There is a book I can’t remember if I heard about or actually read called “The Gift of Fear” and the idea was that women — in particular? I think? — were supposed to listen to their fear, to their instincts.
For instance, when going into an elevator with a burly man whose eyes look feral (you’ll know it when you see it, trust me) you might feel a pang of fear. But if you’re a well brought up woman and particularly if the man is another race you might not want to show it. After all you’re not a racist, right?
But what you actually should be asking yourself is: Should I die because I don’t want to be impolite?
Sure what you’re picking up on might be prejudiced. Or just paranoid. Sure, maybe you’re reacting to this guy because his clothes are old, and he’s a different race.
But maybe not.
Me? I’ve had some interesting experiences and come pretty close to the edge of the knife a few times, and I’ll tell you I won’t go into an elevator with a male, period. Or with a younger and bigger woman than I. It’s very easy to pretend you forgot something, and turn back. Or to fake going elsewhere.
I’ll also only go into an elevator with two people if it’s obvious they don’t know each other and/or if it’s a large enough group and so utterly typical for that building that it raises no alarms. (Like, in a con hotel, it’s a group of obvious fans.)
But more importantly, I’m alert, say, when walking in a nice suburban park. I had an experience where if I hadn’t been alert and realized I was heading into an area I couldn’t be seen from the road things would have got very very ugly, probably in terms of robbery, but who knows? I realized, I turned back. Which is when the guys sprang from cover. Yeah.
Now, I might have been completely wrong, okay. But then what would I lose by turning back? Uh….nothing? I’d lose not taking that part of the walk, but I could double down on the part by the road, in sight of passing traffic. (As was I was so shaken I gave it up. And have yet to go back. And that was a couple of years ago [not my neighborhood, just a place I visit often.])
This was brought about by thinking of the “xenophobic” insult thrown around.
It literally means “fear of the stranger.” Or in other words “completely normal human being.”
Let’s be real here for a minute, okay? A lot of us are parents. Which of you teaches your kids to go up to strangers and ask for candy?
If you’re going to say “but my kid is defenseless!”
Well, so are a lot of us in a lot of situations. Why wouldn’t we be afraid of strangers? What makes a stranger a stranger?
Well, at a deep set instinctual level, a stranger is someone who doesn’t look like your family or the people around you.
Remember that ridiculous article a few years back on how toddlers were racist? Yeah. It was stupid nonsense. The toddlers weren’t afraid of people who didn’t look like them (and certainly didn’t hate people who didn’t look like them) they were afraid of strangers. If, for instance, you have a little black kid who grows up as the adopted son of an Asian couple, that kid is going to be afraid of black people, should he meet them. Because to them, they’ll be not like the people who have cared for him and taken care of him.
And that’s just all sorts of wrong. Because in the not so distant past — evolutionary, yesterday — a toddler who strayed from his group and into a completely different group of people was more like to end up as lunch than adopted.
But why should this change when you’re an adult?
Well, obviously because you can’t go through life avoiding making new contacts and learning new things. The normal way of growth is to leave the house for the neighborhood, the neighborhood for the city, and then to chart your own path, possibly to places your parents have never been.
Sure, but when is the last time someone called you xenophobic because you didn’t want to talk to the neighbor?
No, the insult “xenophobic” is hurled around when you don’t like “the other.” And it usually doesn’t refer to a race (there’s a word for that. And honestly in the states a difference race doesn’t ‘feel’ different.) It refers to strange behavior. To speaking a different language, to speaking (eh) with an accent. To people who dress weirdly or eat weird stuff.
Okay. Fine. So you should maybe be open to new experiences — look, you’re talking to a woman who packed everything and became an exchange student at 17. But then I always ran towards what scared me — and there’s things to discover out there.
But remember the gift of fear. It’s perfectly okay to be afraid of the stranger. Because by definition, you don’t know what the stranger will do. It’s not only okay but sane to be reserved, proceed with care, make sure you can, metaphorically speaking, back out of the elevator.
Being open to new experiences is a thing, but them furriners, you know can have weird ways. And it’s best to be safe. I mean, what’s the worst that will happen if you get a bad vibe and back off? You’ll miss out on a nice experience? You’ll offend them?
What if you get a bad vibe and you don’t? What is the worst that can happen?
And mostly, actually, this insult gets hauled out not because you disapprove of someone’s recipe for peach pie, or someone’s colorful attire, but of something someone is doing that you — in your culture — consider deeply offensive. Like, say killing their daughter for kissing her boyfriend. Or marrying off their thirteen year old to a fifty year old she never met, or…
And why would it be an insult to disapprove of this?
Let’s suppose, in fact, that the custom you disapprove of isn’t even that radical.
Until about six years ago (I don’t know why it changed) I couldn’t stand cumin. There is in fact, in Portugal a cumin line halfway down the country. And I was from the no-cumin portion. Which meant I avoided Mexican food.
Was it xenophobic? Why? I mean it limited my ability to go out to eat in groups, that’s about it. So?
Humans are social apes. That means having a sense of who we are and who our people are is very important.
Sure civilization starts with the dissolution of tribalism. But the dissolution of tribalism doesn’t mean immediately considering everything you are and everything you do wrong, and willy nilly embracing everyone else’s culture, just because it’s not yours.
There’s nothing wrong with loving your own people, and your own country. It doesn’t prevent you from becoming acquainted with other people and other countries, and even coming to love them too. It just means you know who you are. Yeah, some freaks of nature like me find their people and their country elsewhere. But they darn tooting better think those people and that country are better… otherwise what’s the point of the whole exercise?
It’s easier to evaluate and maybe even come to know and love the “other” when you know and love your own people first.
And trust me, even if neither culture is precisely objectionable, getting along with someone from a very different culture is difficult, and there will be dangerous pitfalls on both sides. (Otherwise known as the first five years of my marriage.)
No one ever — no one sane at least — taught their kid to hate their own family and love any stranger, indiscriminately.
That’s a good way to end up dead.
For a child, an adult or even a culture.
The fact the left thinks xenophobic is an insult tells you they want you to deny your sense of fear. Perhaps because their weird little system is instinctively frightening to any rational being.
Remember the gift of fear. It’s better not to get in the elevator with the suspicious stranger, than to die in order to avoid being called xenophobic.