X is for Xenophobia
It’s the irrational fear and suspicion of that which we perceive to be alien and strange. I’ve seen it woven into many aspects of life in Australia, but none more so than our current cruel and inhumane treatment of Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Xenophobia comes from ignorance, a lack of curiosity about the larger world and an undeveloped awareness of who we are both individually and collectively.
Its really not about ‘Them’ it’s about ‘Us’.
After all, we don’t even know the names of these people and rarely give thought as to why they would risk everything to seek sanctuary in an unknown and distant country. I can think of a few good reasons.
But these people are our shadow, the modern nation-not the ancient continent-was formed by the unwanted of Great Britain. So many of our ancestors were expelled from the motherland for petty crimes of survival. We dispossessed the Indigenous peoples in a variety of savage ways which have been barely acknowledged and now after successful waves of immigration after the second world war, we are holding tight to the motto ‘Stop the boats’. There is a big wound in the Australia psyche which has caused us to respond with irrational fear of people who have nothing.
But then Xenophobia is irrational, its a fear of losing yourself in the other, of being swamped and overwhelmed by difference and it stems from insecurity.
During my adolescence, a time when paranoia about religious difference was rampant, I recall one nun making the observation ‘If you can’t be with other people who have a different faith, without losing yours then your faith was never very strong to begin with’ Amen to that I say !
Of course xenophobia comes from within, the fear of the stranger in the outside world is really a fear and suppression of that which is different inside ourselves. Such difference can be the source of great richness if we will only embrace and love it.
I think the French saying ‘Vive la Difference’ is important here !
‘Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on
You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired
But he isn’t always evil
And he isn’t always wrong
Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire
You’ll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along.