In my attempt to devour everything Girard in our local library, I picked up a book called “Violent Origins”, edited by Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly. It is not a typical book, but rather edited transcriptions of talks given at a 1983 conference. Girard contributes one essay on scapegoating and participates in the back-and-forth panel talk.
The editor also describes another person who was invited along this way: “We are also privileged to have the commentary of the working anthropologist, Renato Rosaldo, which gives the impressions of an “outsider”.
In the transcription of the panel discussion, Rosaldo tries to argue that the idea of “guilt” is a Western idea that doesn’t apply in other cultures. He uses an earlier example of a tribe of headhunters who go out of their way to symbolically portray their victim as non-human before murdering them. Girard argues with him that this is a blatantly obvious case of mental gymnastics to try and gloss over their own guilt.
I can’t reproduce the argument here (it’s long and is mixed in with other topics), but when reading it, I was astounded at Rosaldo’s reasoning. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up!
No, I’m not going to grapple with this at all. Sorry. I’m just going to dismiss it.
“How can you stand next to the truth and not see it?”
It doesn’t matter how clever your language, denying the existence of conscience works about as well as denying that your head is mounted on top of your shoulders.