With consumerism being viewed as modernity’s last ritual, and nature being the scapegoat feeding the sacrifice, we see modernity as a principally “negative” form of culture that has forgotten how to manage mimesis. But in the same time, the root of modernity is its capacity to reveal the very existence of the scapegoat, and by then “de-sacralizing” culture. Once the scapegoat’s innocence has come into light, the unanimity directed against him may not work anymore. Modernity, if it always forgets that it has to re-invent tools to manage mimesis, also always remembers that mimetic rivalry must not be managed by the means of sacrifice and scapegoating.
It is however difficult to observe this ambivalence, precisely because it escapes the categories that we usually use to describe social dynamics. From this perspective it is interesting to see that new concepts are being created, precisely in the attempt to turn the hidden scapegoat status of nature into a clear status of innocent victim.
An observable example : the creation of the Ecocide concept.
Of one those concepts is the "Ecocide". Litteraly “crime against nature”, or more precisely “act of killing the system of relations and exchanges”. It is an attempt to describe the condition of nature as something that is being killed on purpose. This idea is a shift if we compare it to the usual conception of ecological arguments, which is “a finite world with limited resources that we must not exploit excessively”.
The Ecocide concept introduces a shift in the representation of both causes and effects. Nature is now purely seen as a victim that needs to be saved, just like any other victim put in danger by our actions. This is an interesting personalization of Nature as a scapegoat making a point that has nothing to do with reason, but much more with modern moral justice.
This shift is actually a good representation of modernity’s ambivalence : both perpetrator of the sacrifice, and in the same time emancipating (or trying to) itself from its violent management of mimesis. It is in that regard very interesting to note the following goal of the concept of Ecocide, as explained by Frances Aldson in her article :
Equally, if not more, important is that it serves as a deterrent, engendering a change of mindset and corporate attitude that revolutionises ‘business as usual’ scenarios.
Shedding light on the consumerist ritual.
The explicit goal of the concept is here to shed light on a reality, being described as “a crime”, a persecution, comparable to any other persecution among humans. It is trying to turn this “ritual” against nature into a visible thing, so that “business as usual” cannot be occurring anymore. Business as usual is another expression for “unanimity against the victim”, since the very function of a sacrifice IS to maintain the order as it was in “normal times”, as usual.
It is hence very interesting to observe that even though the trend of sacrificing nature seems heavy and hard to change, just like any unanimous conviction is, modernity is from within always attempting to reveal this mechanism to the perpetrators. The concept of Ecocide is a symptom of this ambivalence, which is important because it allows an interpretation of modernity that does not fall into Manichean considerations and explanations about what had happened and what should be done. It re-opens, in a way, room for anthropological reflexion and considerations that are reaching a wider audience than the legal specialists.