Friday, 30 September 2011

Individual words can have a talismanic power. Raphael Lemkin, the person who originally defined the word and the concept of genocide, then campaigned successfully to have it accepted into mainstream discourse and international legal instruments, had got absolutely nowhere earlier on pushing the same set of ideas using the terms 'barbarity' and 'vandalism' to describe them. Of course, the intervening Second World War helped make the world more receptive to his case.

In the debate on the immigration of non-Europeans into Europe, and the problems that flow from it, the words racism, islamophobia and xenophobia, and their cognates, have proved to have extraordinary intimidating power. As awareness of the problematical nature of Islam spreads, however, it is good to see that 'islamophobia' has at least provoked some intellectual pushback.

Anyone wishing to make the case that the spread of Islam in Europe is not a good thing, or that the peoples of Europe have the right to live securely in their own homelands, practising their own culture in countries populated primarily by their own ancestral kin and a small number of outsiders admitted solely on the basis that their presence is deemed likely to yield some benefit to the tribe, first has to fight their way through a
defensive phalanx in which the words mentioned above are brandished like a thicket of spears. The words crystallise emotional accusations and therefore relieve those who use them from the burden of having to make a rational case for their point of view.

For example, Josep Anglada, the leader of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Catalan nationalist party Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) has just announced that he is taking legal action against the editor of the Vanguardia newspaper, which, In June, described the PxC as a "xenophobic party". Anglada issued the following statement:
Plataforma per Catalunya declares that it is not a xenophobic party. PxC is a nationalist (identitario) party which, in its political discourse, defends our own identity as an asset to be protected. For this reason we criticise uncontrolled immigration on the understanding that it could distort our identity or make it disappear. The defence of these postulates has nothing to do with xenophobia or racism.

We need similar weapons to the opposition. The term 'dhimmi' has proven useful to some extent, but only among the discourse of those already in the know. The average person in the street probably hasn't heard of it and needs an explanation.

The historian Richard Landes discusses the need for a powerful word weapon on his blog here.
If paranoia/xenophobia is an irrational fear of someone or something, then what term do we use for the irrational lack of fear of something genuinely menacing. We don’t have a word for it yet, but if free and democratic culture is to survive in this troubled century, we will have to find a term and identify those afflicted with this irrationality.

I suggest we start using the term xenomania to describe this state of mind and xenomaniac for those in thrall to it. Xenophilia is the obvious converse of xenophobia but 'philia' sounds too benign and level-headed. We need a word that implies irrationality, containing an implicit accusation that its targets are emotionally unbalanced and psychologically unhinged.

It's tempting to dismiss the attitude of western do-gooders as a simple-minded naivety. They don't really believe in evil, you might think, so they can't get their minds around Islam. The truth, though, is that they're all too willing to believe in evil: in their own countrymen. Indeed, the terms 'racist', 'islamophobe' and 'xenophobe' aren't much more than shorthand ways of saying 'evil'. They are willing to believe their own compatriots are evil at the drop of a hat; but unwilling to regard aliens as evil even in the face of overwhelming evidence. We need a term to describe this attitude. Xenomania does it, I think.

I didn't invent this term. I came across it today while reading an article in French on Novopress which uses the term xenomanie to describe the attitude of some pro-immigration do-gooders within the Catholic church. By anglicising this, we may have found a useful weapon in the struggle.

Apparently there is a band called Xenomania. They'll just have to deal with it if the term and its cognates come to be widely used.

UPDATE: Alicia has posted a translation of this article into Castilian Spanish on La Tercera Yihad (The Third Jihad) blog here.


Johnny Rottenborough said...

the irrational lack of fear of something genuinely menacing

That lack of fear may be attributable to a structure in the brain, the amygdala, that processes emotions such as fear. Those on the Left of politics have small amygdalæ while the structure is larger in right-wingers.

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