Extracted from a commentary by Andrew Marr, OSB, Violence and the Kingdom of God: Introducing the anthropology of Rene Girard, thanks to a post by an online friend K.:
"THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTIC that Girard sees as most fundamental to human behavior is mimesis. Human beings are creatures who imitate... Two men might create a triangle because one man's desire for a woman inflames the other man's desire for that same woman.
"... It is significant that no clear reason is given why Abel's offering should have been more acceptable to God than Cain's (Genesis 4). In a crisis generated by mimetic rivalry, nothing matters except the rivalry itself.... Joseph is shown to be the victim of collective violence because of the jealousy of his brothers. (Genesis 37). Saul was driven to a murderous rage when David was credited with slaying tens of thousands and Saul only thousands. (1Samuel 18:7)
"... In some instances, the people gang up on Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6). In other instances, the people gang up on somebody else (Leviticus 23) ... The prophets constantly had to denounce the people for offering up 'their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.' (Jeremiah 32:35)
"... The Psalmist is often surrounded by enemies who combine violence with lying: 'More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely. What I did not steal must I now restore?' (Psalm 69:4) "
WAS QUITE IMPRESSED BY Girard's observation about mimesis (especially mimetic rivalry) and his citations of biblical examples.
This theory explains perhaps why many people could turn for the better or worse because of the company they keep, why a person can do wrong and yet think that s/he is blameless because "there are people who did the same", why some can feel deprived the moment someone else has something which they do not have, and why a relative could complain bitterly about her 'misfortune' of not living in a condominium, not having servants, and having to work so hard!
Mimesis probably also accounts for the tendency of many people to stereotype people. Met a 53-year-old woman over dinner last evening. Slim, fair and soft-spoken. She had been retrenched about two years ago. Since then, she has made several job enquiries and gone for a number of interviews which almost invariably turned into deadends the moment the employer found out her age.
Similarly, received an email message from a friend last Friday asking, "Do you know of any friends looking for an administrative job? Location: Gul Circle. Criteria: prefer married & mature, office skills like MS Office, Excel, etc." i queried via email, "Why must be married? Married = Mature? Where does that leave us?" She emailed back, "Don't get offended lah but most view that married are more able to handle situation, but not always the case."
When will people take the trouble to find out and see people (or things) as they actually are, and not simply as other people see them?
Fortunately, the same commentary on Girard's findings also offered some hope, prefigured perhaps by Saul's son and David's good friend in the first book of Samuel in the Old Testament: "Through his renunciation of that mimetic rivalry, Jonathan witnesses to a new way for humans to relate to one another in the fear of God ... [In the New Testament,] Jesus disciples' squabbles over who is the greatest are coupled with Jesus' predictions of his upcoming suffering and death. In response to this rivalry, Jesus posits a helpless child, such as one that the disciples tried to keep away from Jesus, as a model of the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:46-47)
"In His preaching, Jesus admonished his followers to follow precisely the opposite behavior than that modeled by the practice of reciprocal violence. 'You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.' (Matthew 5:38-39)"
Note: Could it be that what Girard observed is more true of certain people than others? Am reminded of a female educator's comments on the the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiling: She said that 'Thinking' people tend to form their own opinions more independently and have distinct preferences (that is, they are more 'field independent') while 'Feeling' people tend not to have to opinions of their own because they prefer to 'feel what other people feel' and so, 'want what other people want' (that is, they are more 'field dependent').