Rant Number 468 15 December 2011
The fall guy. Yank slang for ‘an easy victim’. Theologically: the scapegoat. Hot stuff, folks. Because we live in murky scapegoating times.
Rule Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never will be slaves! Such the patriotic mood created by PM David Cameron’s refusal to be enslaved to the Merkozy EU project. Most Britons agree with Bulldog Cameron, the polls say. So, if not Britannia, Europhobia rules. Cameron has saved Britain – or the City bankers, perhaps – from European bondage. Europe - the fons et origo of all of Britain’s ills. So, Europe is Britain’s current fall guy. Actually, Europe=Germany. Germany: Britain’s scapegoat.
To dig this, you must, as always, go back to the Word of God. Check the awesome ritual for the Day of Atonement is in Leviticus XVI: 6-10. Learn about the scapegoat there. Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first of Israel’s High Priests, extends his hands over the head of a live male goat, recites the sins of the Israelites and thus transfers their sins to the animal. The scapegoat is then driven out into the wilderness to the demon, Azazel. (If you really fancy it, take a trip to the Liverpool Art Gallery and see Holman Hunt’s painting of the wretched beast. It made me feel sad.) Sounds stupid? Savage? Primitive? Well, you can’t expect a priest to criticise Aaron, the father of all priests, can you? Regardless, the archaic rite enshrines a deep, universal psychological truth – the necessity for a scapegoat.
I will call a spade a spade. Europhobes hanker after scapegoats. Europhobia really is euphemism for Germanophobia – with a dash of Gallic xenophobia thrown in, for good measure. It must be galling, truly unbearable for the Brits. France, which they saved from les boches in WW2, now gangs up with Germany against the Brits. The same Brits who, along with that other degenerate, lost German tribe, the Yanks, by 1945 reduced Deutschland to a pile of rubble. Yet, the cocky Krauts now economically run Europe. How can it be? It drives the Tories crazy. Churchill must be turning over in his grave. It does not make sense but...it is true. Hence, the hunt for a scapegoat.
Scapegoating, however, works on the continent, too. Europeans (here meaning French and Germans, the ones who really run the show – Southern Europe is for the cabaret) recall how England has always fought to prevent any single power from achieving hegemony over the continent. Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Hitler...a longish list. General de Gaulle’s dislike of the nation that gave him asylum in 1940 actually led him to veto Britain’s first attempt to join the EU. Still, the Frogs croak away: the Brits’ heart has never been in Europe. They always carp, moan and complain. Seek exemptions and rebates galore. Trafalgar Square, Waterloo Station – why do the Brits keep banging on about distant victories over France? Verily, England, une nation des boutiquiers. And now these petty shopkeepers threaten EU’s unity, they may leave the EU... Anglophobia? A bit, but, a French socialist nincompoop tried to turn the tables on Sarko, charging him with kissing les boches’ arse. Plus ca change...the eternal scapegoat again?
Back to Germany. The nation that matters. Look around you. The media are chock-a-block with anti-German slurs. Films, programmes, documentaries about WWII, Nazis and so on pullulate daily. A veritable epidemic, an orgy of Germanophobia. Welshman Simon Jenkins has written eloquently about the curious, pervasive ‘Nazification of evil’, meaning British obsession with WWII. (A safe industry: Adolf’s children having repudiated his heritage, the enemy won’t ever hit back.) All about celebrating ad nauseam Britain’s triumph over Germany. At work in school curricula, video games, the arts, history, films, papers, you name it. A sign of national insecurity, Jenkins observes. Sure, but also a sign of the need for a perennial scapegoat: blame the bloody, beastly foreigners!
It is tricky, however. The Jews’ ancient ceremony of Atonement, mandated by God through Moses, removed their faults by loading them unto the scapegoat. Israel’s God would see to it that it worked. And Israel’s goodly men, the prophets, warned and encouraged. But there is no such a guarantee for secular scapegoats. Britain’s evils cannot be exorcised and abolished by cursing the Third Reich. The destruction or degrading of British manufacturing, the mining industry and the national utilities was effected not by the Luftwaffe but by Maggie Thatcher. The mobs gleefully burning and sacking English city centres last summer did not seem blonde Aryans wearing swastika arm bands. Failing schools, youth crime, teen-age pregnancies, abortions, blasphemies – they won’t go away by re-running the WWII videotape. Nor are there any prophetic voices in our British desert. Only squalid obscenities and tired cacophonies.
Salvation will not come from those Tory MP’s cheering Bulldog Dave. Consider their striped suits, plummy accents, public school rhetoric. They are the incarnate symbols of a divided society: only 7% of English children go to fee-paying schools! Conservative, Labour and Lib-Dem politicians all swear by a ‘fairer and more equal society’. Yet the Tory brigade embody privilege on their faces and voices. Besides, the historic Britain they noisily invoke no longer exists. Bombing defenceless Libya might have given closet sadists an orgasm, but, austerity biting, Britain’s armed forces are on the wane. And British society has irrevocably changed. As John Cleese’s unfunny remark has it, ‘London is no longer an English city’. Tory MPs resemble those obsolete Roman patricians turning up their noses at the barbarous Goths in their midst. Rome had become the problem, not the barbarians...
Simon Schama, the pipsqueak little Dutch historian puffed up with media glory, warns in Newsweek against scapegoating. Blaming foreigners or immigrants. Quite right. As much as he dislikes Schama, the priest gives the devil his due. Whipping up xenophobia and hatred of the Other is stupid and wrong, whether the Other be German or Moroccan. The fault is primarily in ourselves. If Europeans were just, virtuous and, above all, Christian, they would not be in the mess they are now. No scapegoat, no fall guy can take Europe’s sins away.
Ancient Israel’s scapegoat was chased outside the city, into the desert, to the demon Azazel. But what if Azazel was now inside?
Revd Frank Julian Gelli