Thursday, 25 October 2007

Very Old and Very Ugly

I wonder if any of you have met Xenophobia? She is very, very old, probably as old as humankind itself. And she is very, very ugly. She has many faces and many followers. Whole political parties and religions have been created in homage to her.

Sometimes she is blatantly obvious, such as in concentration camps created by the ever-organised Germans to annihilate whole sectors of the population. Sometimes less so, as in the Japanese detainment camps created by Americans during WWII to contain people whose race they feared.

And fear is what feeds Xenophobia. Hatred too, but that's really just a by-product of fear. When people want to deport all foreigners because they believe they are the root cause of all that's wrong with society, Xenophobia is there, laughing her hideous laugh. Xenophobia travels the world spreading her gospel, and many embrace it. Even some so-called liberal thinkers who would never think to infringe on the rights of others. They might be the most insidious of Xenophobia's followers because they lie and deny their true feelings, but those feelings come out in the least expected places.

What has compelled me to write about Xenophobia is a response (actually several) written on Snuffleupagus's blog by a fellow who calls himself british national party member. He is a great follower of Xenophobia, but at least he is honest about it. Unlike, say, Turkey, which denies to this day the genocidal killing of Armenians and threatens to withdraw its military support when urged to admit it by Americans.

Ah, yes, America -- home of the brave, land of the free. Xenophobia doesn't exist there, or does she? Was she not there when Irish and Italian immigrants were badly treated? Or in those Japanese detainment camps? Or when Native Americans were forced off their ancestral lands? Or at just about every point in its past and present?

The British look down their noses at the Americans for they can see clearly that Xenophobia is alive and well in America. But they don't see that she's in their own country too. There are too many Eastern Europeans coming over and partaking of our benefits system and robbing our people of jobs, they say. Send them back. Close the borders. Keep out all the pestilence and disease and crime brought to our pristine shores by these foreigners. As if that would really be a solution. Politicians use Xenophobia's wiles to gain votes from her followers, but their victory is society's loss.

Xenophobia robs us all of tolerance, understanding, growth. Yet somehow humankind continues in all its variations. Xenophobia has not won yet, and hopefully never will.


Annie said...

Well said! We will never allow her to win. I feel this responsibility as a parent, very strongly, to raise tolerant, loving and accepting children who are open minded enough to embrace differences and learn from them.

Great post.

laurie said...

no, it doesnt' win. but sadly it is never vanquished, either.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

annie: If only all parents were like you.

laurie: no, sadly it never is. It must be part of our DNA.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

It might be easier to deal with if it weren't so stealthy and under the radar.

I am so grateful that my kids all think it's BS.

darth sardonic said...

yes, we have a knack for dragging xenophobia into all kinds of things, and more often than not, it is insidious and sneaky the way that she gets presented. all we can do is keep fighting her by keeping awareness up. but damn, is it a hard battle...

Anonymous said...


Crystal xx

Queeny said...

I laugh in the face of Xenophobia, but that's only to keep from crying. Oh the humanity, or inhumanity, as the case may be.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

RC: That's how xenophobia keeps surviving (and maybe it's part of the survival instinct) -- by slipping under the radar.

Darth: Xenophobia is actually a lazy way of dealing with a complex society. It's so much easier to blame problems on the foreigners than to try to come up with real solutions.

CJ: As long as we hope, there is hope.

Queeny: Laughter is good as it puts Xenophobia in her place.

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

Well said my dear.

DJ Kirkby said...

Ooooof! Excellent post.

Phil A said...

You are coming from a good direction with your piece. But you can not take the reverse stance that all foreigners, or strangers, are good. The best plan is surely to reserve judgement, hope for the best, prepare for the worst and decide as much as possible on an individual basis.

Xenophobia is literally a fear of foreigners or strangers. It is a different thing from racism, though they can be related and one can stem from the other.

When talking in terms of the fear of foreigners, or strangers, the trick must surely be to establish if the particular fear is reasonable, or sensible. What I am getting at is a variation on the old “Just because you are paranoid does not mean ‘they’ are not out to get you”.

Strangers and foreigners can be dangerous, but they are not necessarily so.

The problem is the ‘short cuts’ in the way we are set up to analyse the world. We need the short cuts if we are trying to make an instant decision. One of them is how we mentally categorise, or group the world. i.e. It probably promotes survival to assume that all tigers are potentially dangerous. In the same way we teach children to beware of strangers. Are we literally encouraging Xenophobia when we do so? We do it to keep them safe.

Actual Xenophobia is a result of this type of though process combined by poor categorisation. Often one suspects aided by lazy thinking, or for want of mental acuity, though childhood experiences can result in beliefs and fears that are seldom questioned even by otherwise intelligent and thoughtful adults.

Snuffleupagus said...

Phil A- Wake Up never said that everything foreign was good.

Very clever post. I'm glad my blog (or crazy blog readers) inspired it! HA!

Pixie said...

I'm not sure will ever be free of uneducated views about our fellow man. Fear is why we feel that way. And until we can live in a just and equal society it will always be there.
The only way forward is for indivuduals to speak out and prove there is nothing to be frightened of.

lady macleod said...

Well said! She makes Kali look like my Aunt Fanny. We must be constantly aware of her insidious influence and stand against her vile rhetoric.

Casdok said...

Lovely post, and yes well said Annie.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Vi and DJ: Thank you.

phil a.: Welcome to my blog. I suspect you came via Snuffy's.

I forgot to mention that Xenophobia has twin sons, Bigotry and Ignorance. When the three get together, the results are horrific and catastrophic, sometimes holocaustically so.
Are fears ever sensible or reasonable? Sometimes, I suppose. But caution is a better and more reasonable word. We can be cautious of that we don't know without being afraid. Fear suggests a loss of control and of reason.

Snuffy: I'm glad you liked it.

Pixie: We have nothing to fear but fear itself, the great Churchill said. How right he was.

Lady M: Thank you and welcome back. Sounds like you had a marvelous time.

Casdok: Thank you, and thank you for visiting.

DJ Kirkby said...

Can't wait any longer for your Monday post, must go to work. Will be back later. xoxo