Detour into etymology via hell and the NHS.

goat in tree

I have been thinking about scapegoats recently.

Regular readers may have noticed I mentioned them in previous blogs.

I have returned to the topic following the experiences of our reception staff.

For reasons of confidentiality I won’t go into the details, suffice it to say (and I know this is a common experience across the UK) one of our team experienced abuse from a patient who was demanding to see a doctor.

You maybe know the back-story – the Health Secretary and his proclamation that in effect Covid is over, doctors and nurses should get back to work (or in the case of carers, find something else to do).

The narrative that GPs in particular are somehow dawdling, playing golf or reading the Financial Times is using a time-old trope of scapegoating too.

(Although not a GP, I have never played golf (was for one day a very unhappy caddy) or read the FT).


It was the technique Hitler used during the Holocaust.

After the First World War, Germany was going to pot; instead of sorting things out, perhaps aspiring to not have a World War 2, he blamed the Jews, sent them to the incinerators and got on with bombing London.

I’ll loop back to this in a moment.

First I thought I would explain the hell reference.

I thought I would investigate the origins of scapegoats.

I knew scapegoat had something to do with ritual sacrifice, and, I had actually thought the ‘scapegoat’ was the goat that got slaughtered to pay for the peoples’ sins.

It transpires, that the scapegoat was the other. The one that got its throat cut and thrown on the altar was the sacrifice – I guess, the sacrificial lamb. The scapegoat was the one left behind – it absorbed all the sins and badness of the killed lamb or baby goat, it was then released into the wilderness, probably fall prey to a hyena or lion (we are talking biblical Canaan here).

What I found particularly interesting was the origin of the word ‘scapegoat’ it seems the word came from the Hebrew translation:

ונתן אהרן על שני השעירם גרלות גורל אחד ליהוה וגורל אחד לעזאזל
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for Azazel.

Azazel meaning ‘removal’ – the goat would be sent for removal, it would be gotten rid-of; you would cast out your sins or bad deed and the goat would take them away; it would escape with your wrongdoings.

Now, for me, although this is interesting, what was more, was the discovery of the meaning of the word Azazel, as I long-knew that ‘go to Azazel’ or ‘lech le Azazel’ was a Hebrew curse, meaning, in effect, go to hell.

All these years and I didn’t know it had to do with goats.

(Occasionally the curse would be shortened to ‘lech leAza’ which would mean ‘go to Gaza’ – that too is telling.)

Back to our receptionist.

We have a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse of our staff. We see them working with us as a team, requiring the same respect, care and compassion as any other member of the practice.

Their work is our work. When they are asking questions, it is as if the doctor or nurse is asking questions, trying to establish an understanding of what lies beneath the demand, ‘I want to see a doctor.’

And, the NHS and our government.

It’s funny. You can still see rainbow signs in house and shop windows saying either ‘Thank You’ or perhaps, ‘Clap for heroes’ – it isn’t that long ago people were rattling their pans in admiration for NHS (then all essential) staff.

The coin can flip easily.

It didn’t take the Tories long to get over their intransigence. To see a way out for their failures as blaming the carers and the doctors.

Yes, they are scapegoating us.

For all they care we could go to hell, so long as they can keep going.

It’s a bit shit.


Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

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