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Saturday, 18 June 2016

If you inject enough poison into the political bloodstream, somebody will get sick

Jonathan Freedland has written an apposite comment piece in today's Guardian which connects the killing of Jo Cox with the "violence in France involving English football fans", the "loathing of the European Union and a resistance to immigration that is clearly heard by many as nothing more than hostility to foreigners."

Freedland's argument that if 'you inject enough poison into the political bloodstream' (the abuse and loathing of politicians which has become commonplace), 'somebody will get sick,' is essentially an illustration of René Girard's theory of mimetic violence. 

Giles Fraser has written that no modern thinker has done more than Girard 'to understand the self-repeating patterns through which violence flows.' 'And there can be no more disturbing conclusion than his, especially now: that violence is a form of copying, that violence is contagious, and that, as he put it: "Violence is like a raging fire that feeds on the very objects intended to smother its flames."'

'Girard’s answer to mimetic violence is that we must break the cycle by refusing to mirror our enemies. Indeed, his rejection of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not hand-wringing pacifism – it is bloody-minded, hard-nosed defiance; a refusal to be defined by the violent other, a refusal to answer back in kind.'

'Girard goes on to argue that the most vociferous critic of religion turns out to be a Jewish prophet called Jesus of Nazareth. Girard understands the ministry of Jesus to be that of deliberately standing in the place of the innocent victim thus to reveal the profound wickedness of the whole scapegoat mechanism. And as he is strung up to die, the violence of religion is exposed in all its gruesome destructiveness.'

The argument made by Freedland and Girard applies equally to the scapegoating and targeting of the LGBTI community in Orlando, therefore I pray for all impacted by the scapegoating of others that has been so clearly seen this week using words prepared by Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Grieving God,
in your son you experienced the agony of the pointless,
savage, premature end of life.
Hold the hand of those who have lost loved ones in Orlando [and in Birstall];
restore the confidence of any who fear if ever they can relax,
or have fun, or enjoy themselves again;
calm the fears of all whose identity makes them subject
to the perverse hatred and grotesque violence of others;
and hasten a world where all are celebrated
for who they are as your children,
where difference is a sign of your diverse abundance,
and where there is no use for guns.
Through the wounded yet ascended Christ,
your personification of solidarity and embodiment of hope.


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