The Power Of Scapegoating
It’s a tradition as old as time — blaming someone else for one’s own problems. It’s called “scapegoating,” and humans have a long history of it. We blame others for our own hardships because, well, it’s easier than dealing with the fact that most, if not all, our problems are the result of choices we made.
How many people do you know who’ve been fired from a job and said something along the lines of “My boss hated me?” People have been fired out of spite, but for the most part, it doesn’t happen to great employees. Know any good carpenters unable to find work? I mean really good carpenters, craftsmen who show up on time, don’t over-charge, do great work and don’t leave a mess? I bet you don’t, because they are in demand, no matter how bad the economy is.
I know plenty of people who are or have been out of work for long periods of time, and most of them have attitudes that make being around them for extended periods of time a difficult proposition. Not only do I know them, I was one of them. I’ve had more jobs than anyone else I know, and I dare say anyone you know, or even any three people you know. At last count I’ve held, for varying lengths of time (mostly very short periods of time), 63 jobs. No, that’s not a typo.
You name it, I’ve probably been paid to do it, for at least an hour or two before quitting or being fired.
Roofing, construction, concrete, electrician’s assistant, deli counter, softball scorekeeper, busboy, waiter, bartender, fast-food, slow-food, bulk-food, a boat radiator factory, aluminum brake factory, door-to-door sales. I could go on but you get the idea. And I was fired more times than I can count from many of those jobs because of my attitude. I hung around with people whose days revolved around having enough money to get drunk or high as many nights as possible. That was our priority; that was our lives.
I couldn’t really afford college after high school, and it wasn’t a priority. My parents didn’t graduate high school, and my siblings (I’m the youngest of five) hadn’t gone to college, so it wasn’t discussed. My high school wasn’t exactly a conduit to great things, so college wasn’t pushed on anyone. I’d applied to one school, Wayne State in Detroit, because the application fee was only $20 and they were coming to my high school to give immediate admission to people who qualified. You needed only a 2.0 GPA and a few other people were doing it. And the idea of college beat the thought of working for a living, so I did it. They accepted me.
The government said I didn’t qualify for financial aid, so I went for a half-year with the money I had saved (majoring in theater, if that gives you any idea of how aimless I was). When the money ran out, I was done.
I bounced from one hated job to another for a few years, until one day my girlfriend at the time–who had graduated college and knew the importance of it–suggested I try college again.
Mostly to placate her, I filled out a new financial aid form, and because of my age, my poverty–I’d cracked the 5-digit income level only once, when I made $12,000–qualified me for aid. I was shocked, and more than a little excited, to have a chance at something more.
It was just a chance, a shot, I would have to take it and make something of it myself, but I had it. But for it to work, for it to lead anywhere, my attitude had to change.
To that point, I’d blamed just about everyone I’d come in contact with for my poverty and misery. Not that they’d done anything to me. They were just luckier, either by birth or some other circumstance, than I was. I was angry at the world for…pretty much existing.
It took me those lost years to realize if I wanted to assign blame for my crummy lot in life I need only find the nearest reflective surface. Sure, other people were born into different circumstances, more money, a family that stressed education and a place that planned a little more than “you graduate high school, get a job, and that’s about it.” But they weren’t holding me back, I was. There was no grand conspiracy of the illuminati and chemtrails plotting to keep me down. It was me.
Once I started to shake off the chains of resentment and take responsibility for my life–and I hope you’re sitting down for this–it got exponentially better. It’s not perfect. It’s not all wine and roses. But I aspire. And that’s the key.
After burning myself with hot roofing tar, drilling a hole through my fingernail, and getting a hernia from lifting cases of copper tubes, I made different choices in my life that brought me from Detroit to Washington, D.C., where I’d always wanted to be.
I’d always been interested in politics, but I went from volunteering on campaigns every couple of years to being a health policy analyst in a prestigious think tank, serving as a press secretary in the U.S. Senate, managing federal affairs at a powerful activist group, co-founding a successful news website, writing and hosting a talk radio show, to God only knows. There’s no logical sense to my career path, but I’ve loved every minute of it.
And I wouldn’t have had any of it had I not stopped blaming others for my failures, for my problems.
Many of my friends from those days are still angry, still looking outside themselves for their bouncing around from one miserable job to the next. One told me a few years ago that I “was lucky” to get out and do what I’d done. That still sticks with me because it wasn’t luck, and I told him so at the time.
He didn’t like that, still doesn’t. But sitting around telling the world what all you can do and counting on someone to hear you, believe you, believe in you and then pay you a lot of money to do it is not a plan. You have to do it. Then, and only then, will the world (possibly) recognize it and reward it.
This is why I’m a conservative and always have been.
I support the idea of a helping hand — a hand-up, not a handout — I wouldn’t be where I am without it. But I easily could have gone the other way too. I was earning enough to get by — rent was cheap, beer was cheaper. I wasn’t happy, but I was comfortable enough. It’s the same for the myriad welfare programs that give people just enough to make it from one EBT Card direct deposit to the next.
A subsistent existence, with no strings attached, saps aspiration, drains the human spirit. That’s what the poverty trap of government life gives you — just enough — with the threat of it all going away should you try to improve your life by working and earning more.
The social safety net has turned into a cross between a hammock and a spider web — comfortable and incredibly difficult to escape.
The question is how desperate are you to escape it–particularly when there is an industry, built around a political party and philosophy, designed to keep people in it.
Progressives benefit from poverty, from envy, from that anger. They stoke it. The 1 percent, income inequality, “the rich,” all are scapegoated by progressives to people like I was in the hope they think they’re not well-off because someone else is.
That it works so well is a testament to the power of resentment. Scapegoating’s long history demonstrates what a powerful and evil weapon it is. Murder, wars, the Holocaust, much of history’s greatest crimes stem from scapegoating.
Hitler blamed Germany’s economic woes on the Jews, and the people bought it. Hamas blames Palestinian poverty on the Jews even as it squanders an untold fortune on offensive weapons and tunnels, and progressives perpetuate this slander. Democrats blame poverty in America on the people who lift themselves out of poverty, and they receive the votes of those they’ve snared in that web.
There’s a pattern there.
No one is poor because someone else is rich. No one is trapped anywhere but in their own lives. But resentment and scapegoating works. It’s not going to stop being the most powerful weapon progressives have to manipulate people around the world until more people find the person I found in my rear-view mirror on my way to my roofing job more than a decade ago — the only person responsible for your lot in life — you.
Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist.: You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.