NARCOS and Mimetic Theory

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I’ve been watching the show Narcos on Netflix which tells the tale of the Columbian drug trade in the 80s featuring; Pablo Escobar.

Escobar was the larger than life king-of-cartel-kings, the most powerful and certainly the richest person in Columbia. Because most of the cash going to Columbia came from cocaine going to Miami and elsewhere in the United States, the saga of Escobar became that of a man hunted by police in his own country, Columbian military, but also a man wanted desperately by the DEA and CIA.

The story is profoundly violent. So many people die. Cartel people, law enforcement people, civilians, politicians… So many people die, and did die. As the story unfolds (and the way it’s told), it becomes hard to identify or draw lines between good guys and bad guys.
Everybody, in the Netflix show, is willing to allow if not orchestrate death. Lots of death. Even the death of “innocents” for the sake of a perceived “greater good” (the capture of Escobar, the free production of cocaine, the war on drugs, etc.).

At the same time I’ve been watching Narcos I’ve been reading Reading Scripture With Rene Girard (well not exactly at the same time)– conversations with the mimetic theorist who insists that violence is rooted in rivalry, imitation, and primitive religion (the idea is (my take): human development and societal development is born out of imitation which leads to rivalry which leads to violence but because violence undermines social organization that violence is redirected to an “other” or scapegoat on which fears and hatred can be projected… at least, that’s how I understand it but that’s for another blog). Christ puts an end to the cycle by being the truly innocent victim whose willing death and victimization exposes the cycle of violence as a lie. Love and nonviolence are transformational because they expose and shame hatred, violence, and scapegoating. Just think of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s where the televisation of police dogs attacking men, women, and children shamed the perpetrators of violence and exposed the lie of racism – the transformative power of love and only love.

Exposing scapegoating, shaming violence, and Christ as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices also brings to an end the myth of redemptive violence. At least according to Girard. But the more I read Girard, or watch a series like Narcos, or Homeland, or 24, or… The more I look at our world and the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism, and the war on… I wonder if Girard might not be right about violence and right about Jesus.

Maybe it just never works. Maybe even Augustine who reasoned out Just War Theory and the obligations of stronger entities to protect weaker entities from aggression… I know, I know. If we didn’t have defensive military, law enforcement… at least reactive violence or protective violence maybe society would run amok. But then again, isn’t that in some vague way what fuels the war on drugs, the war on terror, and all these noble causes for which we employ force to end violence and get left with twice the mess we started with? And isn’t the image of Christ, who lays down his life as a response to might-is-right kind of thinking? Isn’t it intended to be counterintuitive? And doesn’t it expose the lie of redemptive violence – a world set right by violence? And in that shameful place of the cross, can’t we glimpse a love so powerful that it can do what force can never do – transform hearts and change lives?

Well… something to think about. I’m going to go watch another episode of Narcos.