Witness K and Bernard Collaery are scapegoats. You are here today because our modern societies can see through scapegoating, even though this ancient practice is still attempted. We can actually see that the scapegoat is a victim. This is a type of new consciousness which ancient societies did not have.
“Our society is the most preoccupied with victims of any that ever was. Even if it is insincere, a big show, the phenomenon has no precedent. …… …Examine ancient sources, inquire everywhere, dig up the corners of the planet, and you will not find anything anywhere that even remotely resembles our modern concern for victims.
Girard, Things Hidden from the Foundation of the World, 429
Girard’s use of “victim” is very specific. It means a person or a group used and abused to achieve a stronger group’s release from fear or threat. The Jews were scapegoated by the Nazis. Refugees who arrive by boat are the scapegoats of a fearful Australian population and government.
There are four aspects of scapegoating which apply. There’s a crisis. So it is assumed that a crime has been committed which caused the crisis. Someone is then blamed, and the criteria for their choice is their relative weakness, difference, and inability to retaliate. So Crisis, Crime, and the Criteria for the scapegoat. The fourth aspect of scapegoating is the violence done to the victim.
Scapegoating has been used by humans for untold millennia. It is actually quite ingenious. Shifting the blame onto one was a way of dealing with the upheavals which could cause even the extinction of the group. “All-against-all” became “all-against-one”. For sure, scapegoating contains violence, but it also “contains” violence, in the sense of limiting it. Pity about the ones chosen as the focus of that limitation.
Scapegoating also had a beneficial effect. In clubbing together against one, a remarkable harmony arises: the harmony of the common enemy. One of the downsides was that the whole process had to be done over and over again because new crises required new victims, interminably.
So what is the crisis in the matter of Witness K and Bernard Collaery? Australian governments are caught in an act of despicable greed and deceit. It is an affront to every characteristic claimed as “Australian” – fairness, concern for the under dog, blunt honesty. And then someone lets the cat out of the bag. The various unfruitful attempts to define “Australianness” were set back by this act of telling the truth. There is a crisis all right. It’s a crisis of identity, to the amazement of the rest of the world.
As well as that, it’s a crisis of missing out on billions of dollars. Once it knew about the spying, Timor-Leste demanded a border, and the border agreed on in March 2018 brought Australia far less than we would have gained had the spying not been discovered. Australia got less money! What a terrible crisis that is!
The crime leading to this crisis is identified as “making known Australian secrets to a foreign power” and publicly discussing it. Telling the truth is dressed up as attacking national security. The Australian ideal of calling a spade a spade is depicted as a crime.
And who gets the blame? Who is the scapegoat? The ones who have faced down the State with nothing but their own integrity.
Two good men without the resources required to fight the tax-payer funded government legal machine. Two good men whose story is thwarted by its own complexity, facing a population more concerned about cricket and footy scores than the erosion of national identity and structures. Two good men who are different, standing out from the crowd and from the politicians in their courage and honesty.
And what of the fourth feature of scapegoating, the violence being done to them? They are denied justice through the manipulation of law. They endure the absurd theatre of these endless hearings. They suffer financial distress. They see their families’ anguish. They witness the real criminals evading justice. They lack political support from the Opposition as well as from Government. Their reputations are trashed. They are painted as traitors. They face jail.
But there is proof that the old scapegoating trick does not work any more. There is no longer a unanimous crowd, unconscious of what is going on.
We are conscious of it. We can see that Witness K and Bernard Collaery are scapegoats. We know where the real crime lies.
We must continue to champion the truth through political, legal, educational and moral channels. We are engaged in unflinching, nonviolent, resistance to the lie of scapegoating.