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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Pete M Xenophobia (124* d) RE: Xenophobia 25 Mar 99

Like Mick, I have been watching and wondering what I could possibly add to the thoughtful, concerned and above all humane contributions. Mick has addressed what is perhaps our best hope for the future, but sadly the events set in train at 1900 Z Wednesday and which I fear may be a far darker portal than it first seems, made me think again about the two sides of the coin which we are discussing. The first, the use of epithets for 'out groups' is, it seems, a fundamental human trait. Mostly these remain mildly derogatory, the user intends no malice, and no offence is taken. What then causes one of these to make the transition from convenient label to insult?

Why is it that to some groups their "identity" bolstered by events which took place hundreds of years ago, is so important that they will continue to demonise those ancient opponents? Why are some groupings able to absorb immigrants who in their turn are happy to consider themselves members of their new home whilst others will support "their" country '..right or wrong..' even though they live half a world away and have only one ancestor from there and that several generation in the past?

The most basic understanding of sexual reproduction gives the lie to any concept of ethnic or cultural purity except in the cases of very isolated populations and over very short time spans, eg Martha's Vinyard between 1630 and the 1880's; whilst a more detailed study of human genetics destroys even broad spectrum theories of cultural displacement such as the supposed isolation of the Celts to the Western edge of Europe, rather than the actual biological and cultural assimilation and evolution.

The use of racial, religious, and cultural caricatures by those in authority to facilitate warfare by portraying them as 'interspecies' conflict has been documented from the beginning of history, but even these do not, in the normal course of events, outlive the conflict that gave rise to them.

So where does that leave us? I am certainly not suggesting that we should not be proud of our past, either individual or cultural, what I do suggest is that we allow ourselves to be proud of all parts of our heritage, not just the bits that are fashionable or appeal to us. Given my more immediate ancestry some might expect me to take a particular side in, for example, the Northern Ireland question. What they are asking is that I should condemn one half of my family because of what they did three or four hundred or so years ago to another part of the family. Now if that makes sense to you then in my opinion Mick is wrong and man is not a reasoning animal, nor do we have moral judgement.

There is plenty of evidence that xenophobia is normal, although I would disagree with Sean about it being a survival trait from a species point of view, which is the only one that counts if you are considering evolution as a driver. Where it does seem to have a survival value, and perhaps this is the key, is in perpetuating power structures. Whether that helps to explain the different attitudes in Brazil and the US I don't know, but I suspect it is a major factor.

So sorry, no brilliant insights, only more questions, but as has been said before, the fact that we can discuss it and that we share the view that "our" community transcends the petty cultural differences fostered by our countries, actual, adopted, or historical, gives me some hope.

Pete M

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