intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.
~ Mac dictionary
fear of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange
unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange
And yet... So prevalent.
We agree it's wrong, right? It's irrational and unreasonable. We understand that. And yet... It's still here, everywhere, inside you. Inside me. In our gut reactions to things on the news, scenes on the street. Anything that is different (if you read my first A-Z post, Allure of the Different, this will sound familiar) equally beckons and repels, sometimes for the very same reason.
Xenophobia may be an intrinsic element in our psyche--a defense mechanism, perhaps, or a way to create a group identity--but I still think it's wrong. Very wrong. And dangerous.
Holland is a magnificent example (and one I'm familiar enough with, but still objective about). The nation world-famous for tolerance has swung its pendulum to the other end of the spectrum. Tolerance is very hard to come by anywhere in Europe nowadays, and my crystal ball tells me it's going to get worse before it gets better.
What can we do, you ask? Us, the little people? It's the governments that make policy, that have the reins of the country. We can't do anything.
But we can. I insist.
Xenophobia is a mindset. Aside from the very freaky extremists (religious, political, whatever), the large majority of the population suffers from xenophobia in subconscious, automatic, ways. Most xenophobic reactions stem from ignorance--not just of the "foreigners" we fear, but of the fear itself. We don't see it, we don't recognize it.
What if we did? What if we began to check our attitudes, take the pulse on our reactions, and watch for signs of prejudicial (negative or positive) behavior? What if, before taking a stand on something, or agreeing with someone, we thought about it for a minute--or two? Just to see if we really understand what's being argued, what's being decided.
Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but I believe it can make a difference. If xenophobia is a key element of our humanity, we're not going to make it disappear. But we can understand it, see it for what it is--and stop being led like lambs to the slaughter by a fear we don't even know we have.
It is slaughter. Maybe not for you, not right now. But, eventually, if "irrational fear or hatred" is allowed to flourish, it will be.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
~ Tolstoy, War and Peace
Today, there's no greater evil than xenophobia. Will you do nothing?