How did we get to be accused of society’s most dangerous evil?
To be perfectly honest, the scapegoats of history have always been small minorities in relatively vast societies. Take the witch hysteria of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693 for example. What was it that ignited that famous fire? Apparently it was when two pre-pubescent girls began to have “fits” that exceeded what the people thought could be accounted for as epilepsy, and they accused three non-conformist women of having bewitched the girls.
Witch hunts are not extinct. One was reported just last week.
Hysteria is a wild fire that breaks out and spreads immediately on winds of rumor. Small evidence, irrelevant circumstances, irrational conclusions, invalid verification and convenient prejudice all can fuel a conflagration that leads to people being hurt. There is always a smoldering ember in human society with regard to those with unwelcome exotic characters. Sometimes societies allocate special status to those persons, but more often they are excoriated and persecuted.
Witches were originally “wise women”; that is the etiology of the word. All it takes is for society to wish those women were otherwise (other than wiser than the ones (such as learned men) who covet the uncontested honor of wisdom and its entitlements), and some insignificant incident, probably not apparently related to such challenges, will set a mob into motion.
Another group that threatens male dominance is us, of course. We are persistent proof that the majority masculinity is not the only one, nor is it necessarily the only valid one, or even the best hub for society. Social conservators hate it when their centrality is challenged. They tend to scream that because they are being undermined all society is liable to collapse.
This is the situation today.
Certain key male figures, one of whom is resigning/retiring in Rome this week, would really like to retain control over the definition of legitimate masculinity. Since an aspect of masculinity is sexual, they try to insist on controlling sex. Since that authority is becoming unviable they look for scapegoats to deflect the suspicion that they, in their conservatism now outside society’s definition of reality, are the reason for the sounds of falling objects all around them.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.