Mainstream philosophy's open secret...
Georgios Merkouris / December 28, 2018
(2 min read)
G.W.F. Hegel once asserted that encounters between humans are best described as a ‘life-and death’ struggle. Thankfully, not every encounter we have leads to that conclusion. The world is composed of a variety of people, each possessing a wide array of different opinions and beliefs. Relationships between them can often cross language and cultural barriers. Long-standing bonds between individuals can develop instead of life-threatening situations. That being said, the mere existence of bigotry denotes that we are far away from achieving just that. With its focus on dialogue and rigorous debate, philosophy strikes me as the perfect platform to tackle on these issues.
The first question one needs to ask is why forms of bigotry like racism, sexism, and xenophobia arise and take hold in society in the first place. By analysing this issue from a philosophical, as well as a sociological perspective, one can surmise that among the main contributors to this are desires to elevate one’s status by disparaging members of different groups, the social inequalities found in society, tendencies towards tribalism, and categorizing people into members of a “core group” vs. outsiders. Certainly, one of the most ubiquitous and easily recognizable forms of bigotry is xenophobia.
People tend to fear what they do not know and often exaggerate with regards to their fear about the other. Recently, in Europe in particular, our societies have witnessed some of the worst manifestations of this phenomenon. With the advent of the refugee crisis, hysteria swept throughout the continent about the supposed danger that these newcomers would pose to our societies and how they would fundamentally change their nature for the worst.
The consequences of xenophobia, in addition to other forms of prejudice, can be devastating. One can think of a plethora of reasons to be worried when it becomes a wide-spread phenomenon. If this way of flawed thinking were to gain ground in a society, it would result in the breakdown of the liberal world order that Western societies are trying to attain. Every philosopher should have a natural aversion to prejudice. Their duties consist of providing everyone with moral guidelines in order to better their societies, to help the individual achieve a state of higher being.
Our duty is to maintain a calm composure when confronted with these views and actively strive to dismantle them at any chance.
The nature of prejudice in itself, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to expose. To combat it is even harder. These views are spread throughout disparate corners of society and a collective majority often shares them, thereby eventually becoming socially acceptable and regarded as objective truth. Often times, liberal-minded individuals merely scoff at the people holding these views, provide derogatory labels for them, and ignore them. However, when not confronted head on, these views will not cease to exist in the public consciousness on their own. They will continue to fester, spread, and consume the minds of more uninformed individuals exposed to them. It is demanded of everyone, therefore, to contribute more in the effort to eradicate them. Our duty is to maintain a calm composure when confronted with these views and actively strive to dismantle them at any chance.
Philosophers were denoted as wild explosives in the presence of which nothing is safe by Friedrich Nietzsche. He was right in that regard. Philosophy can provide us with the means to better understand aspects of human nature that lead them to hold such pernicious beliefs. In the process, we might even learn how to combat them properly and efficiently. This is what we deem necessary to endeavour until the end of our lives. The necessity of exploring the issues concerning xenophobia and its roots, as well prejudice in general, is imperative. Hopefully, we can one day overcome them by honest and constructive dialogue.