You might think this is a modern, rational world. But that’s just the latest fashion catchphrase from the house of science. In reality, taboo and superstition are running the show, and that means we have to have our escapegoats. Somebody in the community has to embody the village idiot and endure our ridicule. Nowadays, they’re called “celebrities”, and the community has informally crafted an elaborate ritual participation around what the loonies are up to, so we can sit in judgment of them.

The requirement of an escapegoat is that they be famous, preferably perceived as fortunate in some manner, and a bonus if they have behavioral problems. In other words, they have to reenact for us the belief that those better off than us are either undeserving of their luck, or they are miserable. It always comes down to “It should have been me!” or “Thank God I’m not like that!” Underlying that is a fundamental belief that the escapegoat’s sins are exclusively their own, and we’re the better soul.

Triple no to the max! It’s a “there but for the grace of God go I” kind of thing. Those people are carrying a collective burden no human being could or should have to shoulder. It could have been you! You sure you’re not like that, safely tucked into your bed at night with no eyebeams on your life? Yeah, you’re the better person now, because the village idiot picked up part of your cross today. It’s easy to turn your back on someone having a racist tantrum on the dweeb tube, or an alcoholic kid on the fast track to “where are they now”.

It’s a comfort to be able to say, “they deserve it”, or “they had it coming”. I always flash back to the lines Clint Eastwood gives in Unforgiven. “It’s got nothing to do with deserves.” “We all have it coming, kid.” No one stands outside the collective shadow of humanity. I’ll be right with you jeering and spitting at the escapegoats as they walk by, patting myself on the back at how much better I am. We can’t help it, we’re human beings. But if you’re going to do it, get right with yourself. Recognize where the dirt you’re hurling is coming from.