was expelled. His punishment was sufficient proof of his guilt.
According to the myths, there is no justice and injustice apart from the decision of the unanimous condemning mob. “It is precisely because violent contagion was all-powerful in human societies, prior to the day of the Resurrection,” Girard explains, “that archaic religion divinized it. Archaic societies are not as stupid as we tend to think. They had good reasons to mistake violent unanimity for divine power.” (182)
In a crowd, sheltered in its anonymity, our vices are hidden; as Eric Hoffer writes, “No one can then point us out, measure us against others, and expose our inferiority.” (True Believer, §28)
Our (alleged) virtues, too, are magnified a thousand-fold. For if a thousand (or million) other people are united in something as one, how can we possibly be wrong?
But now we realize that there may be such things as objective natural law, truth and justice both, to which even a mob must submit. Paradoxically, this is precisely what is denied by the modern victimism-mongers:
We are always prepared to translate all our conflicts, even those that don’t lend themselves at all to it, into the language of innocent victims. The debate over abortion, for example: whether we are for it or against it, we always have to choose our side in the interest of the “real victims.” Who deserves our sympathy more: the mothers who sacrifice themselves for their children or the children sacrificed to contemporary pleasure-seeking and “self-fulfillment”? (176)
The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition. The media themselves notice this and make fun of “victimology,” which doesn’t keep them from exploiting it. (178)
This other totalitarianism presents itself as the liberator of humanity. In trying to usurp the place of Christ, the powers imitate him in the way a mimetic rival imitates his model in order to defeat him. …
The Antichrist boasts of bringing to human beings the peace and tolerance that Christianity promised but has failed to deliver. Actually, what the radicalization of contemporary victimology produces is a return to all sorts of pagan practices: abortion, euthanasia, sexual undifferentiation, Roman circus games galore but without real victims, etc. (180-1)
Neo-paganism would like to turn the Ten Commandments and all of Judeo-Christian morality into some alleged intolerable violence, and indeed its primary objective is their complete abolition.
Faithful observance of the moral law is perceived as complicity with the forces of persecution that are essentially religious. … the moral law [is seen as] an instrument of repression and persecution. (181)
Yet Jesus Himself warned us about this error: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Mt 5:17-18) The pseudo-victims falsely accusing others of injustices themselves are guilty as sin.
The Christian grace of charity for fellow men does not violate the nature of the moral law but builds comfortably on it. But take away this natural righteousness, and grace, too, will inevitably collapse with horrific results. There will be seas of blood shed by people with “good intentions.”
Perhaps the final communion of saints in the new heaven and new earth promised to us is precisely a society where there are by virtue of everyone’s innocence and glory neither accused, nor just accusers, nor unjust accusers. Father, your kingdom come…