Most traditions, including Christmas, are related to the scapegoat mechanism, which is at the root of all human behaviour. Although it was Kenneth Burke who discovered what had been lying in wait for us for so many centuries, it was René Girard who first really understood its significance. In order for humans to bond and operate effectively, we need to isolate a scapegoat and kill or punish him/her/it ruthlessly, be it a goat, a sheep, a turkey or a fellow human being.
The top photo is of the Temple of Baal at Baalbeck in Lebanon, possibly the most monumental building ever constructed by man, and the greatest temple ever to the cult of scapegoatism. Human sacrifice took place there on a massive scale.
When I was there in the summer of 2006, two Israeli soldiers, who'd just been captured, were being held in an adjacent building, and were about to be sacrificed. One thousand other people were killed in the war to rescue them. There is no blame, only human tradition. There have always been scapegoats. Sometimes we nail them to crosses, sometimes we burn them on bonfires, sometimes we make effigies of them and beat them to death, sometimes we bully them at school, sometimes we have commissions to weed them out, sometimes we gas them in concentration camps. We usually laugh about it at the time: it is our way and our tradition. In the part of the world I live in, the greatest tradition is to kill a goat: the scapegoat.
A River of Contrasts
6 days ago