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Xenophobia

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There are not too many words in the English dictionary that start with the letter x and have a Greek aura about them but pronounced ‘Ze’ rather than uttered as X. One such word is xenophobia that derives its meaning from the Greek "xenos" meaning strange and "phobos" meaning fear. Xen is pronounced as Zen (a doctrine of Buddhism).

Xenophobia


The dictionary definition of Xenophobia is an unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different.

“Xenophobia can manifest itself in several ways in a country - victimization by police, brutal assaults, murders, ethnic cleansing in an area, mass expulsion from the country”.

Could xenophobia have a biological significance and be programmed within our genes. Neurobiologists often see this as an evolving behavior for ‘self preservation.’ For example a newborn baby has no fear of strangers whereas as it grows it starts diffentiating between strange faces and familiar faces. This fear of strangers is the early instinct of xenophobia. The reflex in the infant is seen as a natural instinct and the loud cry is seen as an alarm to attract the attention of parents and initiate a rescue. Similarly, toddlers show an intrinsic and automatic fear of snakes.

Assistant professor in social psychology at Michigan State University, Carlos David Navarrete famously researched "the psychology of prejudice" by studying the nexus between race and gender discrimination. He focused on the neurophysiological and behavioral correlates of xenophobia. Dr. Navarrete used mild shocks to induce fear in men and women (both black and white) of other black and white men and women. In essence, white men were conditioned to be fearful of black men, white men, black women, and white women. The same went for the others. Once conditioned, he studied to see which of these fears lasted and which didn't. The conclusions of this study, reported in Psychological Science, were both intriguing and unexpected.

It's commonly understood that our fears are of people different from us; what psychologists call the "out-groups". And this fear of "the other" is clearly demonstrated with race. But the results emerging from Dr. Navarrete's study surprisingly revealed that racial fear is also gender-specific. The persistent fears in the study's volunteers were reserved for men of the out-group alone. So white men and women feared black men; and black men and women feared white men. Conditioned fear for women diminished quite quickly.

Additionally, Navarrete found that people with close relationships outside their own race had less persistent fears than did those with little interracial experience.

Hence xenophobia is more complex and its dynamics need to be studied from two different perspectives. First, as a medical condition (a ‘phobia’ like all others) whose underlying causes need to be addressed. Secondly, and more importantly, as a cultural and social malaise that has moth-eaten the concept of a utopian world.

Here, both outlooks are examined and suggestions have been offered with regard to appropriate treatment options for the medical ailment while also studying possible cultural solutions to widespread xenophobic sentiments.
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For xenophobia to be diagnosed accurately, two elements have to be present.

1. The first is a population group present within a society that is not considered part of that society due to their different back ground (different nationality of origin, race, religion etc). Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, pogroms (extensive violence against minorities), or in the worst case, genocide.



2. The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to xenophobia, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign cultures inside or outside the country. It leads to aggression against any foreign element within the country (such as ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia) or outside the nation (such as US lead recent unpopular war in Iraq). Such aggression can result in political campaigns (by the leaders) to justify wars against that culture or nation (recent Iraq war mentioned above is a perfect example of such xenophobia).

Xenophobia can be based on various aspects. It means fear and hatred of another race, nationality (excessive patriotic feelings or national self esteem, Jingoism), religion, gender (same or opposite gender), status, culture, ethnicity, political belief and so on.
Generally it applies to people who look different or believe differently than oneself. Therefore, we shall confine ourselves to the four most important elements that contribute to xenophobia. These four elements (Nationalism, Racism, Ethnocentrism and Religionism) are a form of four evil institutions or disciplines that have been plaguing humanity for thousands of years.

Syed shahid MD

Diplomat:

American Boards of Psychiatry and neurology
American Boards of family practice
London institute of Tropical medicine and Hygiene

For comments and questions please write to:

syedshahidmd@yahoo.com.au



S.Shahidmd Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Xenophobia

Xenophobia is an intense dislike and/or fear of people from other country, race, ethnicity and religion. It is defined as "a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of strangers, foreigners, or of people significantly different from oneself".



In a relative term xenophobia has been described as a form of severe” mental illness" for it creates psychosocial problems for its sufferers and the people around. At a national and international level it may be akin to a "mass hysteria". Once in motion the consequences of xenophobia can be far more serious at global level than at individual level.


Syed shahid MD

Diplomat:

American Boards of Psychiatry and neurology
American Boards of family practice
London institute of Tropical medicine and Hygiene

For comments and questions please write to:

syedshahidmd@yahoo.com.au








S.Shahidmd Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Sociological Explanation of xenophobia

Xenophobia if considered in the range of dislike against the genetically dissimilar out-group and nepotistic favoritism towards the genetically similar in-group) are analyzed by many sociological researchers. Some see it as an innate biological response on the part of the evolved human organism in inter-group competition. Favoritism towards ones own ethnicity is an evolutionarily based, "objective" value.

However, from a psychological and political science perspective it can be dangerous. Objectivity has to be defined in the light of fairness to all, without infringing upon "others" rights. Therefore, a "universal nationalism", (in which all planetary ethnic-based communities or nations have the right to preserve their own heritage and distinctiveness, without disenfranchising and out-casting the genetically dissimilar and foreign elements) is what humanity needs to project as a distinguished and civilized human behavior.

The four institutional philosophies mentioned above (nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism religionism) are the hallmark of xenophobia. These institutions perpetuate deliberately (and sometimes subconsciously) a flurry of xenophobic ideologies.

It is important, therefore, to flag these flamboyant (but misguided) institutions and describe in depth their origin and background. The glorification of these institutions is unjust since it only creates further enhancement of xenophobia.


Syed shahid MD

Diplomat:

American Boards of Psychiatry and neurology
American Boards of family practice
London institute of Tropical medicine and Hygiene

For comments and questions please write to:

syedshahidmd@yahoo.com.au



S.Shahidmd Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Xenophobic emotions have always played a major part in the outlook of groups and communities. These emotions have created wars and blood shed at mass scale through out the history of human civilization. Recently, however, these emotions have become so intense that WW I and WW II have been direct result of these negative emotion (hatred). Never before loss of life had been as enormous as we saw during WW I and WW II. Well over 100 million people lost their life in these Two World Wars. If there ever going to be a Third World War (which is quite imminent if xenophobia continues at its present alarming scale), it is predicted that the loss of life will be well over 3 billions or even more. Some anthropologists even predict extinction of human species from this planet.

Persistence of xenophobia (in spite of what is mentioned above) defies the ideological universalism of most of the dominants of ideas, such as humanitarianism, scientific humanism and liberalism which we have idealized by the humanity in the past few centuries.

Nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism and religionism are the four evils of our civilization. At individual level they are not so dangerous. However, when they are adopted at the national and international level, they drive the more doctrinaire political phenomenon of Xenophobia. It is the political aspect of these institutions that will eventually consumes humanity within next 20-30 years.

All the four of these evil institutions (racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and religionism) create divisions in human ideologies. These institutes pitch liberalism and scientific humanism against conservatism. Liberal ideas are dynamic and accommodate any reasoning that is subject to scientific scrutiny.

Syed shahid MD

Diplomat:

American Boards of Psychiatry and neurology
American Boards of family practice
London institute of Tropical medicine and Hygiene

For comments and questions please write to:

syedshahidmd@yahoo.com.au



S.Shahidmd Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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