Merriam-webster dictionary defines the scapegoat as, a goat upon whose head the sins of the people were symbolically placed after which it is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur. It also defines it as one that bears the blame for others or one that is the object of irrational hostility. Based on the first definition any goat could be selected during the feast of Yum Kippur to be the scapegoat. Up till the point when the priest casts the lot in the Jewish tradition either of the two goats could end up being the goat on whose head everyone’s sins were cast. It is important to note that the goat did not commit any sin of its own. It was only culpable in so much as it was a member of the Jewish community, at the time of Yom Kippur. It was unfortunate for whatever arbitrary reason to catch the attention of the priest and thus selected as one of the chosen for the fast .
This unfair fate is not relegated to goats alone. As the second definition above demonstrates man has been known to make a scapegoat of his fellow man. Regardless, of status in life whether noble, serf, leader, follower, innocent, guilty, loner or life of the party. One can quickly find themselves under the confessing tongues of many accusers. In similitude to the biblical scapegoat it would take an act of God to alter the desired outcome set upon by the community in which the accused exists in at the time. For many goats and people, being a scapegoat has never been a threat, nor even something they have ever imagined.
There are two fundamental things required for a scapegoat system to thrive. First, the system must be in place. There must be a need to have someone or something to take the guilty, sins and scruples of the people away. A conduit between man and his conscience, a tool to make a man feel that his deeds are not as gruesome. Or that they have been erased/forgiven thus neither God nor karma can revisit those sins on them. Although we no longer live in the olden days, this system still prevails in society. A good example is the current situation in Nigeria, where the presidential candidate for the labour party Mr Peter Obi has been designated the saviour of the nation. Alas! I fear he is nothing but a scapegoat. Atonement for the many sins of the past and the present.
The system has certain characteristics, one , it excludes anyone that does not fit in with the exisrung modus operandi in place. Two, iy is a rootless as well as ruthless system. Devouring both the fruits (benefits) and seeds (foundation) of the system. It also celebrates results rather than methods. Mr Peter Obi from all indications is a man who does the opposite. He wants systems that outlast a class, a group, a tenure, or a generation. A system that does not want to wash its hands of its guilt or wrongdoing. But learn from it. It is completely impossible to rid the world of guilt or the process of placing guilt on someone else’s shoulder. However, it is possible to create a system where a scapegoat is not a desired option. This can only happen when a system has its resources and demands/expectations evenly paired. For instance, two managers, four general assistants and one receptionist are required to smoothly run a business every day of the week. We will assume that this number of staff is decided to run the business at the peak hours. This means that at a less busy time, less staff might be required. Regardless of this, it must be understood that the office or system would be set up to fail if someone decides to run it with either less staff or with a different mixture of skills. For example hiring one manager, four general assistants and two receptionists, might seem adequate as the number of staff is accurate, but it, unfortunately, leaves certain parts uninsured and others unduly fortified. Creating the perfect opportunity for a scapegoat to arise, should the system not run smoothly.
The above scenario creates room for undue or maladjusted interpersonal skills to thrive. One that has less to do with the overall objective of the system/business or organisation in view and more to do with personal likes, dislikes and opinions. This system would make it easy for cliques to arise and for other variables which should normally stay on the parameters of the system to become the heart of it. Thus, elevating the people above the system. Whilst this is not a bad thing, in so much as “things were made for man and not man for things”, it can, unfortunately, become dangerous if the wrong people are at the core. This sad reality is the sorry state of Nigeria and a lot of organisations around the world. Systems that bear no resemblance to the original sketch on which it was built, as piece by piece people have changed the original with alternatives that are more individual serving than having a wider reach in view. This makes it a different system; its expectations and resources are altered. This is why placing all hope in one man might not be the best approach. For if or when he fails another will replace him. It will remain fallible unless the people refuse to move the structures to suit personal gain. This brings us to the second factor that creates a thriving system for the emergence of scapegoats; people. Whether they are leaders or followers.
In the series ‘The Last Kingdom Cnut answers Ragnar the fearless’s question regarding the worth of Æthelwold’, saying “his worth is in his ability to drip poison into every ear”. As simple or as mindless as it sounds, the aforementioned is the very backbone on which systems are re-engineered, broken or simply destroyed. As earlier mentioned, a system is made for man, but man is the only thing that can determine if the system will stand and endure. According to Winston, B. and Patterson, K. (2006), leadership is a major factor that determines how people fit into a system. But for this to materialise the leader must thoroughly know the system and uphold the system. This perhaps is the bases for which many people herald or advocate for Mr Peter Obi to become president. The hope is that a good leader will spearhead a good system. This is an ideology shared by Winston, B. and Patterson, K. (2006), in their definition of a leader, they assert that not only does a leader know how people should fit into the system, but a leader also deals equitably and supports diversity amongst his followers. This type of leadership also fosters the individual growth of each follower, encouraging them to take risks and innovate, (Winston, B. E. and Patterson, K. 2006). Under such leadership, when properly executed the chances of a scapegoat emerging is slim.
In addition to the above, (a good leader), there must be good followers. People who refute the “dripping of poison into ears”. People who hold the system above the individual. The task is not an easy one, it is often even difficult to identify when one has become caught up in the words that start the rot in the foundation of every system. From the above example regarding the number of staff required to run a business to the example of Æthelwold who exemplifies the spread of rot that destroys the system. Both show that a failure on one side or a gap on one side creates lapses and births a new system in place of what should be. There must first be a lapse in the system, an unbalancing of the scales. This creates the room through which the oil that destroys everything starts to drip, slowly but surely. But to achieve its maximum effect it must have willing vessels; leaders who through direct or indirect means encourage the spread. Followers who revel in the safety provided in the number of shared drips that oil the ear.
In summary, it is my opinion that the scapegoat system was replaced with Christ, to ensure that the corruptible and fallible arms of man do not taint the new system. Each man under Christ is given access to admit his guilt, ensuring that his heart and God alone know the truth of his intent. Similarly, systems need to be built in a way that safeguards the system as much as possible from man’s fallible nature. Every man is much the same as the other, fallible in different ways and through different means. Often, in need of a scapegoat to justify his actions. If he is also allowed to buy the conscience of others over then a new system emerges and the scapegoat system becomes successful. And will often find a head to fit into a noose.