We have an innate tendency to look at the world from the viewpoint of the in-group. Differences in appearance, language or behavior trigger rejection. Fundamentally we are all racist; xenophobia has been a survival factor. Humans do, however, have some freedom of action and are not tied to stereotyped reflexes.
In humans, evolution has produced ethnocentrism. At best, aliens are viewed as
competition and treated with suspicion.In many languages the word for humans is
reserved for the natives. All outsiders are by definition nonhuman.
Humans do, however, have some freedom of action and are not tied to stereotyped reflexes. Many indigenous people have strong traditions of hospitality. The peaceful stranger is welcomed as a bearer of information and as a potential trading partner. The sharing of food and drink is an ancient way of creating affinity and long-term reciprocity. Sooner or later the roles might be reversed.
The most important conclusion of evolutionary psychology is that the human psyche comprises a number of invariables that can neither be eliminated nor ignored. On the other hand, we can control and, at best, even exploit these natural forces. The accelerating development of our culture constantly creates new tensions between inherited emotional attitudes, social norms and rational decision-making. We are doomed to live in this state of emotional maladjustment, a never-ceasing well of embarrassing conflict and painful creativity.
The value universe shrinks to a self-contained minimum when fright, frustration,
resentment or superiority complexes force themselves on the personality. Freedom
of action is then almost non-existent, and the individual is reduced to a
simple-minded automaton. Antisemitism and racism in general are not at all
‘irrational’ in these narrow frames of reference. Like many other superstitions,
they fulfill intensely felt, albeit primitive emotive needs. They cannot be
surgically removed, but have to be replaced by a better faith.
In 1492, when Columbus sailed for America, the capture of Granada had just sealed the fate of the Muslims on the Iberian peninsula and all Jews and Moors were expelled from Spain by royal decree. This marked the culmination of several hundred years of national ascendancy. The empire no doubt waxed for another hundred years, sparkling in the splendors of precious metals brought in from the New World. Two resounding national bankruptcies at the beginning of the seventeenth century exposed for all the world the waning caused by the centralizing pull of an authoritarian government and the spiritual conformity imposed by the Inquisition.
The biodynamic craze, the antinuclear mania and the sophistry of disingenuous Greens can all be diagnosed as mass psychoses, based on hyper-conservative but emotionally satisfying responses to dimly-comprehended threats – the exorcism of evil spirits. When the execration of the Jews or of nuclear power plants excludes all other considerations, the one-dimensional value system becomes enviably straightforward.
Prosperity seems to correlate with tolerant attitudes on such issues as race and faith. Societies which have given refuge to persecuted minorities – Huguenots, Jews, Armenians – have generally witnessed a subsequent upswing, not least in wealth. Even more evident is the correlation between oppressive regimes and economic stagnation.