Blaming the outsider

July 22, 2005

One thing common to all human beings is the fear of the unknown. A second is that we find comfort in familiarity - even though it may, under the best circumstances, breed contempt.

At the moment, the Western world is in fear. The unthinkable has happened. And while politicians are trying to hype up the fear index, the right-wingers of this world are trying to lay the blame for what happened on the foreigner. Yes, the outsider is to blame, this gang would have us believe.

Mind you, the people who are trying to point the finger would have us believe that they are normal, sane human beings. They are tolerant. They love variety. Only, in this case, multiculturalism is to blame. Yes, the man with the non-white skin, the one who practises the alien religion, he is the one who has disturbed our tranquil state of mind, he it is who has caused us to gaze fearfully at every tall building as we pass by.

It should be obvious to any really rational human being that inclusiveness is what breeds coherence. Taking someone in and making them feel part of the body corporate, giving them an equal seat at the table, serving them an equal share of the meal, is what makes them want to keep the entity which has welcomed them in a state of fulness of being.

Tragedy brings out the best and the worst in the human animal. The bigot stands exposed as he or she waves a pathetic finger, claiming to be oh-so-tolerant, all the while ranting that the rights of the outsider should be curtailed. The true believer, the one who is devoted to the axiom that all human beings are equal, will fight passionately to embrace the outsider even more fiercely and by so doing make him or her as responsible for the fate of society as those inside.

To use crude logic, it is better to have people, no matter what colour they are, inside the tent pissing out, rather than have them on the outside pissing in.

And it contributes no end to that most useful thing which we need in society - humint. Human intelligence, those who act as the eyes and ears within a community, not spies, but those who look out for the good of society as a whole. Yes, we need friends within all those minority communities, people who are well disposed towards society at large and inclined to give up those who would disrupt the common mutual harmony.

Victor Ostrovski, the Mossad agent who defected and created a stir in 1990 when he published a book titled By Way of Deception, pointed to the lack of humint as one reason why Israel would always face trouble from its Arab minority. If Israel got them on-side, Ostrovsky argued, then they would be within the tent. And they would be as opposed to others pissing in as the Israelis themselves.

But then that would never happen. Ostrovosky said. And the reason was because Israel, while outwardly a democracy, was internally as racist as the Arab nations it claimed were somewhere below it on the scale of civilisation.

In attempting to understand why people blow themselves up and prefer to end it all for themselves and others - despite that very powerful urge for self-preservation with which every human being is born - one cannot divorce cause from effect. You have a boil on your leg, you get a fever; treat the fever and you'll get a headache the next day. Treat that and you may break out in rash the third day. Until you lance the boil, the effects will continue to manifest themselves.

But today's pundits would have none of that. No, an eye for eye is the policy that is popular, even though Gandhi rightly pointed out that that would end with the world going blind. There are fundamentalists of every description who want to lay claim to being on the right hand of God - the Islamic breed, the Christian breed, the atheist sort and many others. All are little Hitlers, only the current enemy is the Islamic sort.

There is one thing which should be borne in mind - you can take the boy from the country, you can't take the country from him. But you can create in that boy a sense of loyalty to his newfound friend, his new home, his future, such that it will be an act of treason unto himself if he were to yield to baser instincts. That is what should be cultivated, not rules that dictate that we accept a man's cooking and not his religion.

When Britain played its old game of divide and rule and backed Mohammed Ali Jinnah all the way to the creation of Pakistan - which ironically means Land of the Pure - the officials who played that oldest of games did not know that 50-odd years down the track some of those from this "pure land" would yield to fanaticism and bomb their own. Neither did the Americans realise when they backed Usama bin Laden to fight against the Soviet Union that he would one day level one of the main symbols of US world dominance.

The lesson is simple - sow the wind, and 10 generations down the road, you will reap the whirlwind. You can't sleep with dogs and get up without fleas. The same goes for multiculturalism - you either accept it wholesale and make it work, or else intern some and let the rest go back in boats.