TED Conversations

Gloria Jean Gabrielle

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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 ?


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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!

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