This post follows a thread on suggestions for the development of a high school curriculum on Mimetic Theory. Click the following titles to see what else I’ve done on this so far (be sure to check out the pdf-files!):
- Mimetic Theory in High School (click to read)
- Types of the Scapegoat Mechanism (click to read)
- Scapegoating in American Beauty (click to read)
- Philosophy in American Beauty (click to read)
- Real Life Cases of Ressentiment (click to read)
The story of Cain and Abel (in the book of Genesis) is compared to the story of Stan (by Eminem) to illustrate what I’ve called types 1 and 2 of the scapegoat mechanism. Cain and Abel is an example of the second type of scapegoat mechanism, namely hetero-aggression. Stan is an example of the first type of scapegoat mechanism, namely auto-aggression. By the way, the comparison between Cain and Stan is a translation of a text that first appeared in Dutch in my book Vrouwen, Jezus en rock-‘n-roll (Averbode, 2009).
CLICK TO READ PDF-VERSION OF A COMPARISON BETWEEN CAIN AND STAN
CLICK TO READ PDF-VERSION SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM 1 & 2 (EXAMPLES)
[As an aside, it is possible to criticize Nietzsche’s concept of Judeo-Christian tradition as a product of ressentiment by comparing the third type of the scapegoat mechanism (ressentiment, indeed) with the story of Cain and Abel as an example of the second type. It is clear that, in the biblical story, the Lord condemns the actions of Cain. This implies that the Lord would condemn the actions of persons that are consumed by ressentiment as they take the parallel position of person A (Cain’s position). Thus the god born out of the ressentiment of the so-called slaves (a god who recognizes the slaves while condemning the so-called masters) is not the God of Judeo-Christian tradition.]
[As a second aside, click here for more on hip-hop and theology.]
In short, what the following comparison is all about: mimetically ignited love – eros – for the imagined situation of the other leads to hate towards one’s own life and the life of the other (or, which is the same, love for a so-called acceptable self-image) – a crisis of identity and social order. Person A (CAIN or STAN) tries to resolve the crisis that arises out of a comparison with person B (ABEL or SLIM) by sacrificing the other or by sacrificing him/herself – thanatos!
PDF-text of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-18)
CAIN AND ABEL COMPARED TO STAN AND SLIM
- IDENTIFICATION (THROUGH MIMESIS)
Cain and Abel develop similar activities:
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.
Stan and Slim have similar experiences:
“See I’m just like you in a way… I never knew my father neither – he used to always cheat on my mom and beat her. I can relate to what you’re saying in your songs…”
- ANGER BECAUSE OF A – FELT, THOUGH NOT NECESSARILY REAL – LACK OF RECOGNITION
Cain becomes angry because Abel gets attention from the Lord while he himself doesn’t seem to get any attention at all:
And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Stan becomes angry because Slim does get recognition from his fans – Stan being one of them – while Stan seems to find no recognition at all:
“Dear Mister-I’m-Too-Good-To-Call-Or-Write-My-Fans, this’ll be the last package I ever send your ass! It’s been six months and still no word – I don’t deserve it?”
- RECOGNITION NONETHELESS FOR THE PERSON WHO FEELS UNRECOGNIZED
The Lord worries about Cain:
The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?”
Slim worries about Stan:
“… why are you so mad?”
- A WARNING FOR THE POSSIBLE EVIL CONSEQUENCES OF FRUSTRATION, ANGER AND STUBBORN PRIDE
The Lord advises Cain to do well:
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you…”
Slim advises Stan to calm down and to do well:
“I really think you and your girlfriend need each other or maybe you just need to treat her better. […] I think that you’ll be doin’ just fine if you relax a little…”
- A FINAL WARNING
“… but you must rule over it…”
“I just don’t want you to do some crazy shit.”
- WARNING GOES IN VAIN – MURDER ON A DESOLATE PLACE
Cain kills Abel:
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Stan kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend:
“Some dude was drunk and drove his car over a bridge and had his girlfriend in the trunk, and she was pregnant with his kid…”
Hey, Erik! Just a quick observation about Nietzsche. When you say that he viewed the “Judeo-Christian tradition as a product of ressentiment,” you’re simplifying his view in a way that makes it a bit of a straw man. First, it’s probably best to avoid the phrase “Judeo-Christian tradition,” since it papers over important difference between Judaism and Christianity, difference that are highly relevant to Nietzsche. Nietzsche was in fact an admirer of the Hebrew Bible: “The Jewish ‘Old Testament,’ the book of divine justice,” he wrote, “has people, things, and speeches in such grand style that it is without parallel in the written works of Greece and India” (Beyond Good and Evil, section 52). It’s true that he also argues that Christianity grew out of the soil of Jewish resentment, but that’s a later phenomenon that apparently did not alter his highly positive view of classical biblical literature. And he also held the European Jews in high regard, admiring their community for its toughness and resilience across the centuries. To make blanket statements about how Nietzsche viewed the “Judeo-Christian tradition” is to bury all that nuance. (In addition, it effectively denies that Judaism has a separate identity that is in many ways not only distinct from but also opposed to Christianity, but that’s another discussion.) The bottom line is that Nietzsche is perfectly capable of recognizing the Hebrew Bible story of Cain and Able as a condemnation of resentment while at the same time arguing that, at a much later stage of Jewish history, the experience of being under the heel of foreign powers generated a burning resentment that gave birth to Christianity.
Thanks for this comment, George, I won’t argue with that. In “Zur Genealogie der Moral” Nietzsche indeed claims that Christian “love” grew from “the tree of Jewish hate” (Christian love being the second phase of resentment). So that would be about later Judaism.