Sometimes, something that probably has been hard-wired apparent to most other people, comes to me only in a flash of insight. Such a thing has happened to me recently. It is the principle of the "whipping boy" that is played out in the Christian Easter pageants. This insight to me is that Jesus is functioning as the "whipping boy" for "our sins." I had not quite "gotten" that concept in the past, probably because I did not comprehend the "whipping boy" phenomenon at enough depth. That I increasingly sense that I too am being readied as a "whipping boy" being "accused and punished" for someone else's wrongdoings (because the wrongdoer has made himself too highly socially esteemed to be accused and punished himself) I begin to more fully comprehend the phenomenon.
So, I seek more understanding of the phenomenon that edges closer dangerously. There are several parameters to the pattern of the "whipping boy" phenomenon among people. Being a social phenomenon, it has various parts played out by various people. There is the wrongdoer, the accuser, the punisher, and the whipping boy. Playing out is the flow of social energy at more devious levels, such as the motivation of the actual wrongdoer, the outrage of the wronged person, the realization that the wrongdoer is too esteemed socially influential to be accused, the need to demonstrate punishment as a result of wrongdoing so as to discourage future wrongdoings, the selecting of a person to be the one who is accused and punished by the group in righteousness, the accuser and the multiple people who then echo the accusation among themselves, building up steam until able to carry out a public outrage harm to the "accused culprit", the accused person, who likely is fairly unaware of it all going on other than people are acting in incomprehensible ways to him increasingly, the punishers, the publicly widely witnessed torture of the "whipping boy" ersatz wrongdoer, the leaving the scene of the punishment, back to their familiar places, feeling righteous retribution has been meted out in a cathartic experience.
This is all done symbolically in the Christian Easter commemoration, instead of a live member of the group being involved as "whipping boy" in the brutal killing spectacle intended to discourage those who might be tempted to not follow the often-unwritten rules of society.
People who are not aware of the social cues which define the virtual hierarchy among people in groups, are most likely to be used as "whipping boys" since they are seen as "being out of place" even though not apparently seeking to gain status thereby, unlike the power plays normally committed by climbers in the social hierarchy so as to gain higher social status; the unwitting person sometimes unaware blunders into such an appearance, enraging those who have been impatiently standing in line for their turn for some goodie, and perceive the person as breaking into line ahead of them. A similar thing is done by bullies so as to show how powerful they are, and thus "get ahead." The blundering unwitting person, probably not even aware of the "line" nor of the goodie being awaited by the line of people, however, is not powerful and thus the crowd can safely vent its rage on him.
So what is the history behind the "Whipping Boy" phenomenon? "Scapegoat" is another similar term, I think.
Long ago in European countries, was where the "whipping boy" thing was played out, I read. A "Whipping Boy" was a boy who was publicly painfully harmed in place of a royal boy who had actually done the wrong, to mete out "justice" intending to discourage wrongdoing in the future. I would guess that the selected "whipping boy" would be a playmate or friend of the royal boy, and that the painful harming be done in the sight of the royal boy who had done the wrong, in hopes that there will be an empathic pain imparted to the Prince, discouraging him from repeating the wrongdoing.
Here in America, the "royalty" are not kings and queens and princes, but instead are people of similar status attainable not just by inheritance, or wealth gained by whatever means, but also by gaining high social esteem through sports performance, extra college degrees, and/or corporate management status, for examples.
The prudent mind skitters away from the conclusion that such "highly esteemed" people could have done the outrageous wrongdoing freshly in attention; skittering, the mind's focus latches onto a plausible person who is sufficiently "socially out of it" to not be able to show that he did not do the wrongdoing. Someone has to be "punished" or more people will do more wrongdoings, is hard-wired into most peoples' minds. Thus it is likely that deep in the subconscious, the real wrongdoer is known by a few, but it is hoped that the wrongdoer will be discouraged by the sight of the other person being harmed in retribution. However, they do not understand the "bully" mind; it won't help a bit, and may actually have been the purpose of the wrongdoing in the first place, to get the group to assault the bully's target, instead of the bully being seen doing it himself, in the endless compulsive rivalry activity of the bully mind.
Thus, the public spectacle of the "whipping boy" getting thrashed, gets repeated over and over again, as it actually serves the purpose of the un-challengeable bully-mind who instigated it all, rewarding harmful behavior instead of discouraging it.
In the Christian version, Maunday Thursday acting out of the long simmering righteousness resentments accusation, the Good Friday brutal lethal thrashing of the "Whipping Boy", and then the long anticipated Easter Sunday's forgiveness of each other's wrongdoings and celebrating in spring courtship activity.
We do it over and over again, having learned the overall pattern through annual ritual practice. And the ritual principle continues to play out through the year: we all thus have been shown how to play that game well.
Woe only to those who are not sharp enough to avoid being stuck in the "Whipping Boy" part. The bully wins through ever more devious meanness and gets rewarded by hurrahs of their fellows while their rage is deflected onto the non-competitive "whipping boy"; and the girls work their way ever closer to the bully for a piece of the action, readying the next generation. The social machine runs on and on; the chimpanzees taught us very well how to do it all.
(There is also another part of the larger picture, that of the feast. To have a feast, living creatures must die; the sacrificial goat that was one of the flock, must end up on the dinner table or we won't have food for the dinner feast. Grain must be kept from being made into bread, so as to be sacrificially planted in the ground, seeds to sprout for the next crop. Facts of life. But, that is another story. Even though also laced into the Easter ritual celebration. Joy! Springtime is finally here again!)