The Invention of Blame (Scapegoat Mechanism)


Vsauce! Kevin here, and these three grains of rice
help explain why you are you. Also, the knife and jar represent a hypothesis
for human sacrifice. We’ll get to that later… Let’s start with you. You’ll be the green rice. You desire things. Love, respect, money, friends, wisdom, a cool
haircut, fame, YouTube views, shoes, a robust stamp collection. Those ever-changing objects of desire are
the red rice. And you just want those things because you
want them, right? You know what you like! It’s your free will to decide what it is
you desire. Maybe not. Anthropological philosopher René Girard didn’t
think so. While survival depends on satisfying biological
needs like hunger, desires are not innate. We’re not born wanting a fancy car or the
prettiest gown at the ball; desires manifest from imitating other people. The subject we imitate for any given desire
is called a model. That’s the blue rice. Your mom is blue rice. Your Dad. Grandma Maggie. Albert Einstein. Harry Potter is blue rice. A model can be a person close to you or just
a person you’ve read about. And a Triangular Desire Relationship flows
from you imitating the model to receive the desired object. I want to be as wealthy as Bill Gates. I want to be as funny as my Aunt Maureen. I want to be as sexy as some sexy muscle-y
hunk. Why do I speak English? Why do you speak your native language? Because you imitated people who imitated people
because, aside from crying, imitating people was the first thing you ever did in your life. Infants are able to imitate facial acts like
sticking out their tongues immediately after being born. The youngest infant tested successfully imitated
42 minutes after leaving the womb. According to psychologist and infant development
researcher Andrew Meltzoff, that suggests infants have “an inborn mapping between
the perception and production of human acts.” Becoming you starts by… becoming someone
else. But it’s not just, “monkey see, monkey
do.” Or conditioning a dog to dance for oranges. We project our own internal experiences onto
others to come to an understanding that, “Those moving meat bags with eyeballs are ‘like
me.’” Gaze following is a non-verbal triangular
communication between subject, model and object. Infants are more likely to gaze follow mothers
whose eyes are open rather than closed, leading Meltzoff to hypothesize that an infant knows
when it closes its eyes the world goes dark, so it must go dark for mommy, too. “No need to follow her closed eyes when
I know she’s not actually looking at anything.” Humans are born imitating and human culture
evolved by imitating. Neuroanthropologist Merlin Donald says our
mimetic culture of imitation is the first definitively human stage of development. Non-human primates do learn in social settings,
but it’s an “episodic culture,” meaning they pay attention to the result of an action
and then figure out the method for achieving that through trial-and-error rather than duplicating
the successful mannerisms they observed. Imitation is humanity’s cultural zero point. Long before we developed fancy words like,
“cultural,” “zero,” or “point.” According to Girard, human society developed
as people copied one another’s desires to the point of becoming rivals. If the object of desire is in limited quantity,
whether it’s territory or a girlfriend, the rivalry to obtain it eventually leads
to violence. When the violence spread to a point where
society was at risk of collapse, everyone got together and sacrificed a goat. More or less. The Scapegoat Mechanism is the process by
which group hostility is transferred onto a single victim and banishing this victim
restores unity to the group. Illusionist James Warren visualizes this phenomenon
using a jar, rice, and a knife. Imagine that each grain of rice is an individual
person. As their matching desires, jobs, love, and
wealth spread like a virus, they get closer and closer until they’re packed so tightly
that rivalries emerge and friends, families and neighbors turn into enemies. Violence is inevitable. With society at risk of collapse, someone
in the group is perceived as an outsider and is chosen as the party responsible for the
chaos. All hostility is turned on the scapegoat and
social order is restored by uniting around the common cause of banishing it from the
group or delivering the ultimate banishment — killing it. Girard believes scapegoating explains how
early human societies developed. In “René Girard And Myth,” Richard Golsan
details a myth from the Venda people of South Africa. The snake god Python had two wives. During a drought, the second wife was seen
as a major disruption and was blamed for the drought and the suffering of the people, so
she was killed. Her death triggered a flood and the community
was saved. After successfully uniting the group, the
scapegoat is sanctified. From there, sacrifices honoring the event
became a religious consecration. Sacrificing humans and later animals, like
goats – paid tribute to the Gods and the great uniting scapegoat. The word scapegoat means, “a symbolic bearer
of the sins of the people.” During the Salem Witch Trials, occult magic
was used as an imagined differentiator to single out women as witches who were then
executed to restore peace to the village. Foreign-born Queen of France Marie Antoinette
was scapegoated as the cause of unrest during the French Revolution and… off went her
head. Here’s the problem. Scapegoating can only provide a temporary
sense of contentment. Soon enough, rivalries flare up, a new scapegoat
is chosen and exiled, and the cycle begins again. People actually become dependent on this cycle
as reflected in C.P. Cavafy’s “Waiting For The Barbarians.” In the poem, an entire city-state joins together
in solidarity and bases their behaviors around the impending danger posed by the barbarians,
except… the barbarians never arrive. It ends with confusion: And now, what’s going to happen to us without
barbarians? They were, those people, a kind of solution. Scapegoating happens at home, in school, in
online communities, and on social media. It’s an emergent property resulting from
mimetic desire, leading to mimetic rivalry and ending in mimetic violence — and a scapegoat
is chosen to quell the crowd. You can see its underpinnings everywhere. Even disco. In 1977, Saturday Night Fever catapulted disco
music into the mainstream and its soundtrack became one of the top-selling albums of all
time. Within two years, cultural dynamics ranging
from sexual and racial demographics to internal strife among commercial artists led to disco
becoming a scapegoat for eroding musical values — and baseball’s Chicago White Sox capitalized
on the hysteria. They promoted a Disco Demolition Night that
featured crowd-supplied disco albums being blown up during the middle of a doubleheader. More people united to participate in the figurative
death of disco than to watch the actual baseball games. Disco was symbolically banished to appease
the crowd. The effectiveness of the Scapegoat Mechanism
is contingent upon the group being unaware of its presence and being convinced the scapegoat
is actually guilty. By recognizing a group’s scapegoating, the
power of the mechanism is diminished and the violence is revealed. However, because we’re mimetic creatures
— because we imitate each other to the point of contagion — it takes active defiance in
the face of our very nature to step away from the crowd and acknowledge the hidden force
in play. Which is really hard to do. It’s hard to stand out because… it’s
lonely. As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who
himself was exiled from his society, wrote in Notes From Underground, “I am alone and
they are everyone.” Dostoevsky’s books have been translated
into 170 languages. People all over the world can learn from his
writings — they can learn from him. His mimetic influence spreads and survives
in a way more powerful than a genetic influence ever could. He had four kids, but he has millions of grains
of green rice. By watching this video, part of you is now…
me. And if you consider that all of the information
and imitation passed down from generations has been absorbed and been ingrained in you
throughout your life to develop you into you, you realize that, in a general sense, Dostoevsky
was wrong. They aren’t everyone. You are everyone. And as always – thanks for watching. The person who inspired me to make a YouTube
channel was probably Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job. His style was so accessible and it was just
a guy being hilarious and being weird and having his own unique sense of style and comedy. And it spoke to me on such a personal level
that it was the first time that I’d considered to myself, “Hey! I’d like to do this too.” Hey I’m Destin from Smarter Every Day. Believe it or not, I’m inspired to make videos
because of my children. They’re curious little people that like to
learn and I want to be the exact same type of person. And I want to learn stuff so they can watch
videos, in the future, of their dad learning stuff. I have looked up to Bret Michaels since I
was 13 years old. Just being a fellow type-1 diabetic and he
influenced me just by inspiring me and I wanted to take that and inspire others in the best
that I knew how which was through my artwork and through charity. I even keep his guitar in the background of
my videos. For me, guys like Jon4Lakers and SoldierKnowsBest
really showed that there was actually a future in doing tech videos on YouTube. The person who inspired me to start making
YouTube videos is my friend and was my roommate at the time. NicePeter my his channel and it looked like
a lot of fun so he helped me make my channel. He gave me a leg up. As well as that time I got locked out of the
apartment – he gave me a leg up to get through the window. ‘Cause we can’t do it alone. My high school teacher definitely introduced
me to science communication but I think it was Derek Muller and Henry Reich and ViHart
and Charlie McDonnell that were the ones that inspired me to start my own YouTube channel. Because I saw what they were doing with this
new platform and I was like, “That’s so cool!” Like, they highjacked this platform for cat
videos but are using it for science. The person who inspired me to start a YouTube
channel was Natalie Tran who makes Community Channel. She is hilarious, she’s a YouTube O.G. and
best of all, she is an awesome person. And I’m please now to be able to call her
a friend. My inspiration, not just for making YouTube
videos but for making videos in general comes from being a kid. As far back as I remember I’ve always wanted
to make movies. And the thing that inspired me the most was
horror films, strangely enough. When I was a kid, a young lad, my brother
who is older would always show me slasher films and horror movies like Friday The 13th,
Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play, Sleepaway Camp, stuff like that. And I loved them because they took you on
an emotional journey. It was spooky, it was scary but it was funny
and there was all these different emotions that you felt while watching and I loved the
fact that something that I couldn’t interact with, something that was a passive experience,
something that I was just watching could influence my emotions that much. And I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be able to do that to others. And that’s what inspired me to make movies. To be able to take people on some sort of
experience, some sort of emotional journey. And it just landed on making them in a scientific,
I guess, way. And that becomes the motivation for why we’re
telling the story. We’re going on an informational journey. And it just fit. I was inspired to make my first YouTube channel
by Eric Fensler. I never met Eric Fensler but he is the guy
who made the famous G.I. Joe PSA parodies. He took actual G.I. Joe cartoon Public Service Announcements and
overdubbed their voices with his own so that they would say bizarre, surreal things. And the strangeness of these clips made them
viral. I think they were actually, if not the first
viral videos on the internet, they were certainly in that first batch, that first generation
that showed the power of the internet. And I had to get involved. It’s seemed so subversive and punk to be able
to take a thing and subvert what it meant and not need to have the blessing of any gatekeepers. It was just you. And over time what I was putting out on the
internet evolved into what it is today, science communication. It enabled me to marry my interest in performing
and art with facts and knowledge and questions and curiosity. I think that line is always blurry. But man, I really am thankful to Eric Fensler
for making things that made me laugh and made me want to aspire to make something similar. My main influence has always been my dad. He’s a brilliant creator. He builds guitars for a living and now I build
videos. So because of him I knew I always wanted to
have a life driven by creativity. And one of the creative projects I’m really
proud of t is The Curiosity Box. This is a subscription box filled with wondrous
items hand-picked by Michael, Jake and I. And it’s like getting Vsauce delivered right
to your door. A portion of the proceeds goes to Alzheimer’s
Research so it’s not only good for your brain, getting The Curiosity Box is good for everyone’s
brains. So check out CuriosityBox.com to subscribe
and be a part of a growing community of the hyper-curious. Your support really means everything. So thanks.

100 thoughts on “The Invention of Blame (Scapegoat Mechanism)

  1. Collective selectiveness, collecting information from diverse subjects, and selecting which parts out of all of them you want to connect.

  2. I've not read Dostoevsky but that line of his reminds of something I've always felt, translated into words: "Alone but not lonely, is better than lonely but not alone."

  3. Utility is what inspires my desires, I think I learned it from my Brother. The last six minutes on this video was great.

  4. I was just thinking about this last night & it was recommended to me today… an 18 month old video was recommended to me hours after i thought about its concept. weird.

  5. I see Scape goats all the time: the kid being casually bullied in a friend's group to a politician because my blamed by the press

  6. Wait but I liked and wanted the things I do before I new about anyone else who did… so how does that work?

  7. “Vsauce2” is so underrated, overshadowed by the massive vsauce1, but have so much effort and work put into it that he needs his own channel, I feel like vsauce is almost a demeaning name

  8. I really appreciate this, I know that a lot of people are upset that "Vsauce" is no longer "Vsauce" but you are really well spoken and you do these videos as well as anyone could, keep going, you're amazing

  9. But what if we dont wanna be like anyone we know im early into the video

  10. Clearly we need to scapegoat Trumphole to prevent the collapse of America. I'm good with maximum scapegoating in this case. I'm also good with the temporary aspect. The contentment will be worth it.

  11. so how is the different person different when all they have been shown was the same? like how come the "different" person didnt become the same like everyone else did.

  12. I'm left with two thoughts: 1) Identify who inspired different traits and actions in and of myself. 2) Realize that my greatest potential is achieved via inspiration, and therefore seek relationships with those who will inspire me and deflect relationships with those who anti-inspire me.

  13. How would anyone want something first then? Why did the first person to want X want it without a model?

  14. So your saying we all copy eachother and then get angry for copying eachother

  15. ehhh. a lot of object desires, but my immediate thought was "tasty tasty jelly beans" and i dont really know a 'model' for that. though, i suppose it fits in the "i want to be as happy as [x person]" type model imitation

  16. Was it a conscious choice to use the same colors and layout as the triforces from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time?

  17. A hidden message of togetherness and selfless growth and understanding
    Mirrors the journey im on in my life, instead of making a person or a group my scapegoat, or even making it myself. It's the concept or need for blame or antagonism
    Growing with others and understanding myself through them is my new path in life. Whatever your path I hope it sees you grow.

  18. May god strike me down in wrath if Vsauce2 is not one of the greatest channels in YouTube.

  19. Eh, What if you don’t like to copy ppl that much (ofc you do since you are human after all) and you would rather do it in a monkey sees monkey does way , and you slowly start to think like- what if all this mimicking done throughout ages actually is not really that logical and humane and there is a lot more effective way of achieving things. I believe we have done goofed overall.

  20. Who were my children exposed to that hates vegetables? Whose behavior are they emulating? Not mine. Maybe broccoli is their scapegoat.

  21. after watching this video, i think it is clear to everyone that trump is being used as a scapegoat

  22. “These three grains of rice explain why you are you” Yep it’s definitely a Vsauce video

  23. Anyone wanna guess why he's looking up in this video?
    Hint: where was the blue rice?

  24. For someone whos just a composition of everyone else, I'm surprisingly strange.

  25. Kevin's outfit is always better than Michael's outfit. Maybe it's because he doesn't wear a tie. Hmmmm……

  26. Those moving meat bags with eyeballs. Thank you Kevin. I will repeat this all day now

  27. Love the term used at the end, "hyper-curious".
    Maybe times that by like let's say a power house tower of 1000 an we come to a conclusion that is myself…
    Me time 10 to the power of 10 1000 times 👀☢

  28. There are people in Russia hikikomori, but with out anime… they just do not want to be a part of modern society

  29. "those moving meat bags with eyeballs" -Kevin

    I'm gonna use that on my story…

  30. So people evolved with blame but I'm not going point fingers to see who started it. Blame is bad. If you blame someone for something don't be surprised if they want a piece of you.

  31. Watched this after watching Kurzgesagt's video of "The Egg"… and I really like Muse's "Though Contagion" album…

    What is my existence anymore?!?

  32. *Watches this video*
    No, I don't want to mimic anyone ahhhnnhnn no
    Why u make me question my personality lik srsly what teh heck dude

    Im joking btw if you cant tell my pet peeve is ppl who can't understand sarcasm

  33. So that's why disco is dead?!!!?
    How about we let the same thing happen to the sexualized music/music videos these days?
    (I know it's the same thing,but they suck)

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