I think Girard is probably right to affirm the possibility that a larger group can tell the truth in a way that does not scapegoat. My point is that, when this happens, the larger group is not speaking to a peer. Rather, they are speaking to a companion who is misinformed or deceived. This companion, however, should not be viewed as an equal precisely because he is confused and the larger group is not.
I too want to affirm the possibility of “good contagion,” I just want to point out that the structure implicit in contagion is incompatible with absolute equality. When something (be it good OR bad) spreads from one to another, there is necessarily a demarcation between the one who carries it into the encounter and the one who contracts it. This is what leads me to say not only that violence is the result of imitation among peers, but that that “nonviolent imitation” is never available to peers. Nonviolence is contagious, and contagion is incompatible with the notion of peers; therefore, peers cannot imitate each other nonviolently.
I suppose that what I’m asking after (because I doubt it exists) is a case of external mediation between peers. It seems to me that, if peers are imitating one another, then they won’t be able to avoid internal mediation. My position coheres with Cervantes: Amadis is indeed an external mediator for Don Quixote, and they certainly aren’t peers—and, by virtue of one being mythical, they never could become peers. I am inclined to say that, if M. de Renal can’t come to grips with the truth the group would tell him, it is because he insists on taking everyone else as a peer (rival)—and adamantly refuses to meet any other as a source of a truth he does not himself already possess. Although, here, I must quickly add that I have never read Stendhal, nor have I read _Deciet, Desire, and the Novel_.
On the one hand, I feel I should go read _The Red and the Black_ (along with Girard’s commentary) and investigate if there is indeed a clear example of externally mediated peers. Both of these books were in fact already on the “I’d like to read that someday” list that I mentioned on this board Feb 12.
On the other hand, I feel like that would be a vain exercise. Not that those two books aren’t well worth reading for other reasons—I only mean to say that I think I know a priori that there cannot be externally mediated peers. Looking for them would be like looking for round triangles; the definitions don’t allow for the possibility. There could be externally mediated companions (where ‘companions’ are people whose close proximity does NOT erase the hierarchical distinction between them). Think, here, of a compassionate teacher with good relationships with her students, or a savvy politician with good relationships with her staffers. But how could peers (where ‘peers’ are equals whose proximity DOES entail an absence of hierarchical distinction) ever enter into anything other than internal mediation? Here, I suppose, I am understanding the essential difference between external and internal mediation to be that the former can only exist with the aid of hierarchical distinction and the latter necessarily entails the collapse of hierarchy.
I suspect I have misunderstood one of the JFG terms. Either I’m taking ‘peer’ to have a narrower definition than what was intended in the writing prompts on ‘peer pressure,’ or I have not used the terms ‘internal/external mediation’ correctly in this post. Which do you suppose it is?
Or are there clear examples of externally mediated peers to which I’m currently blind?