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Nature vs Culture : Could Xenophobia Have a Biological Significance?[각주:1]


 We can think about xenophobia with dichotomous perspectives which are based on nature or culture and often used identifying human being. The clash of civilizations underscores cultural aspect considered as significant factor in conflict between humans.[각주:2] But in fact, oppression and conflict between humans are almost from emphasizing aspect of nature. Biological xenophobia based on difference from especially genes could develop racism and justify an assertion assaulting different genes. Martin N. Marger said that :


 “As a belief system or ideology, racism is structured around three basic ideas : Humans are divided naturally into different physical types. Such physical traits as people display are intrinsically related to their culture, personality, and intelligence. The differences among groups are innate, not subject to change, and on the basis of their genetic inheritance, some groups are innately superior to others.

In sum, racism is the belief that humans are subdivided into distinct hereditary groups that are innately different in their social behavior and mental capacities and that can therefore be ranked as superior or inferior. The presumed superiority of some groups and inferiority of others is subsequently used to legitimate the unequal distribution of the society’s resources, specifically, various forms of wealth, prestige, and power.”[각주:3]


 When emphasizing aspect of nature, we should be careful that sociobiological theories could justify oppression and conflict.


 “Rude tribes and... civilized societies... have had continually to carry on an external self-defence and internal co-operation external antagonism and internal friendship. Hence their members have acquired two different sets of sentiments and ideas, adjusted to these two kinds of activity... A life of constant external enmity generates a code in which aggression, conquest and revenge, are inculcated, while peaceful occupations are reprobated. Conversely a life of settled internal amity generates a code inculcating the virtues conducing to a harmonious co-operation: justice, honesty, veracity, regard for each other’s claims” (Spencer, 1892)


 A. C. Grayling explains sociobiogical theories and criticizes ethnocentrism and xenophobia.


 “Sociobiological theories hypothesize innate grounds for members of human groups to prefer their own, and for sentiments of kinship and acceptance to decrease as distance, in all respects of ethnicity, culture and geography, increases between the home group and others. Experiments have supported this view.

 The fallacy that what is natural is therefore automatically good has led some to say that because ethnocentrism is an objective fact, it is acceptable. But ethnocentrism, even though it is not by itself the same thing as xenophobia, though of course it all too easily becomes xenophobia, is not acceptable in an integrated, globalized world.”[각주:4]

 We can find out, from what we studied in the class about Peter Singer’s universalism of preference utilitarianism, the notion of innate grounds for members of human groups to prefer their own.


 “The love of parents for their children and the desire of parents to give preference to their children over the children of strangers go very deep. It may be rooted in our nature as social mammals with ospring who need our help during a long period of dependence when they are not capable of fending for themselves. We can speculate that the children of parents who did not care for them would have been less likely to survive, and thus uncaring parents did not pass their genes on to future generations as frequently as caring parents did. Bonds between parents and children (and especially between mothers and children, for in earlier periods a baby not breast-fed by its mother was very unlikely to survive) are therefore found in all human cultures.”


 Nevertheless Peter Singer criticized racism at the critical level[각주:5] also before by mentioning Godwin’s impartial justication for partial aections[각주:6] and Hare’s two-level version of utilitarianism.[각주:7]


 “Taking an impartial perspective shows that partialism along racial lines is something that we can and should oppose, because our opposition can be eective in preventing great harm to innocent people.”


 We think, however, as mentioned before, xenophobia is not merely preference to one’s groups but hostility to others. Also, his criticizing racism could be accepted at the critical level not when we make everyday decisions. Although xenophobia is no longer acceptable in the public, our private conversation remains expressing it.


 “It is, far more significantly, no longer acceptable in the United States to make racist and anti-Semitic remarks in public; yet in private conversation racism and anti-Semitism are expressed freely and frequently.”[각주:8]


 After experiencing second world war, it is no longer acceptable to assert racism ideology underlining aspect of nature in the public sphere. When oppressively using and dominating labor power in the previous imperialism remains little, and the commodity of labor power become easy to exchange, globalized one world has a lot of problems from xenophobia (not racism) underscoring psychological and cultural aspect that are easy to use broadly from the private to public sphere.


 Xenophobia : “Once regarded as a psychological condition - to describe perons who feared or abhored groups regarded as “outsiders” - its more recent application has been in the context of attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers in western Europe.”[각주:9]


 “Opposition to continued immigration, in France as in other European countries, has in the last thirty years lead to more stress upon cultural than supposed biological differences.”[각주:10]


 “The belief in immutable racial differences may no longer prevail, but the idea that differences in group achievement stem from cultural deficiencies or lack of effort by group members has become a compelling ideology with racist overtones.”[각주:11]


 In conclusion, xenophobia comes from nature and culture but recently in globalized world, we should address not only racism but also cultural xenophobia. Unlike nature, culture could be better by our endeavour. How can we address xenophobia? We might discuss further and develop Peter Singer’s ideas, Amartya Sen’s global justice, Confucius, Immanuel Kant, Emmanuel Levinas (Ethics and Infinity), Jacques Derrida (Of Hospitality), Jacques Attali (Fraternity).[각주:12]

  1. “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.” http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/xenophobia.htm [본문으로]
  2. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996 [본문으로]
  3. Martin N. Marger, Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives (9th Edition), Cengage Learning, 2011, pp.17-18 http://www.cengagebrain.co.uk/content/marger86383_1111186383_02.01_chapter01.pdf [본문으로]
  4. A. C. Grayling, op. cit., ‘Xenophobia’ [본문으로]
  5. Peter Singer, One World : The Ethics of Globalization, Yale University Press, 2002, p.163 [본문으로]
  6. “by kindling his sensibility, and harmonising his soul, they may be expected, if he is endowed with a liberal and manly spirit, to render him more prompt in the service of strangers and the public.” Ibid., p.159 [본문으로]
  7. “Hare argues that in everyday life it will often be too difficult to work out the consequences of every decision we make, and if we were to try to do so, we would risk getting it wrong because of our personal involvement and the pressures of the situation. To guide our everyday conduct we need a set of principles of which we are aware without a lot of reflection. These principles form the intuitive, or everyday, level of morality. In a calmer or more philosophical moment, on the other hand, we can reflect on the nature of our moral intuitions, and ask whether we have developed the right ones, that is, the ones that will lead to the greatest good, impartially considered. When we engage in this reflection, we are moving to the critical level of morality, that which informs our thinking about what principles we should follow at the every-day level. Thus the critical level serves as a testing ground for moral intuitions.” Ibid., p.160 [본문으로]
  8. Judith N. Shklar, Ordinary Vices, 1984, p.132 [본문으로]
  9. Ernest Cashmore, “Xenophobia”, Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations, Psychology Press, 1996 p.382 [본문으로]
  10. Ibid. [본문으로]
  11. Martin N. Marger, op. cit., p.25 [본문으로]
  12. “Showing tenderness to strangers from far countries.”, “By welcoming them when they come and giving them protection when they go, commending what is good in them and making allowance for their ignorance - that is how ruler shows kindness to strangers from far countries” from our reading material. [본문으로]
Posted by Economist21

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