Poor and Strangers: The sacrificial victims among us a reflection on Mark 9:38-48

By Nestor Ravilas

They do not have to be innocent; they must be defiled with criminal stigma to deserve punishment. After all, Jesus himself was not an innocent victim as traditionally assumed. Otherwise, the crowd will not unanimously participate on his death if he was declared guiltless. His putative pretension to be the king of the Jews was the crime that had persuaded the mob to participate on his lynching. An innocent sacrifice will cause repulsion, which will jeopardize the position of those in power through a sudden gush of revolt. The case of Kian Delos Santos is a case in point. It is necessary for surrogate victims to be demonized, to be branded either as criminal or monster. There goes the argument that drug addiction and criminality are one and the same.

A society on a verge of atrophy and collapse will not pick its scapegoat victims among the prestigious class. Those people are capable of reprisal, so you don’t demonize those who can hurt you in return. Although there is exceeding evidence that supports the long standing suspicion that these people are embodiment of evil, no one dares to point the obvious in fear of retaliation. Thus, you cannot call Bongbong Marcos and the rest of the late strong man’s family evil, the same way you cannot do it to Gloria Arroyo, to Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Alan Peter Cayetano, Harry Roque, Tito Sotto, and many more, despite that fact that they caused more harm and shame to this country than all the poor addicts combined.

But we are in dire need of sacrificial victims, where we can heap upon all the blame for social, political, and economic debacle of this country. Where we can redirect the simmering anger of the people away from its true objects to replacement victims.

Jesus is aware where do we usually pick our surrogate victims that agitates him to protect the strangers and the “little ones,” along with the women, the widows, the sick, and the children. These are people who have not fully integrated in society; whose identity is marred with either suspicion or disgust. People whose death does not cause a turmoil, for none will bother to raise arms to avenge their death and suffering. A kind of death that is not taken as loss, for there was no life considered in the first place.

Human culture is interwoven within the practice of sacrifice. This is our instinctive way to protect us from our own violence. To this surrogate sacrifice we place both the sins of evil people, and the fuming wrath of those who have been afflicted by those sins. The suffering and death of a replacement sacrifice satisfy both the remission of the sin of the offenders, for someone else had died on their behalf, and the desire of the victims for retaliation, for they can unleash their fury to the surrogate victim. The practice serves as a good mechanism to protect us from the onslaught of reciprocal violence, for it prevents heads-on collision between the sinners and “sinned against,” but only at the expense of perpetual victimization of surrogate victims.

As I see it, this cultural practice can only be preserved through perennial availability of scapegoat victims, in which the practice itself efficiently producing us with strangers, poor, destitute, addicts, black, gays, and many social gross that can be sacrificed anytime without the fear of inciting social havoc.