Humanity’s inhuman ‘otherness’ syndrome

In general, differences are good, as they enrich humanity in all aspects of its existence: language, thought, ideas, culture, views and approaches to life. Homogeneity stifles creativity.

Humanity may not survive on this planet for many reasons. These include natural events (such as asteroid impacts, and extreme volcanic eruptions) and human-made disasters (such as nuclear or biological warfare, and global climate changes). It is also likely that advanced civilizations, with highly developed means of destruction, but with a less developed wisdom to overcome various differences, collapse through wars and genocide, or increasing social anarchy. The destructive forces of racism also jeopardize human civilization.

Throughout history, many civilizations have vanished; and our civilization may not be an exception unless its values are strong and fully internalized by people and integrated into their inner constitution.

In spite of the lessons of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, in its different forms, has not been eradicated. The same can be said about racial prejudices and various forms of intolerance. Constant presence of humanity’s inhuman actions against its own members based on racial and ethnic differences is so common that it is often considered normal.

The “otherness” syndrome, including racial intolerance, is constantly present in everyday life and reveals humanity’s inhuman character. Like toxic lava, from time to time it leads to major “volcano eruptions” in the forms of slavery and Spanish inquisition and the Holocaust and the recent African genocides. In its nearly dormant form, it is also present as racism and ethnic cleansing and discrimination and different forms of intolerance. These stains on human civilization harm everyone. The recurrent question is whether it will ever end.

It is telling how humanity as a whole rises to fight the virus, which has no notion of “otherness”, as it infects everyone irrespective of their race, ethnicity or origin. But in this case, there is an effort to develop a vaccine against this common enemy. Following this example, humanity must renew the struggle against racism. Can humanity put a similar effort into developing, through education and legislation and other means, the equivalent cognitive “vaccine” against racism?

About the Author
B. G. Yacobi received his PhD in physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1975. He held research positions at Imperial College London and Harvard University, as well as teaching positions in universities in the United States and Canada. He is the author/co-author of numerous articles and several books on physics, and of a number of essays on philosophy.
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