In George Orwell’s novel of a future dystopia, “1984,” there is what is called “Two Minutes Hate.”
This is a daily period in which members of the totalitarian party (patterned after the pre-war Soviet Communist Party) are required to watch a film depicting the “enemies of the people,” and for them to shout their invectives against these foes. The ritual ensured the continuing brainwashing of the party members. Perhaps even more importantly, it also strengthened the bond, the camaraderie among the party members.
“Two Minutes Hate” of course is fiction. In the 1970s though, social scientists, particularly the French historian and philosopher Renè Girard, made observations, which in effect make the idea behind “Two Minutes Hate” a common phenomenon in human societies.
Girard pointed out that internecine violence should be commonplace when humans organize themselves into societies, especially because of envy when some members get to be richer, smarter or happier than others. To prevent violence from wrecking it, a society creates the “scapegoat mechanism,” by which a person or group of persons is blamed for all the ills and inequality of that particular group. All hate and violence is channeled against the scapegoat, so that individuals in that society go through a catharsis that strengthens their bonding as a group.
Girard pointed that the scapegoat mechanism explains why human sacrifice—the killing of the scapegoat—was very common in ancient societies. The Jesus myth has become a global religion because it is based on a brilliant twist of the scapegoat mechanism. Jesus is the willing universal scapegoat, whose execution “takes away the sins of the world.” The power of the mechanism is such that even a nation like Germany, which put a high value on rationality, embraced Hitler when he designated the Jews as the scapegoats.
We’ve seen Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, and the scapegoat mechanism in our country. Even if they may not have been merely scapegoats, but perpetrators of crimes, we have had our Two Minutes Hate periods in the case of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Remember how people seemed to go into paroxysms of hatred whenever Imelda’s 2,700 pairs of shoes or Marcos gigantic bust in Ilocos were shown on television? For Erap, it was the “Boracay” mansion, the Petrus wines and the CCTV video of the former President playing high-stakes poker in a Pagcor casino.