Home Columnists Mary Theresa Lowndes: Why do we always have to have a scapegoat?

Mary Theresa Lowndes: Why do we always have to have a scapegoat?

Is everyone perfect? No they are not. Does everyone make mistakes? Yes they do. Did I ever make a mistake? Yes I did and if I were to be given 10 Cent for every mistake I made I would be very wealthy now.

There is no human being that does not make mistakes but to hear some people talk you would think that they were perfect.

Barry Cowen made a mistake four years ago and he apologised sincerely for his mistake.

He admitted that it was a stupid mistake and that should have been the end of it. He didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t abuse anyone and he didn’t rob anyone but yet he has been tortured by the media, by other politicians and on social media.

It seems to be part of human nature to find someone to pick on in times of trouble or stress.

And there are people who are not satisfied with their own lives and instead of helping themselves they will scapegoat others.

And right now the country is economically in a bad state. We are in danger of a second wave of Covid-19 which will finish the economy. It will be years before we recover.

Nothing is normal anymore. Homelessness and lack of housing is a big problem. Many businesses will never reopen again. The pandemic has damaged the mental health of both young and old. People are very worried.

People seem to need a scapegoat so that they will feel better about themselves. Neel Burton M.D. writes

“The ego defense of displacement plays an important role in scapegoating, in which uncomfortable feelings such as anger, frustration, envy, guilt, shame, and insecurity are displaced or redirected onto another, often more vulnerable, person or group”.

People may scapegoat others when they are dissatisfied with their own lives. Extreme poverty from unemployment or low paid work or poverty created by debt, poor money management and not living within one’s means will cause dissatisfaction and may cause someone to pick a target to scapegoat.

This might explain a lot of the scapegoating in the comments on Facebook.

But scapegoating others is not the answer.

Scapegoating is evil and it happens in families, in the workplace and everywhere. It even happened in the bible.

In the book of Leviticus the sins of the people were transferred to a goat and the goat was sent off to the wilderness carrying the sins of the people with him and the people were cleansed of their sins.

People may scapegoat any group of vulnerable people such as people on social welfare, people living in social housing, immigrants, travellers etc.

But when an individual is scapegoated it is usually someone that is considered weak or vulnerable. This is the situation in the whole of the animal kingdom.

I remember when I was a child most women kept poultry and they always said that if a chicken was weak or had a cut leg or some other injury it would have to be isolated from the flock because the other chickens would peck it to death.

The term pecking order came from the dominance that is found in chickens.

When it came to light that Barry Cowen made a mistake four years ago people jumped on it.

They found a weak spot and he became vulnerable from that moment on. He was hounded for weeks and he was bullied.

He had a great understanding of rural Ireland. He was needed as a Minister for Agriculture in these turbulent times.

I only hope that he will find the strength to get through this and move on. It is never easy being a scapegoat. It is very distressing in every way.

People who scapegoat others, either individuals or groups, need to take a good hard look at themselves because no human being is perfect.

Life is short, very short. We are all dying and some of us will go far too early. We need to remember that and be kind.

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Mary Theresa Lowndes describes herself as a 'Golden Oldie' living in her 60s. She went to college late in life as a mature students and has a degree in Sociology and Social Policy from Trinity College and a masters in journalism from DIT.