The re-rise of xenophobia (and how to shove it down our own throat)
They were believed to be an exception, a silent and marginal anomaly. Now they are in, within the centre of decision-making. More than that, they are in the government. They raise their hands to fight for their interests, receiving the votes of those who share them.
Even though I am referring to the AfD and xenophobes in Germany, as in several other countries, these words could be theirs while referring to homosexuals, transsexuals, people of colour, feminists or Muslims. No matter on which of the sides or on which part of the world you are, Others began to have a voice. And this more and more disturbs those who believed them to be mute.
In the face of such urgent issue, I assume a self-confessing tone in order to clearly state that behind my writing lies the hope on union through listening; through empathy, through the interest into understanding the other towards a harmonic conviviality. I believe in the motto of European Union “united in diversity”; I believe that by accepting differences, beginning with our own, we can live better together – and with ourselves. I believe in the power of words to sensitize towards one’s own idiosyncrasies, defeats, mistakes and, thus, to those of the other.
For applying this principle to the absurdities happening in the world, such as the return of Nazi ideology 80 years after its decline in a country that daily declares it as the greatest mistake of its history, I propose to identify our own xenophobia. To consider the removal of Brazil’s president Dilma Roussef as coup d’état or as justice, just as the choice of Trump as absurd or as a possibility of improvements, has been erecting walls even between close relatives, people who love each other. Innumerous atrocities have been committed against human rights, which can perhaps no longer be avoided or fought. However, to treat them as decisions made by individual politicians, instead of symptoms of an increasingly fragmented society to which we all somehow contribute, is absurd as well.
Several Germans are shocked about the results of their elections. Several Brazilians are outraged about what’s been occurring in Brazil. Several North-Americans get perplexed about each declaration of Trump. Now imagine the other big part of these populations that agree with what for many sounds as aberration. While we cheer at every step given towards equal rights, towards the increase of space for those who never had any, several people feel frightened, scared, threaten of losing their space, no matter how large or small it is.
The words of Trump and of those inciting fear and hate by assigning the country’s problems to the Other, sound like a balm for one’s own fear. The xenophobic discourse works as an outlet for what many people for different reasons felt and had no courage to express. An outlet for that racist joke in the middle of a family dinner, which we ignored as if it didn’t mean anything. For the envy of homosexuals marrying happily, if not even heterosexuals reach happiness in their marriages. For the anger of seeing glamorous travesties in the street, triggered in those who never had the courage to dress and express themselves as they wished to.
Instead of trying to cope with, to dialogue about those comments, we choose to pretend them to be occasional or to drift away from the ones uttering them. Up to the moment in which they found a growing resonance, be it in the media, in the government representing us and in our own family circle. It seems like all of sudden a monster, a giant aberration, appeared out of nothing.
By rejecting with fear, bewilderment and outrage what we consider as xenophobia, we reproduce and resonate xenophobia.
By dismissing what a large part of population thinks and feels, taking them as an anomalous exception, we also dismiss the Other. If the world is progressively polarized, it is also because we too are grabbing by hook or by crook our own pole.
In the ideal world of democracy, the election result in Germany or in the USA would mean something positive: the possibility of dialogue among those whose fears and opinions have been repressed – whether of people of color, homosexuals or xenophobes – would have expanded. The problem is that the xenophobe has also a deep phobia towards exchange. The solution that may be left for us, who don’t consider ourselves as xenophobes, is to transcend our own pole of thought. By recognizing and overcoming our own fears, anger and outrage, instead of repudiating back, we might be able to understand and dialogue with the those of the Other.