Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pulp Fiction III

Pulp Fiction III

 This is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to reproduce in any format is granted, on the condition that you attribute it to the author and that you do not publish it for personal monetary gain.

‘Swedish people suck! Swedish people suck! Swedish people suck!’ The other boys at the table mobbed the Swedish boy with a chant joined by three or four pairs of fists banging on the table in rhythm. Thinking back to that day, the Polemicist realized that it had never occurred to him that the other 7th graders were expressing racist sentiment. It seemed more accurate that he was being singled out as an individual, and merely insulted in the same way that people insult one’s mother—attempting to hurt someone’s feelings by verbally abusing people they care about.

            No, rather than the limited concept of racism, which is institutionalized hatred based on ethnic pride on the part of the abusers, this was xenophobia. Fear of that which is strange or unusual, foreign to the experience. Xenophobia isn’t a thing that you can put your finger on, thought the Polemicist. It’s spontaneous and rather than a predetermined organized resistance against a perceived enemy, it’s more of a knee-jerk response. It is the ostracism of someone who does not conform to your expectations. Xenophobia underlies all racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and all other prejudicial ‘isms.’ But it is technically the instinct within the individual that is what is seen manifesting in the second-and-third-order tiers of human activity as more obvious hatreds: bullying, then brawling, then rioting, then war. Racism is limited to distinctly different cultures and people groups, and sexism is limited to gender, but xenophobia covers white, American, middle-class males bullying other white, American, middle-class males. The fact of the Polemicist being Swedish was not something you could see, and it wasn’t, after all, what was seen that was rejected by the other boys. It was his personal uniqueness, his nonconformity.

            He didn’t chase tail, he didn’t care about ingesting substances, he didn’t care about sports, he didn’t dress the same, he didn’t talk the same, and he was ambivalent about gaining peer approval. For that, he was distrusted, because people naturally feel unable or unwilling to trust someone whose behavior they don’t understand. A lot of interpersonal prejudice in modern culture stems more from this instinctual, low-level xenophobic tendency than from an organized, intellectually comprehended, intentional and institutionalized bigotry against whole classes of people by other whole classes. Defining what is really xenophobia as racism does not resolve racism; instead, it conditions people with xenophobia to much more frequently make the leap from petty dislike of some individual to the justifying of vandalism or murder in the service of an imagined class war. And imagined wars, if too many people participate in the imagining of them, become real wars.

            The Polemicist had been the victim of xenophobia in his life, but he was not omniscient, so he could not know if racist or sexist prejudice against him had ever caused him harm. But he was content not knowing. He did not have to know if people treated him despitefully because of his white skin or his genital anatomy. He did not have to hate those people back, so he was content to let it go and think the best of people until it was proved that he should do otherwise. And he slept restfully at night, knowing that God had said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ Keeping no list of wrongs gave him nothing to remind himself to be angry with, and he was consequently much happier than most people he ever spoke to. How he wished that they knew what he knew!

~ Rak Chazak

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