Day twenty four of the ‘Blogging from A-Z Challenge’. I’m getting very close yet X is a real corker. There are only about one hundred and twenty words in modern English that start with the letter X compared to the 1,025,109.8 in the language. (This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor for January 1, 2014. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold apparently on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT). The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0′.) Don’t ask me how they can be that exact with an estimate or how you can get 0.8 of a word. I’m getting off the point though. X words only account for about 0.01% of all those available and what is worse they are mostly chemical products or trade names.
I could have opted to pick a word with an X in it, such as excellent or even experiment, after all that is what I have been up to but in the end I have plumped for xenophobia – an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or anything which is foreign or strange. The key word here is unreasonable, a lovely word that is difficult to define yet everyone uses. All of us fear strangers and foreigners to some extent, usually out of ignorance though a xenophobe goes beyond what normal society would deem to be reasonable.
I’ve picked this word as I have learnt a lot about what it means to be different, if only slightly, over the last month. Left-handed people have to put up with a background radiation of prejudice. It manifests itself from the lightest of ribbing, through institutional bias (I’m thinking of the church and possible education here) to design side-lining.
Being left handed is discouraged, tolerated to a degree and ridiculed. In some societies it is seen as the mark of evil and left-handers need to be exorcised. (I could have used that word.) For no obvious reason other than they can humans can take great delight in highlighting the differences between people. This becomes dangerous in the wrong hands (people not hands) and I have covered this already in ‘Judgemental’.
So if people can get worked up about which hand we are using it does not take a huge leap of understanding to imagine how this may affect those who are noticeably different either through choice, by culture or by birth. People throughout history have chosen to identify and align themselves to specific groups and belief systems. They have been marked out by the clothes they wear, the languages they speak and the rituals they follow. They are castigated by elements of society for the colour of their skin, their gender or sexual orientation and even for the colour of their hair.
Xenophobia is very much alive and well in the modern world. The difficult economic conditions over recent years haven’t helped. The daily news is filled with stories about the more radical factions that operate across the globe yet the headlines hide the more subtle drip of discrimination on the grounds of weight, age and social standing, not to forget handedness.
Xenophobia is a dangerous word. It should be marked with an X.