Tag Archives: Xenophobia

The World’s Changing Around Us…

We’ve written a bit about politics of late, as it’s quite the year for it. Of course, our original thought was about how crazy politics in the United States is going… but then we got topped. I mean, when there was the Scottish independence referendum, it was an exciting shakeup of the status quo just that it happened, but it didn’t pass, and the world moved on…

And then Brexit.

And it’s painful to see that immediately after the vote already passed… after the Prime Minister resigned… that’s when people were looking up the question “what is the EU?” A backslide from the movement towards any idea of larger post-nation world government, the sort of science fiction thing I write about…

It’s a new world we’re moving into. It will be interesting to see what this means – for England, a country that I love; for the European Union, if this precedent is only the beginning; for Scotland, which seems to be thinking about independence again; for global economies and the way things are now.

What it means when the U.S. votes in November.

A united thought between this vote and the presidential one is immigration. I just looked up the world population… 7.4 billion. People moving and running into those that aren’t like them, that seems like something that’s just going to happen more. Science fiction talked about overpopulation and xenophobia and overcrowding plenty. We unfortunately may be hitting that point in human history – and science fiction rarely predicted that it went well.

So… yeah. This is going to all get interesting.

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Science Fiction Today – Xenophobia

Whoa, dropping a big word to get in an X. Let’s go for a definition:

“fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners”

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

As someone in the US, the obvious place where I am coming from is immigration debates in a country largely made up of immigrants. However, I am also fully aware that things like loosening borders in Europe due to the European Union, for instance, are leading to similar debates, concerns, or prejudices elsewhere in the world.

A lot of things feed into xenophobia, so it definitely counts as a problem with no easy or obvious answer. Saying “everybody like everybody else!” doesn’t quite cut it, as words alone might work in abstract, but how do they work in the specific? Luckily, this is a topic addressed a lot in science fiction: so what answers or future problems do we see?

The Solution – Us versus Them

It’s Watchmen. The conclusion that we always need to identify an Us, those like us, and the Them, the outsider. And we don’t like the outsider. So in much of science fiction (or fantasy, for that matter) the outsider is not another human being at all: it’s an alien race, from somewhere else. If aliens attack the earth, humanity will hopefully be at peace with each other. I’ve just read this idea in The Lathe of Heaven as well.

Of course, there is a more hopeful solution in mind. If we solve the sorts of scarcity problems that create differences and a feeling that we need to protect what is ours, then maybe we won’t fear the outsider. Think Star Trek. The crew of the Enterprise is always on a mission of peace, with a diverse(ish) crew of humans and aliens, and off to meet aliens, to meet outsiders. Peace can be imagined, but it does seem like a far-flung future to get there!

Compounded Problems

However, if we don’t reach an idyllic Star Trek sort of future, then often authors envision a dystopia – and xenophobia is often a problem in dystopias. When things go poorly, when there is war or famine or plague, the outsider is one of the great fears or hated groups. I’m thinking of dystopias like V for Vendetta, or Children of Men, or The Windup Girl. All of these show worsening relations between nations, and worsening racial situations. General distrust and unhappiness.

Which unfortunately means that even if we reach an idyllic future, we may have to go through worse xenophobia to get there. Even in Star Trek, the idea is that they went through World War 3 to get there – and things were likely not very friendly at that point in future history. It was the introduction of aliens and space travel that united humanity and led to peace.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!