As It Is ~ SCAPEGOATS
ALTHOUGH WE DO NOT
have eight tentacles, like an octopus, or many arms,
like a Hindu deity, all around us , we constantly
touch people in many ways, and are likewise touched
by them. Life is a subtle and unsubtle give-and-take,
because we do not live alone, simply because it is
impossible to do so.
Someone recently asked me what I thought
of kids of different ethnic groups speaking their
native languages in school, and I responded that if
their English is sufficiently good to express themselves
adequately in, it is best to speak in that language,
for to speak in a minority language when we know the
language of the country we live in would be to deliberately
exclude others from what we are saying, and, since
no one likes to have this done to them, it is an activity
pregnant with problems and ill feelings; it is also
considered by many people ? understandably enough
? as very rude. This applies in any country, and not
just in a country where English is the lingua franca.
If we learn how to put ourselves into others'
positions, it can obviate many misunderstandings and
problems, for just like you and I, everyone else has
their legitimate feelings, and if we wish others to
respect our feelings, we must respect theirs; it is
not a one way street.
I am definitely not advocating undifferentiated
conformity, but to deliberately stand out as different
is to invite trouble, and I have often thought it
improper and unwise for people to speak loudly in
public in languages that people around them don't
understand. For not only is it unnecessary, but it
attracts attention to them, and sometimes resentment.
American tourists have long had an unenviable reputation
for this, and though people are happy to relieve them
of their greenbacks, they otherwise do not respect
them very much. Many people have an inborn xenophobia
? fear, dislike, or even hatred of strangers and foreigners
? that they have not been able to overcome, or might
not even want to, and therefore, they need little
excuse to say or do something unpleasant, or worse.
Not only because we know there are such people in
the world, but more out of respect and consideration
for others, we should walk lightly through life, causing
as little disturbance as possible as we pass by.
Most of us are familiar with the word 'scapegoat,'
but its origin is not so well known, so it might help
to give a short explanation here. When Moses led the
biblical Israelites out of Egypt (and most people
will have seen the very entertaining movie "The
Ten Commandments"), they wandered around in the
desert, it is said, for forty years. It is never explained,
and seldom queried, where they obtained such things
as wood, which the account has them using in abundance,
along with lots of other improbable things; it also
has them being miraculously supplied with 'manna from
heaven' and water which sprang from a rock. Anyway,
in the book of Leviticus (the third book of the Bible),
is an interminable list of rules and regulations about
what the people should and should not do, and how
to do/not do it, and if anyone has the time, interest,
and patience to read that book, he/she will probably
feel appalled at the blood thirsty and petty nature
of the god who could demand unquestioning obedience
of such silly things therein recorded. In chapter
16, he/it gives instructions for a goat to be selected
from the flock, and the sins of the people to be symbolically
laid upon it in 'vicarious atonement,' before releasing
it into the desert. What utter b.s.! But at least
the goat would still be alive, unlike many of its
fellows that were dragged off to be ritually sacrificed
to placate the vengeful deity. Now, goats are pretty
resourceful at surviving in arid conditions; therefore,
that particular goat might be considered lucky to
escape from being used as a burnt offering!
Today, however, there is generally no element
of luck attached to the concept of scapegoats; anyone
who becomes, or is used as a scapegoat, is considered
unlucky. And, in times of economic hardship, such
as the present in many countries, with about one million
people out of work in Australia (and other countries
undergoing similar unemployment), some people look
around for scapegoats ? someone to blame and vent
their anger and frustration on. It is not uncommon
for minority groups or people of different ethnic
origins than the majority in a society ? especially
if the minority are hard working and prosperous ?
to feel the brunt of such frustration.
We might complain about harassment and infringement
of our lawful rights, but lots of people are deaf
when they choose to be. It is better, therefore, as
a member of an ethnic group in a host country, to
take care to do nothing that might attract unwanted
attention to oneself, or to antagonize others. This
is not to say that one should walk in fear, but rather
with dignity, and concern for others; prevention is
always better than cure.
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong had
little trouble in turning the populace against the
Americans and their pro-American governments in Saigon,
as the Americans were strangers and aliens there,
and most of them understood little of the language
and culture of the Vietnamese, and perhaps cared even
less. And, because it was the American bombs and chemical
defoliants that brought death and destruction from
the skies to young and old, male and female, friend
and foe alike, it was easy for the VC to portray them
as enemies of the people, invaders from a foreign
land and culture; patriotism is a force more powerful
than understanding. The Americans had little going
for them, and were defeated more by the propaganda
of the VC than by their arms, and it was only after
Saigon fell in 1975 that many people realized they
had backed the wrong horse; but by then it was too
late, of course.
With crime rates continuing to soar, and
no decline in sight, it is foolish to parade one's
wealth before the eyes of those who need little temptation
to steal. Part of the blame for theft lies with those
who thoughtlessly walk around draped in gold and jewels;
it inspires envy and greed in others.
Elephants and rhinoceroses are now in danger
of extinction because their appendages are valued
by men. Yet their tusks and horns serve no essential
purpose, and they could still live without them. Would
it not be an act of compassion, therefore, and in
the vital interests of the animals themselves, if
they were to be rounded up and their tusks and horns
surgically amputated, thus depriving poachers of their
main, if not only, reason for killing them? If I were
an elephant, I think I would not object too much to
this sacrifice, for if the elephants are killed, they
lose everything, and not just their tusks!
Tall and straight trees are singled out
for their usefulness, and soon cut down, but gnarled
and twisted trees are rejected and left standing.
Sometimes, beauty and usefulness are their own enemies,
while ugliness and uselessness serve as protection
against aggressors. As Lao Tsu said: "The Sage
wears rough clothing, and holds the jewel in his heart."
That is, he is not ostentatious, and does not make
a show, preferring to hide and disguise his attainments
rather than display them.