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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

A world without fear


Christina Engela - 2010-07-21



Xenophobia?

What’s that?

Recently there were some widely publicised outbreaks of violence in South Africa which were directed at foreigners living in the country, particularly illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Somalia. The term xenophobia was applied to these acts of violence, and many have taken it to mean only this sort of attack on foreign nationals living among the local population – attacks fuelled by differences of nationality only.

Sorry to burst this little nationalistic bubble – but that’s not all there is to xenophobia.

Some very biased and obviously prejudiced people who represent South Africa at the UN and also in other offices of government have recently asserted that racism and xenophobia are far more "important" issues to address than homophobia. Comparing homophobia to racism, they say, is an insult to the victims of racism. Hmm. This appears to be one group having been marginalised and persecuted, recently liberated, and now looking for somebody else to be "better" than and to explore its new-found "superiority" over.

Are you hated? Are you marginalised or persecuted for something which you cannot help being, or for something that is as natural to you as breathing? Congratulations – that makes you another equal victim of xenophobia!

While racism indeed still remains a nasty aspect to modern life, homophobia is just as much a part of modern society, and just as nasty, and every bit as unjust, cruel and inexcusable. In fact, those who now decry racism and xenophobia as their new war-cries, while pooh-poohing the dangers faced by people they themselves are intolerant of under the terms homophobia and transphobia, are only showing their true colours all too easily.

Which colours?  you may ask. The colours of hypocrisy and prejudice.

The dictionary definition of xenophobia is:

xenophobia [(zen-uh- foh -bee-uh, zee-nuh- foh -bee-uh)] An unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different. noun an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. xen·o·phobe (zěn’ə-fōb’, z“’nə-) n. A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples.

It doesn’t take a genius IQ to realise that racism and homophobia – and any other isms or phobias that target people for inherent differences and diversity, try to separate people on the basis of their diversity, or persecute them for their differences – form a vital and integral part of xenophobia.

And quite honestly, anyone who indulges in xenophobia, whether it be racist or homophobic, obviously has no clue what it is like to be persecuted, objectified, hated or ostracised for something so basic as their race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. If they did, they would do the decent thing and live and let live. If they did, and still persecuted others – well, let’s just politely say they are quite probably not very nice people.

If you’re lucky enough not to be a part of some social or racial group which is not hated by somebody, then you’re either very, very lucky – or from another planet, or possibly both.

Anyone who is curious enough to want to know how it feels to be hated should go on to the internet and look for a website belonging to a group that makes a business of hating some particular group. The best way to realise what it feels like to be hated is to go and look for a group or site that targets people like you for hate. That will be an eye-opener, I guarantee you.

If you’re black, then maybe you should pop in at a skinhead or neo-Nazi website to check out their policies page, where they will tell how "dirty" people like you are, and how dangerous it is to let you and your relatives live next door to them in peace because of how you spoil everything for them; or if you’re gay perhaps you should drop in at a homophobic Christian group website, where they will explain to you ad nauseam how evil you are for "choosing a dangerous lifestyle" and "threatening" civilisation, "the family" and their religion.

Yes, racism, homophobia, transphobia ... xenophobia ... hurts, doesn’t it?

After reading a few pages, I am sure you will know what it is to be hated, and experience the taste of intolerance for yourself. Actually by that time I think you will probably also even know exactly what is meant by the term propaganda.

Yes, this is all propaganda, espousing and promoting the idea that a particular group, usually a minority, is somehow a danger or a threat to whatever social group the body or website is claiming to represent. Quite often these views, even violent ones, are defended under laws protecting freedom of religion with the excuse that it is on the basis of personal religious beliefs that such hatred is promoted.

We all know that religious freedom is protected under the Constitution. Well, so are the dignity and human rights of all people and groups – including those who may or may not form a part of any religious group which happens to get its jollies from persecuting other groups.

The irony is that people’s personal beliefs are supposed to be personal – not other people’s business – which means all those folks concerned about who you’re in love with, or what’s on your mind (breasts, or cock, or not), should be ashamed of themselves – about as much as those arrogant people that go out into the streets trying to "convert" people to their religion. If people are interested in buying a crutch, they will go to the store – they don’t need some snake-oil salesman to annoy and intimidate them in a public space or try to shame them for not believing whatever it is they are trying so hard to convince themselves of.

At the end of the day, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia are all words for ignorance, intolerance, fear, anger and cruelty.

The antidote to this poison infecting our world?

The opposite of the above – education, tolerance, confidence, love. At the end of the day, it rests with us to change things, to make a better world, to make a place where differences are respected and even admired – or at least tolerated. A world without fear.