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Fear of Other
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Why do we, as a species, fear the Other?

It’s been said that we fear otherness because it’s different. That’s just repetition, though—it’s like saying we fear pain because it hurts.

I think we actually fear the Other because it might be truly alien to us, inimical, hostile. The Other represents competition, starvation for resources, destruction of our infrastructure. The Other represents death.

The fear of death is species-wide, truly encoded in the very fibre that creates us, perpetuated by genes. Natural selection chooses one attribute among all as primary, and that’s the avoidance of death.

Though fear of death is species-wide, Western culture is particular in its depth of that fear. We live in a culture that is obsessed with death and everything that represents it, whether it’s wrinkles, birthdays, highway accidents, violence, art... or the Other.

All our rifts can be traced to fear, and our fear to death. Does that mean that coming to terms with death and our own mortality, we will be better able to live in peace?

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just a thought: yes, the other can represent death, conquest, the end of a way of life...

but I think diffrence is a larger factor than you think. I believe the elemental fear of 'diffrent' people comes because in living in ways that are not our own, they challenge our base assumptions and group beliefs about 'how to be a person, how to be a good person, how to do things'

take cannibalism, for example. In the western world, it's one of the most degrading (for one's self and one's victim) and extreme acts you can perform; using another person as food. however, when we encounter people who practice ritual cannibalism, I believe somewhere there is the experience of "they look like us, they have alot of comparable things, we can understand them to a certain extent...but they do something that is "VERY WRONG" and, yet, have a functional society. and if you can do that AND be functional, is it really that wrong?" and ergo a whole challenge of belief systems.

you can't underestimate how much people are attached to their belief systems.

competition for resouces does factor into xenophobia to a good extent, but what people ultimatly fear is challenges to their 'ways of being', be those challenges physical or cultural. you can see many cases, esp in the case of colonization, where a group that was not threatened in a economic/survival way by the 'other', still felt the need to dominate and destroy them.

as for the fear of death: I think that it's so huge because of our distance from death, and the fact that positivist, empirical science has made a boogeyman of all things that can't be controlled or comprehended through it.

we can't answer the 'big' questions about death, and we can't stop it from happening (ultimatly), so it threatens the hegemony of emirical reasoning.

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