June 18th

On xenophobia

I have a regular coffee spot. Sometimes I go in to write, sometimes to read, sometimes just for the banter. Today I was reading (The Secret Life of Pronouns – excellent book). Around me there was discussion on events from the previous day, where (so I hear) our local MSP had held out bombastically against people decrying all the immigrants pouring into Britain. She was not getting a good press. One view expressed was: ‘We know some of them are coming from war-zones and the like and we feel sorry for them, but we can’t afford to help’.

Well, I have my views on such things but that’s not the topic here. Over recent years the word xenophobe had dropped out of general usage. It has been replaced with the far more pejorative and emotionally charged racist. In one way that is good, because it used to be common currency to call a person a xenophobe when actually they were racist. However listening to people today I can’t help think that it’s time for a revival of using xenophobe. There discussion did not display racism, no disgust or denigration of people based on their area of birth or skin color or eye shape (there is a regular in the cafe who holds such racist views, but it was before he arrived). They did however display a fear of strangers, an unreasonable fear of strangers.

Every person you meet, whom you do not already know, is a stranger. Fearing them on an ongoing basis is a bizarre and needlessly tiring emotional state to be in. Fearing strangers whom you are unlikely to ever meet is an even stranger situation.

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