Gloria Jean Gabrielle

This conversation is closed.

What makes us xenophobic?

How do you see the xenophobia in your everyday life? Do you think it's natural or is something the mass media teaches us? Who wins if people hate each other?
How do you treat different people? (cultural, racial, bodyshape, sexuality)

And do you think we're capable of accepting aliens, if we cannot accept our neighbors ?

  • Dec 13 2013: If the problem is that our ancestors saw each other as separate tribes then the solution is to begin realizing that we humans are all one big tribe. We can protect and help each other better when there is no 'other'.
  • Dec 17 2013: Xenophobia is human nature. White children bully other white children. Black children bully other black children. Sometimes xenophobia occurs among people who " look alike". People/animals desire to protect what little they have. If something is different it poses a threat to a person level of comfort. To increase that comfort level, the threat needs to be neutralized in some way. This can manifest in passive exclusion , violence, or just not being cordial.

    Being uncomfortable is vital to adaptability.

    I apologize for the lack of intellect in my comments. I'm just glad to be associated with conversations like this. Thanks!
    • Dec 18 2013: Well put Clifford and as far as the intellect in your comment, I think it refreshing that you didn't feel the need to show off your intellect with large fumbling words that are rarely used in daily common dialog.
      I thank you
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    Dec 17 2013: Irrespective of a basis in experience, phobias are irrational fears, and range from the obscure (e.g., Medorthophobia, Gnosiophobia, Triskaidekaphobia, etc.) to the more common (e.g., Pteromerhanophobia, Arachnophobia, Claustrophobia, etc.). And like all fears, Xenophobia is disordered thinking—a condition of the mind—and treatable. However, unlike most irrational fears, Xenophobia may be experienced both at the level of the individual as well as that of a society. Much as Wiccaphobia in 18th century Salem—or present day Central Africa and New Guinea—Xenophobia may run through a society, with potentially dire results.

    The tools needed to overcome Xenophobia include education, reason and familiarity. Closed, insular and seemingly impenetrable societies are thus the most problematic—consider the worldview of North Korea when compared to South Korea. Isolate any group of individuals, tell them repeatedly of an external threat, all the while preventing their broader learning, education and exposure, and the result is predictable. An open exchange of ideas, commerce and communication—including actually living for a period in other regions—is our only hope of gaining richer understanding, and overcoming our ancestrally-derived Xenophobic tendencies.

    Fear as a basis for decision making is holding us back. Ideally, there’s probably only one irrational fear worth holding on to: Phobiaphobia—the fear of having a phobia!
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    Dec 17 2013: I agree with much of what has been said: the evolutionary benefits of xenophobia; the 'us' and 'other' mentality; the role of fear and uncertainty; personal and societal history (e.g. war); and the powerful influence and potential of parents, society, government, media and education to promote or counteract xenophobia.

    I wonder whether another underlying factor may be the relative emphasis we place on the values of fairness and loyalty - which of course links to the 'us' and 'other' idea. This may help account for differences in xenophobic tendencies across time and between individuals and societies. I think of things like the emphasis on 'the Motherland' (fostering loyalty) in Nazi Germany, of war crimes sometimes committed by patriotic (loyal) soldiers, and of my beloved but horribly racist grandmother. My grandmother is very generous to those connected to her and wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice anything for her family, but she sees even giving blood as something to be energetically discouraged - at least if the donor is a member of her family. I explain this apparent contradiction as 'loyalty'.

    To my mind, fairness is the antithesis of discrimination, and if I, a non-racist, were to rank my personal values, I would rank fairness a great deal higher than loyalty. I don't think my grandmother would do the same. I'd be interested to hear how others would rank these values (I'm assuming there are no racists in this convo) - if they'd rather be called 'fair and just' or 'loyal', or, perhaps, which accusation would sting more: 'unjust' or 'disloyal'. I'd also be curious as to whether anyone has knowledge of how relatively common xenophobia is in a culture (or cultures) which prizes loyalty (perhaps including patriotism).
  • Dec 16 2013: As humans, we relish our comfort zones, and the reason we relish those is because we have mastered them. We know what's going to happen next, and if anyone asks what's going to happen next, we can confidently answer and know we're correct. The introduction of change throws a wrench into that line of thinking. New faces means new mindsets, new cultures, new ways of doing things. We're no longer in a comfort zone, we're now in someone ELSE'S comfort zone. We can no longer succeed, because we can't answer the questions anymore, or questions are being asked that we don't want to answer.

    Xenophobia doesn't just have to be about people, it can be about cultures, processes, technologies, you name it, but it always comes down to the same thing: when people are relaxed and happy with 'how things work', they are resistant to someone barging in and changing things, regardless of how much sense it makes, or how necessary it is.

    Is it possible to avoid this resistance? Certainly. But the most important (and overlooked) facet is that the person wishing to introduce the change must remember that the introduction of the change is a perceived threat, and will be viewed as such, unless introduced in a manner less intrusive to that person or group of people that will be resistant to the change. As the saying goes, you attract more bees with honey than you do with a stick.
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    Gord G

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    Dec 15 2013: I think xenophobia is rooted in our sense of isolation. As much as we would like to feel we're connected, in actuality I think we struggle to reach outside of ourselves.

    Everyone is a stranger. Everyone is someone removed from the unbroken reality of our existence. If they don't fit within our understanding ... they're anomalies.

    Blanketed acceptance is difficult when fear or ignorance separates us.
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    Dec 14 2013: Xenophobia happens, much like beauty and ugliness. It just happens. Dissecting it's origins is less valuable than curing it with education. We fear less that which we understand. Some in the U.S. use the fact of xenophobia as a leverage to instigate a heightened awareness of our differences rather than our similarities. Since many in that same camp want to lessen the support of our educational system, I believe we can look forward to an increase in xenophobic reactionary activity. Sad, but, I fear, honest and true. If any see the error of my thinking, I solicit those differing viewpoints. I don't want to feel this way, I just can't help it as I view the course of my country over these past few decades.
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      Dec 17 2013: "Dissecting it's origins is less valuable than curing it with education."

      Could not agree more. Whatever the apparent state of our educational system, don't lose hope. We will move beyond our collective "Post 9/11" mentation ... eventually. But we must engage, if we are to succeed.
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      Dec 18 2013: "Dissecting it's origins is less valuable than curing it". Certainly curing it is more valuable than understanding its causes, but, David, do you think we *can* we cure it without first understanding it? You've suggested that education can cure xenophobia and implied that's because it's based on fear resulting from lack of understanding. Drawing from personal experience, I agree. But if there are other causes as well (as I believe there are), is education enough? How do we know?

      By way of illustration, a classic piece of psychological research that feeds into the understanding of xenophobia is known as 'the Robbers Cave experiment' ( It suggests that prejudice and discrimination can arise simply as a result of competition for a resource or reward (although one of the limitations of the study is that it doesn't rule out the possibility of this being a cultural trait). Although the web page for the link doesn't talk about this, from recollection the divisions between the two groups of boys in the study were dissolved when they had to work together to complete a task. Using this understanding, perhaps one way of addressing xenophobia is to foster a culture of collaboration rather than competition (how, I don't know).

      You raise a sensible general point, though - discussing a problem without thinking about solutions might be interesting, but it isn't particularly useful.
  • Dec 14 2013: Sense of identity... we've learned to define ourselves in opposition to others... even when cinema preaches a united world, it does so by crating a common enemy/problem/challenge... Should we find other sources/paradigms to define ourselves I believe we could overcome xenophobia...
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    Dec 13 2013: I think it's deep inside. It starts from self-consciousness which makes us "intelligent" (whatever this means). Shortly after we are born, we become aware of ourselves and we divide the world into "I" and "not I" - things we associate with our own identity (our own body, room, parents, extended family, friends, school, town, country, gender, race) and things we do not associate with "I" - "other" people, "foreigners", "fans of the other soccer team". We trust familiar things because we know what to expect from them and distrust unfamiliar things because we do not know what to expect from them. Hence, there is a natural feeling of danger towards things and people we do not know or understand. We fill the unknown with our imagination - "monsters under beds", shadows in the darkness and other stuff.

    As we grow up, we become familiar with more and more things (unless we shut ourselves from the outside world mentally). As I became older, there seems to be fewer and fewer things that I'm afraid of. When I was small, I learned not to be afraid of the dark by standing and staring in the dark - trying to see "what is" instead of what I imagine. Seeing "what is there" instead of reacting with fear to things we rather imagine is a good way to overcome all kinds of fears and phobias. For people who are afraid of other races, religions, cultures, etc., it may be a great idea to travel to other countries and see "what is there". I've seen a few homosexuals in my life. They look just as everyone else. They have families, kids, own homes, have regular jobs. Many people are afraid of their neighbors - mostly because what they imagine about them. Just like the boy in "Home Alone" movie was afraid of the old man from his neighborhood.

    I guess, a lot of fears and phobias are learnt. But most come from learning wrong things.
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    Dec 13 2013: My understanding is we evolved as social creatures, probably in small groups where cooperation was important. Out groups were generally threats. As per the dynamics we see in monkeys to mercats.

    this makes us tribal by nature.

    however we have the faculties of reason. While instincts, sex drive, xenophobia etc overlayed by culture are driving forces, we don't Need to be slaves to instinct or historical cultural norms.

    I suggest the first step is realising this nature and nurture frame work. The second is consciously widening your individual tribe to include all humans. Thirdly to respect minorities, to support human rights.
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      Dec 15 2013: I was about to write pretty much the same thing, so I'm glad that I scrolled down to see that you've already said it for me. The only thing I would question is taking a nature/nurture framework approach. One of the huge problems I have with this framework is that it ignores agency. You've touched on this in your mention of our capacity for reasoning, but it's overlooked in the nature vs nurture debate. And that risks losing the reality of personal responsibility. Ultimately, for whatever "reason" (I really want to use the word excuse there) people, no make that some people make the choice to think/act/be xenophobic. Of course, this doesn't explain why people make the choices to be so fearful or negative about those they consider to be foreigners or strangers or why they choose to continue to hold and even advocate for those views. In fact it probably goes back to that social drive you identified, so bringing in this notion of agency might seem like a moot point. However, what's positive about recognising the role of personal agency is that if xenophobia is a choice, then there is hope that these same people might one day choose not to be xenophobic.

      And I'm going to share that after writing the above I listened to "Everyone's a little bit racist" from Avenue Q just to give myself a big old kick up the backside/reality check!
  • Sarah T

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    Dec 6 2013: In my opinion, xenophobia is just casting people as "other" than one's self. David touched on this a bit. While I think that fear of unknown things is normal to some degree, I think xenophobia is less of an anxiety about encountering new things, and more of a psychological tool to deflect or insulate one's self.
    When I studied criminology we discussed how people cast criminals as being "other" than themselves as a means of reassuring themselves that their social circles are safe, that they are good people, etc. Saying someone is an "other" isn't just saying "they're different from me" is more like saying "They're a different breed of human".
    Such behavior allows us to justify all kinds of thoughts and behaviors. I currently see a great deal of xenophobic behavior directed toward Asian culture. I think this is a result of the rise of economic and political power in that region that now rivals American/Western powers. I think it manifests as ethnocentrism - their medicine is inferior, assertions they've cheated on school tests and in the Olympics, fears that things like yoga in schools will teach children eastern philosophy or religion, etc. Ultimately, such thinking allows people to believe their culture is still superior and that its standing in the world is not actually being threatened.
    But I think a person who was in battle overseas might well develop xenophobic ideas because of trauma. Children raised in hate groups are taught to be xenophobic. I think it's very individual. Some people are not xenophobic at all.
    As for aliens - no, I don't think we could handle it. Largely because any alien arriving here would obviously be more advanced than us technologically. That paired with the psychological trauma many people would suffer while trying to reconcile previously held world beliefs would be completely overwhelming for a large number of people. Abject fear would be the immediate response in my opinion.
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      Dec 6 2013: Sarah, thank you for your comment.
      I agree with pretty much everything you said. I don't know about the "asian" problem worldwide, but we have an "african" thing, that I also cannot understand. Pitily our goverment teaches us to hate these people because they hurt us.

      I am from Bulgaria and right now there is a huge wave of Syrians emigrating here to save their lives. I believe they are harmless and very nice people. However, the mass media starts talking about the "unregistered" emigrants that steal, kill and fight on our streets. The tuth is that the "unregistered" and the ones who came to save their lives are two different groups. The first ones are mostly criminals that find good ground for drugs, thieft and somehow surviving here (they were here before the war but nobody used to talk about it.) And the second - whole families that are put in houses for some time.
      The problem is, and the reason I say that, is that the media makes us think they are all the same. "The Syrians are too much, they will get over us, we have to fight them because they fight our women and children." This makes the mass hate them and be against a every helpless mother with her little children.
      This is not right. This is just some scenario. I hate it, honestly. But I am just showing you an example for a "taught" xenofobia.
  • Dec 15 2013: Xenophobia does not prevail wherein and whereby, children of different races have grown up, or have been brought up amicably together in a non racist institution, or single household ; no more so than do young animals of different species, who have grown up, or have been brought up amicably together, in a single institute or household:

    Sources of Xenophobia; Parental, Educational, Cultural, Political rhetoric and Propaganda, Religious Groups, Peer Group Pressure, Media, "More Especially Militaristic, and Violent kill kill kill the Alien/Foreigner Video Games" etc. etc.

    Regardless: We all originate from the same source; and none of us possesses the intelligence, or the right; to second guess the Universal intelligence, or the will of our Creator; regardless as to what our own particular beliefs are, in regard to what the nature of the Creator may be.

    My personal non racist, non sexist view is: A miscreant is a miscreant; regardless of Race, Religion, Color or Culture.

    And one good and kind hearted Atheist; is worth any number of pew renting, or fanatical zealots, of any religion, or persuasion.
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      Dec 17 2013: Well stated! The evolutionary survival mechanism of “threat detection” via mistrust of “others” may have served a purpose at one point in our ancient past, but it would seem just as certain that cooperation and cohesion ensured our long-term survival and produced greater periods of reduced stress and flourishing. Today we must, on the whole, either be taught to be mistrusting, or learn via the path of having been taken advantage of. But rather than focusing on threats first and foremost, it would be more productive for our species to look for, and engage in, opportunities for cooperation and collaboration. This is not a naive utopian proposition—we must remain vigilant against regressive opportunism or predatory behaviors. But awareness of our past does not mandate a return to it.
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    Dec 13 2013: Here's some general info about ways people tend to acquire Xenophobia.
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      Dec 13 2013: Interesting.
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        Dec 13 2013: Thank you!

        I put a lot of effort in to posting relevant links of good general quality, it's nice when it's appreciated.
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          Dec 17 2013: Yes, very nice, but do you agree with this path to Xenophobia?

          "Rational or analytical reasons for the revulsion."

          I do not, and Wikipedia offers no explanation for it. In fact, I find this "reasoning" self-contradictory, as Xenophobia cannot, by definition, be a "rational" position. Further, "revulsion" is a visceral, emotional reaction, often without logical justification.
  • Dec 10 2013: What makes us xenophobic?..... fear of difference or changes in life. To accept change is not as easy to do as it is to say. We become comfortable with our micro worlds that surround us either by media, friends or religion and when a view comes along to alter that we first tend to erect our defensive's. Humans tend to react in ways to defend our home and that home is now larger then the cave that we came from. Our threats no longer come from animals of wild for they are either caged or domesticated, no I think that our new threats are now derived from media and the fear of compromise and that compromise will put us into a weaker position for future debates. A follow up question might be posed can we as human beings relearn to think as a whole and not as a single entity for the betterment of our future children. Thank you for the insightful question
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    . .

    • +1
    Dec 10 2013: Xenophobia is a severe deficiency of spirit, heart and mind.
    And so the good news is that we can eradicate it in ourselves.
    We do this through filling our emptiness (in these three areas of our being).
    Brilliant question!!
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      Dec 13 2013: I think, we need to empty our own ego first so that we can be filled with the spirit.

      To get rid of xenophobia, we need to leave behind stereotypes and prejudice. Then we can discover that there is no "us vs. them" - there is just "us".
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        Dec 13 2013: Spirit? Vodka?
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          Dec 13 2013: Thanks, Jimmy.

          Obey, "being filled with spirit" means different things to different people. Usually, the meaning is defined by people's beliefs. So, if "being filled with spirit" means "being filled with vodka" to you, it is as you say.

          But seriously, do you not understand what "spirit" means? Do you think you have no spirit? What made you type your reply? Was it random firing of neurons causing random finger movements tapping on random keys?

          You can play a hard skeptic and ask me define "spirit" better. Sorry, I cannot. Some things cannot be explained. E.g., I doubt you can explain what you mean when you say "I". "Spirit" is in the same category of ideas as "I". If the concept truly does not make sense to you, I don't think, I can help.
  • Dec 5 2013: We are the aliens, the real question is why would an intelligent life form want to meet us. Example: Do you think the animals are enjoying our company? 150 billion killed every year...
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      Dec 5 2013: Yes, you are so painfully right!
      I think it's sometimes hard to look at ourselves in the mirror. However, I believe that we would grow - worse or better, but will and it's happenning : take a look at the youngest generation. It's our role to choose how to make them grow. I can proudly say my parents did the best for me. Can the most of us admit their children would say the same for them?
      • Dec 5 2013: Gloria I can honestly say my generation left a mess but to our credit we also left much faster and better tools for the younger generation to work with. It's up to each generation to pick up whatever tools they have and do their best. In the long run I think it is just a test for each individual.

        "What lies behind you and what lies before you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you"- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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          Dec 6 2013: Again, I agree. This is the cause of evolution in our lives.
          However, it's always possible to de-evolute ourselves, I think. For example, let's take the Medieval and what it gave us. How about killing every upgoing mind? How about destroying the great inventions?
          Don't we do the same now? What I mean is that we have a technological evolution but some of the brightest inventions get "killed" because of the industry. Tell me if I'm right. Maybe I'm not.

          You seem a very interesting person and I suppose you have read about the invention of Dr. Rife. However, if you haven't I give you a reading target for the day -

          Tell me what you think about it!
      • Dec 6 2013: Well Gloria that was interesting and I encourage you to follow and investigate what ever interests you. I have come across Jeff Rense's work before. As you have probably found out by reading my profile my interests span from neutrinos to VY Canis Majoris and most of what is between them. There is so much "stuff" out there that it is easy to lose track of what is important: happiness
        "The purpose of our lives is to be happy"- Dalai Lama
        All the things we read on the internet, all the things we read in books, all the things we see on TV and movies, all the things we are told by our parents, teachers or anyone else... all of this is information.
        "Information is not knowledge"- Einstein
        "The only source of knowledge is experience"- Einstein
        It is a major flaw in our education system... don't tell me, show me and let me do it myself... then I will understand.
        "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand"- Confucius
        Gloria I encourage you to find out what you love.
        "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"- Confucius
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          Dec 6 2013: I'm glad it was! And yes, I believe in happiness sooo much, so I live in it.
          God, I think I'm constantly happy, I cannot find a reason to not be.
          There was a time in my life when I was embraced of.. how can I call it... sadness. You know, this sadness when you see how foolish people are. When you see how much they suffer because of their own mistakes. And mostly - how completely mindless they can be.
          This used to take me out of my skin of rage. But then I understood.
          I have to forgive them, I have to help them and make them happy by little things I do.
          I stopped thinking about myself as something bigger than them. Just I work, work and read and learn like crazy, but this makes me absolutely happy. This makes me able to work for myself and to win because of my experience - knowledge.

          I love this quote of Einstein, thank you so much for reminding it to me!
  • Dec 5 2013: Humans are hard wired to seek out groups and feel a certain animosity towards those of opposing groups. There are those who like to think that xenophobia is taught, and while that's true to an extent (in the sense that it can be made worse by societal influence), its tolerance that doesn't come naturally.
    Its some left over back from the days when the lot of humanity was still tribal hunter gatherers, banding together in groups for the dual purpose of mutual protection, and waging war on other such groups. Most human violence is between groups, not individuals.

    As for aliens, I'm more worried about them actually. The only thing we know for certain will apply to alien lifeforms is Darwinian evolution, which favors ruthlessness and elimination of competition. Its how humans got to be dominant on this planet, and the reason that meetings between two groups of humans, one with superior to technology to the other, have rarely ended well for the low tech group.
    This isn't my xenophobia speaking, its my game theory. I'm afraid the other side will be just as xenophobic, for many of the same reasons we are. I don't want to end up like the native Americans when the Europeans showed up--in that particular encounter, there were genocides both accidental and purposefully committed, and that's between groups that have a lot more in common then we would have with aliens.
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      Dec 6 2013: Do you mean that if there is any contact with aliens, you're afraid of them gettiong over us, killing us and using our planet?
      I believe they have no interest in that and if they have so good technology, they probably have already met other individuals from other planets. If we imagine, though, that they have a completely different way of thinking, and they see the way we do, the will have the right to "exterminate" this out of us. We might me a danger for the universe? I believe we're just too agressive and we would like to destroy more than explore - what we do with our own planet. Pity.
      • Dec 6 2013: Its practically impossible to predict how an encounter with an alien civilization will occur, as there is no precedent. The closest thing there is to go by is human civilizations encountering each other for the first time, and assuming a scenario that the aliens came to us, the comparison is between civilizations where one is very technologically advanced compared to the others.
        The results aren't pretty. European explorers and conquerors in Australia and the Americas have committed acts of genocide, accidentally (old word virulent diseases, especially small pox which is known to wipe out 90% of indigenous populations) and otherwise (plain old fire and steel).

        If we have nothing the aliens want, it may turn out fine. Unless they decide they want to eliminate potential future competition, in which case we're screwed even if they don't want our planet.
        There's no way to know for sure, seeing as these aliens are at the moment hypothetical. Again though, the only thing we do know for sure is that they developed through the process of Darwinian evolution, which favors ruthlessness.

        They may well have met other species before us, only to wipe them out before they could become a threat.
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      Dec 6 2013: I don't believe in this Hawking idea of native Americans/Colombus encounter we would have with aliens visiting us. The technological advances that allowed the Europeans to conquer the Americas are not comparable with the amount of knowledge in many different fields (astrophysics, biology, quantum mechanics...) that a transgalactical journey would require. Such knowledge requires real science, and cannot rest on traditionnal craftsmanship, as could naval carpentry. And real science implies open-mindedness and curiosity. So anyone with the technological ability to visit us would most likely be happy to establish constructive communication.
      You might argue that we could imagine some Viking lifeform that could survive intergalactical travels on very rudimentary ships with little interest in scientific progress and an appetite for conquest and raping of alien females. But that's not Hawking's point.
      • Dec 6 2013: Scientific development and lack of aggression or killing intent have nothing to do with one another.
        You'd be amazed at the complexity of the research and engineering that goes into developing weapons, for example. A person can be open minded, curious, intelligent and creative, while still perfectly capable of strangling you with your own intestines.

        I'm former military, so it might be easier for me to grasp. Where I live, everyone is called onto military service, and once its over with, they get on with their lives. I personally know engineers that used to be infantrymen, doctors that used to operate tanks, and businessmen that used to do commando work. Plenty of them are even in active reserve duty, which means that they're still perfectly capable of going back to doing all those things today.

        What you could argue is that the aliens wouldn't be mindless brutes. That doesn't mean they couldn't find a perfectly rational reason to kill us, however. Use of our resources (in particular the planet itself), or the elimination of future competition before it can do anything dangerous pop to mind.
        Some of the same reasons the European colonists tended to slaughter native populations, actually.
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          Dec 6 2013: " A person can be open minded, curious, intelligent and creative, while still perfectly capable of strangling you with your own intestines. "

          So let's take you, for instance, since you seem to qualify as such a person. Are you saying that you would be capable of strangling me with my guts for no good reason?
          I expect not. And if someone told you that anyone named Gerald should be destroyed because Geralds are evil, would you do it? No you wouldn't, because you're a rationnal person.
          Nor would you have joined the Christians in their Native American genocide, had you been beamed there with your current memory. And it's not that you're more curious and intelligent than everybody else, it's just that you've had an education and have grown up in a society that values reason.
          It's not a coincidence that our society produces you AND quantum mechanics.
      • Dec 7 2013: The "for no good reason" is the part where your argument is flawed.
        There are perfectly rational reasons you could find yourself ending up killing people, as scary as the argument mind sound.

        The most common are the "they tried to kill me first", which can easily devolve into a spiral of violence where both sides are certain the other won't back down because of past offenses, even though the initial incident could have been an accident, misunderstanding, or a violent fringe group.

        Another is competition over resources and elimination of future competition. There's a moral argument to be made, but the more rational a party is, the more likely it is to favor the cold logic saying "wipe them out while you still can, because in a century or two they could do the same to you".

        A pair of non-rational parties can be just as bad and still perfectly capable of great scientific achievements. Take for example the recent tension between China and Japan. Two of the most technologically advanced countries on the the planet, full of open minded, curious and intelligent people, and yet both parties are busy saber rattling over a combination of territory of great economic value, and national pride.

        There is this conception that technologically advanced and intelligent==non-violent. As history shows us again and again, that's just not true. There is no correlation between the two. I'm sure the people who invented the atomic bomb, for instance, were absolutely brilliant.
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          Dec 7 2013: The atomic bomb is probably the weapon which has killed the fewest people, but it could be used to wipe out the biosphere, so I won't cheat and use this to make my point.
          However, I'm very curious about the "as history shows us again and again" argument you make. You can't actually be saying that Westerners nowadays are more violent than Native Americans were.
          Are you afraid China and Japan will go to war?
          Finally, you go through these well explained processes that would lead the reasonnable person to engage in nonsensical violence, but it makes me wonder if your knowledge about these mechanisms wouldn't prevent you from yielding to them.
          So I don't believe you. You're harmless, immune to endoctrination and way too rationnal to ever strangle me with my guts. I'd trust you to baby-sit my young children, so I'm deaf to your arguments. Maybe because I'm irrationnal myself...
      • Dec 7 2013: What I'm trying to say is that a) a a reasonable person can, under the right circumstances engage in nonsensical violence, and b) a reasonable person can engage in violence which in fact makes quite a bit of sense.

        For a)
        The holocaust is a prime example of this. Post event analysis showed that he majority of those involved weren't psychopaths, just regular people involved in extreme circumstance. In one of the most technologically and scientifically advanced nations of the era, you also have one of history's worst atrocities.
        The V2 rocket, for example, one of the great technological marvels of the war, was built with a combination of slave labor, and some brilliant scientists that would later help put a man on the moon (adopted by the US after their capture in the end of the war).

        As for b)
        war and violence often occur for purely rational reasons. Say the Native Americans being attacked by the Europeans--simple self defense. Just because you had to kill someone in self defense doesn't make it any less horrific, it just means you had a reason that you can consider more justified.
        Whether one considers potential elimination of rivals and competition over resources as justified is another matter entirely.

        Human nature has within it two sides to the same coin. On the one hand, we're capable of great and wonderful things, and on the other, horrible nightmares.
        All I'm saying is that one person, never mind a diverse group, can easily engage in both. I'm assuming aliens will be similar.

        This duality is not a contradiction, its just how we are. One side may be suppressed to a point you can forget its there, but under the right circumstances, it can always come back out.
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          Dec 7 2013: Alright, it's well argued.
          I guess the reason why China and Japan are not at war is not that they're more reasonnable now than before, but rather than they have good reasons to maintain peace in today's global economy.
          Alright, alright. I'm convinced. Thank you for your patience!
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    Dec 18 2013: I love Sara Fryett's reply to my comment. It is spot on and takes my thoughts to task and then a bit farther. She lends added value. A gracious critique, then support, then solutions. Way to go Sara, thanks!
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      Dec 18 2013: Thank you, David. You've made my day!
  • Dec 18 2013: In some ways I think xenophobia is actually on the way out.

    Facebook, Twitter, Ted, email - the internet in general, in all of these places people communicate with each other. And the more we do, and the more we use them the less xenophobic we become. If only because we no longer 'see' the other person. And in our neanderthal brain, what you don't see cant hurt you.

    And when you do see them, not matter how different to your expectations they are, you don't feel xenophobic to them, because you've moved beyond that fear.
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    Dec 18 2013: -
    The proficiency of a language.

    How do the two different hunmen being want to talk each other ?
    because (except the appearance or other intentional strategy) they can talk and talk causlly , manipulablly .

    How can the two different hunmen being the fall in love ?
    Because they know another's feeling , whether he / she has talked or not .

    They can recognize any subtle hints by only a gesture , a frown , a pause within a sentence , a pun .

    But these ,these necessary Skills of talking , we, " the aliens", can't use .Cause we can't use these useful trick .
    We only can communicate with them use " simply words " ,not only the make-up of words ,but also the meanings go along with these words.

    All these make the process of communicating with aliens become boring & difficult . We cannot express the " true me ", so I quit . so I thought " So as him or her ".We are talking ,but we may never truly know the person we talk with .

    So we don't know the " aliens " not to mention their culture , their history ,their painful but confirmedly story .
    So we don't care what they experiencing .
    Because we don't know ,so the misconception arise .
    Because we don't care, so the conflicts arise .
    And again And again And again.
    The history become a repetitive pattern.

    So I think ,if a person truly want to know a different culture, first ,to learn their lauage and ! with a tolerant heart.


    There is a eposide in The good wife about an African-American kill a police .
    But the lawyer when she recheck the evidences found , the murderer is ohter African-American.
    The witness testified the wrong person.

    The problem is about cross-racial identification. Studies still haven't adequately explained why, but it's harder for Caucasians to identify subtle differences in African-American faces, and African-Americans in Caucasians .

    allegedly,so as any races.

    So we back to the problem , Inertial thinking .
  • Dec 18 2013: Thank you Positivist Nullifidian

    However as to the latter title: The one thing I worked out some time ago, and I cherish most, despite the fact that my intelligence is so infinitesimal, and my ignorance is so extensive, relative to that of the Universal Intelligence/Creator, is that;

    You can no more take the scope of the Universe, out of your own intelligence;

    Than you can take the scope of your own intelligence (geometry - maths - physics - chemistry - photosynthesis - logic - rationality = science = being)

    Out of the scope of the Universe.

    Cheers Carl

    Perhaps I should also add that I agree with your view in regard to cooperation: The reason being, that if we look to the nature of evolution and e.g. how bacteria and viruses cooperate to the mutual benefit of each other, or how one species of flora will cooperate and adapt with a particular species of fauna to the mutual benefit of each other: It follows that the survival of a species, does not depend on being the fittest; but rather through the means of cooperation, and adaption to both circumstances and the nature of the environment.
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    Dec 17 2013: The ignorance is the answer, the people who thinks in cultural trues and no in global trues are in fact the problem. people who hates black people don’t realize that they actually share the same dna because we come from them. We are now living in a interconnect world we have to create a new order, we have to think in everyone as equals because we are.
  • Dec 17 2013: I think there are two big factors. One of them definitely being the extreme nationalism we are subjected to in the US. It reminds me of a passage from a David Sedaris book I read recently, "Every day we're told that we live on the greatest country on earth...Having grown up with this in our ears, it's startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are "We're number two!"
    I live in Chile now, and while the people are very proud of their country, their pride comes without the degradation of other countries and cultures.
    Another cause of xenophobia comes from parental pressures and teachings, whether intentional or not. Children grow up in a household that could be either accepting to foreigners, and to the foreign and unknown, or it can be shut out and taught to be something evil or scary. It's part of the parents job to promote and nurture their child's exploration and acceptance of the world.
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    Dec 17 2013: Here in America xenophobia seems to be less seen than say in Bulgaria (I am Bulgarian) because the culture is set up differently, and in America it's almost a taboo to state that you are treating someone differently because of ethnicity or race, and it's a nation of immigrants anyway. Maybe there is some natural basis, but overall, if we all viewed ourselves as citizens of the world and not of a country, then we would be able to very well make it disappear. Culturally, we are taught from a very young age the "Us vs. Them" mindset, and that contributes to it.
    On a personal note, I treat everyone the same regardless, but if they choose to behave rudely towards me, I cannot help but start forming a stereotype, it's the human thing to do. But I do believe everyone deserves an equal chance on first impressions.
    And no I don't think we are capable of accepting aliens. I mean look, we can't accept multiple races and religions completely, why should we accept another species? Unless of course, we associate aliens with religion, then that could make quite a mess. I think that if aliens have existed and have made contact, the general public is or should be kept unaware of it, as not to ruin the fragile structure of society and cause mass chaos.
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    Dec 17 2013: I think Xenophobia is completely natural. Its probably an evolutionary mechanism developed to ensure our survival.
    We pick a group that we feel we belong to and anyone outside of it is treated with caution, it made perfect sense up until now.
    I feel like this is a transition period.Since the birth of internet/ mobile phones etc. the world has started to shrink and cultural differences are starting to fade away. People from different parts of the world are getting to know each other, and familiarity reduces animosity. In my opinion, the next step in human evolution is probably one in which all racial and cultural differences disappear.
  • Dec 17 2013: what makes us xenophobic is definitely the media and the little unconscious cues we pick while watching movies and t.v-- such as people have to be a certain way according to their race,looks etc. people also its also a great getaway to look down on someone else to feel better about your self/insecurities. i know high school kids do it cause it will make them look cooler. we live in harsh world, the moment people find an excuse to talk bad about someone, or just feel angry about someone--the quickest thing their mind will think about is the racist comments/xenophobia, this is because many people wont have their own opinions and get brain watch by others and the Media. if people Ashly try to be more united with less hate on their own, their experiences will break them from that world of being xenophobic.---great question by-the-way and nice pic
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    Dec 15 2013: I'd say that what makes us xenophobic is the mainstream medias.
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    Dec 15 2013: an excellent question, I will think on it. Btw, given the time of year and how busy so many are you might want to extend the time on this topic. :)
  • Dec 14 2013: Fear and hate, based mostly on our religious morals that teach us that whatever "God' we pray is the true and only God..we learn to discriminate based on this and it colors and carries throughout our lives unless we are aware.

    People in general are also taught or conditioned into always labeling things, experiences, people as either Bad or Good...we forget that sometimes these things ...."just are" neither bad or "just is".

    We also distrust and dissect as well as diminish other people, cultures and countries "Success" , therefore that jealously becomes deeply rooted in our actions towards anyone not like us.

    "For you to succeed your friends must fail" sad, but fairly evident in today's culture
  • Dec 13 2013: Mistaken identity
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    Dec 13 2013: My favorite videos about xenophobias:

    And here is a great story about who benefits from xenophobias
  • Dec 11 2013: I think it is not just the fear itself, but the way it came to be seen other countries. And protectionist tactics of mostly European countries that with increasing longevity requires foreigners but at the same time deny,. The evolution has to do so if Eurocentrism and maybe talk and stuff so there is prejudice against diversity, and this means being afraid but involves many other things
  • Dec 10 2013: When I was in the 5th standard, my class teacher would ask the 4 or 5 students from my linguistic community to stand up, while the remaining 50 odd students speaking the language the majority spoke looked at us in disdain. One single narrow minded parochial teacher had the capacity to sow the seeds of hatred in scores of impressionable minds. To eradicate xenophobia, the quality of teachers needs improvement. I hope they make it mandatory for teachers to pass a basic test of emotional intelligence in India..
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      Dec 17 2013: Arnab, this story saddens me, but it also inspires me. That teacher could also have sown 'seeds of hatred' in your own impressionable mind, but it seems as though you view the behaviour of your fellow students with more understanding than I think many of us could manage.

      I don't know about an emotional intelligence test but, in principle, I agree. Having ethical teachers is important for raising an ethical society. The only difficulty is figuring out what 'ethical' is, which I guess is a whole different conversation. Perhaps all teacher training should include fostering a 'treat others as you would like to be treated' mindset, which seems to be a pretty timeless and universal ideal, in word if not in deed. And we would all like to be treated fairly and not be discrimated against.
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    Dec 9 2013: This is a good one….do our ancestral evolutions keep us from loving and understanding each other? will it affect the way we encounter aliens?
    I believe the answer will come down to which evolutionary trait we choose to keep. A fear from other peoples, from other places was advantageous to the survival of a medium sized community. These xenophobic tendencies prevented such things as disease and possible raids. There also was a time when these small villages, grew into towns and empathetic tendencies helped towns thrive and progress by welcoming people of all kinds. Xenophobia and Empathy, only some of evolution's gift to us, which will we choose? Do we keep our habit -forming tendencies or do we embrace our love of variety and new experiences? Do we keep our love of stories and happy endings or do we submit to our insatiable need for truth and knowledge? do we keep our lust for violence, whether it be sports or war or do we accept each other as brothers and sisters( something we've always known)? Declaring the planet and all of her resources common heritage for all who inhabit her can be a first step in changing our views of the planet and each other.
  • Dec 8 2013: I think it is partially a tribal trait - fear of the unknown/another tribe. We are always taught to hate and fear the other tribes or consider them inferior which is just as bad. Until we consider the entire human race one tribe, we will have this problem.
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    Dec 7 2013: Selfishness makes us xenophobic. That idea that our worldview is the only good view.
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    Dec 6 2013: Hey, guys, we started talking about aliens, so I'd like to ask about your opinion on this theory:


    You can read more about it here

    Share what you think about it?
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      Dec 6 2013: The article concludes : "Now, of course, we have to wait for direct evidence to support our idea. Or refute it."

      It's quite strange to start with an answer and look for the question in serious science. The claim that the moon is an ancient spaceship is attractive, sure, but it does not present itself as an explanation to some not weird observation we've made. It just pops up as a "why not" claim. Here's another such claim I can make "the inside of the moon consists of billions of dead beavers."
      You can't refute it, of course. But then I can't justify why dead beavers instead of giant slugs either, and I definitely can't say that my theory is based on a problem asking for a solution.

      So, though it's fun, spaceship moon is not a propper theory, yet.
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        Dec 6 2013: "Now, of course, we have to wait for direct evidence"

        great idea! meanwhile, we can ignore that possibility, and do something meaningful!
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          Dec 7 2013: Fear of the unknown
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          Dec 7 2013: "meanwhile, we can ignore that possibility, and do something meaningful!"
          I think I'm beginning to adopt your attitude...

          And Helen, REALLY!?
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          Dec 7 2013: I don't get the rules for TED Conversations at all...
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        Dec 7 2013: Would you guess that something called "the forbidden knowledge"would be about "serious science," Gerald?
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          Dec 7 2013: Of course! Aren't like the government and the aliens and those damn scientists just covering it all up together!
          I'm glad that we're finally hearing the truth about the moon, since I never really believed in the "theory" of how the moon was created by natural laws in our solar system.

          So it basically goes without saying that a book this good and true, that's built on so much knowledge, that is forbidden none the less have the appropriate title!

          And I finally understand why "we never went back to the moon"...
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        Dec 13 2013: Jupiter has more potential space ship moons than earth
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        Dec 13 2013: So that's where all the beaver are
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      Dec 7 2013: Gloria,

      As you've probably gathered since you've changed the title, the consensus lies against this book and it's claims. And I'm sorry for going all sarcastic (it's meant as amusement) i mean no offence against you, the theory was just waaaaaay to tinfoil-hat to even be taken slightly seriously.

      I thought that I had heard most of the big crazy ones but that was a new one...

      EVERYTHING that is on is total BS! And if you think I'm trying to steer you away from the truth somehow, please,please read the "article" on "Black Helicopters"
      And it's favorite website is basically the same...

      Instead visit and/or watch the TED Talks on Michael Shermer profile page.
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        Dec 7 2013: Jimmy,

        Thank you for that, even though I perfectly understood what you meant firstly and found you completely right to be sarcastic.
        However, I wanted to check what the moods are, in a community like this, about a topic of that kind. I got my answers.
        More than that, thank you for taking time to present me these sites, I'll start exploring them right away! I think it's fundamentally important for the new generation (or any) to be able to indicate the hoaxes among the madly streaming tons of information nowadays. You are clearly doing great.
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          Dec 9 2013: Actually you're not even allowed to promote pseudo-science here, something that is not enforced at all...

          Sadly the TED community is not that good at seeing hoaxes, we get a lot of people here promoting their zealotry and new-age fluff... Don't believe stuff here just because it's posted on TED...
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          Dec 13 2013: Hi jimmy I guess pseudo science covers telepathy and telekinesis and psychocreativity.

          then no more religion discussions with prayer, walking on water and magical creation.
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        Dec 17 2013: "Sadly the TED community is not that good at seeing hoaxes..."

        Well put, as the Rupert Sheldrake "Science Delusion" TED Talk so aptly demonstrated.
  • Dec 5 2013: A generalized fear of the other is probably a natural response to the unknown and the risks involved in encountering it. However, the natural response to that fear is to minimize it by seeking to know the other, because knowledge has a tendency to reduce fear and to encourage cooperation. This is why humans form societies in the first place. But as societies become more complex the fear of the outsider is magnified because there is more at risk.

    I interpret your question as referring to extra-terrestrial aliens, but the same rules are at work even among different earthly cultures. Our expectations for aliens are based on what we know of ourselves. We can only imagine alien cultures that are variations on our understanding of our own. And we tend to exaggerate certain traits (for good or ill) and thus simultaneously over-simplify and dehumanize the other. This leads us to either rhapsodize the nobility of the alien or to develop paranoid fantasies about the alien's evil intent.

    So we are equally capable of accepting aliens as we are our neighbors. Sometimes that's good; sometimes it isn't. What we can assume is that extra-terrestrial beings and their societies are going to be at least as complex and diverse and full of contradictions as our own are. It is possible we may eventually be proved wrong in that assumption, but it is a better starting point than the extremes.
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      Dec 6 2013: Thank you, David,
      I like what you wrote especially about fear.
      However, do you believe fear makes us agressive and dangerous or more like - helpless?
      Do you think that we'd destroy something before we know it's idea, just because we're scared of it?
      Like hitting someone with a bat in the dark.

      I'm interested by the way you treat the different ones? You seem pretty much optimistic.
      • Dec 6 2013: I am optimistic, because I believe that for most people it is, to paraphrase the late Nelson Mandela, "just as easy to love as to hate," and I believe most people prefer love.

        Although we talk about the "fight or flight" response to fear, our only choices aren't aggression of helplessness. The "flight" response can include gently declining to engage, accommodation or compromise where one person's need is greater or both can be addressed partly. "Fight" can include passive resistance, active negotiation, public advocacy. Because, realistically, we are highly unlikely to be faced with a choice between "ET" or "Alien," we can allow ourselves to imagine that aliens here and elsewhere are more like us than different from us.

        On the other hand, I am sympathetic to those who see the current polarization of the world and its overuse of sudden, often pre-emptive, violence as suggesting that we might be unprepared to give the alien a chance to be known before we start shooting.
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          Dec 6 2013: Hmm, you say that you believe that most people prefer love. But don't you think we are quite bi-facial? I mean, we can be loving and nice to special group of close people and complete arseholes to another?
          Now an episode of Doctor Who comes to my mind, when Rose tried to save her father from death. Then she met her mother, which was very rude with her. But suddenly after she found she's her daughter, she became very loving.

          Usually we judge very fast and give freedom to words not worth saying to hurt people around us. I think it's hard to choose only "love" or "hate". You cannot deny there are people you simply cannot stand. However, I think the tolerance comes here.

          Maybe the key of being different is to be tolerant. To go and turn on the lights before you hit with the bat. Who knows, maybe somebody brings you a surprise cake!
      • Dec 9 2013: To prefer love is not to be without all the other human emotions. We are and will remain imperfect beings, but I believe that most people do the best they can and prefer to act from their better natures.
        I don't like the idea of tolerance, however. To be tolerant is to see ourselves as superior; we judge the other as inferior, but we will be big enough to put up with them in spite of who they are. I prefer to think in terms of seeking to understand the other, to accept them as they are and to choose whether I am comfortable or safe or feel good in their company. Most people, regardless of their particular faults, which are simply different faults than my own, have something to teach me. I do not need to tolerate behaviors or actions that are harmful or dangerous, and I don't need to subject myself to people who do those things.
        There are, certainly, people I don't like and do not want to be around; but that is as much because of me as it is because of them. Remember that there are always two sides to our relationships with others; and in any relationship we are also the "other." The key to being different is to value difference rather than fear it or ignore it or be tolerant of it.
        The Doctor Who example is interesting, because what it says to me is that once the mother saw Rose as her daughter, she could no longer see her as the "other." When we feel a personal, intimate connection to someone it is harder to see them as an "other' to be feared or hated or dehumanized. This is a natural response. The more we see someone as connected to us, as like us in some way, the more likely it is to build a positive relationship with them; and vice-versa.