With Strangers at your Gate

Our Office for Diversity is proactive when it comes to hate. The word proactive may require a little explanation. It was built on the pattern of the word reactive, a reaction being the effect of a cause that has happened and a proaction being the effect of a cause that is imagined.  It is thus reactive to eat when you are hungry, but proactive to eat when you think about being hungry. It is reactive to go indoors when it rains, but proactive to go indoors when you think about getting wet. It is reactive to punch your neighbor when he grabs you by the throat, but proactive to punch him when you think about him grabbing you by the throat.

In military circles, proactive behavior is known as a preemptive strike, and all students of history know that most “preemptive strikes” are expressions of paranoia or excuses for aggression.

Rather than wait for our students to be beastly to Chinamen, our OD has been thinking about their being beastly, and so is now proactively scolding them for things they have not done. In the fevered imagination of our OD, every night is a prospective Kristallnacht, and this excuses any amount of preemptive libel, falsehood and aggression. 

Here is the poster that the OD mailed out the other day.

You can see that it begins with a patent falsehood, since viruses do discriminate. The coronavirus, for instance, really has it in for old, fat, wheezy people who live in big cities. And this discriminatory behavior is not just one more thing to hate about viruses, since life itself is discriminatory. Readers of this blog are familiar with the parable of the seeds that were sown on various types of ground, and therefore know it does not end with Jesus telling us, “they all sprouted, and grew, and bore fruit all alike.”

I believe those outstretched hands are meant to represent coronavirus victims slowly suffocating in their hospital beds. I can almost hear the gasping and gurgling. But in the midst of this piteous scene, you see that one hand has been raised in the dauntless, thumbs-up, “gig-em” sign of the Aggies. I take this to mean. “don’t worry about me. It’s true that I am slowly suffocating in a hospital bed, but rest assured that I don’t hate anyone. I don’t hate anyone because:

Aggies don’t hate.

Which, if true, would seem to render this poster otiose.

From here the poster proceeds to yet another falsehood. A stigma is a mark. Originally it was a mark made by a pointed stick or rod, which is why marks resembling the puncture wounds of Christ are called stigmata. Modern usage has corrupted this word and says that a stigma is not a mark, but rather the meaning attached to a mark. Moreover, it tells us that a stigma is a false and hateful meaning, such as your inference that I am drunk when my behavior is marked by staggering, lechery and slurring of speech.

But to shun the company of people who are marked with flu-like symptoms is, in fact, one very effective way to fight coronavirus. Likewise shunning the company of people who, whether owing to carelessness or necessity, we suspect not to have shunned the company of people who are marked with flu-like symptoms.

Back in March and April, it would therefore have been prudent to fight coronavirus by shunning the company of people recently returned from China. Because Chinamen were then, as always, more likely to visit China, and therefore to have recently returned from China, it would therefore have been prudent to shun the company of Chinamen. Drawing valid inferences from outward marks is not hate—it is what we call sentience.

At last we come to the exhortation to “Fight Xenophobia.” To fight xenophobia is to shame people who took to heart their mothers’ injunction not to talk to strangers. Now the reason mothers tell their children not to talk to (i.e. trust) strangers is that children do not understand the marks—the stigma—of strange men and women. They do not, for example, understand what it means when a strange man offers them candy, or invite them to sit on his lap, or to ride in his car. When they grow up, they will learn the meaning of these marks in their own society, and they will (like the prudent virus) discriminate accordingly.  And they will also learn the meaning of the mark of the stranger, the foreigner, the alien, the outlander.

They will learn that the meaning of this mark is that they do not fully understand the meaning of all the other marks.

This is why a more enlightened age said that the Chinaman was inscrutable.  Xenophobia is the rational response to inscrutability.  It does not mean that you fear the foreigner because you believe foreigners are more wicked than your countrymen, but that you fear the foreigner because you know you do not recognize the marks—the stigma—of wickedness in his land.

11 thoughts on “With Strangers at your Gate

  1. The poster also begs the question. International Travel is 100% responsible for COVID-19 spreading in the USA, and in fact is responsible, if the full truth were known, for 95% of the breakouts in every state. It isn’t that foreigners carry disease between nations, it is that people who travel internationally and come here after being in other countries often bring disease back as a souvenir, which they then share, regardless of their nationality or citizenship or race or ethnicity.

    The “marks” example: One of my children, about age 4 or 5, went up to a car that stopped in the street in our neighborhood. I saw him do this, and asked him “haven’t we told you not to talk to strangers?”. His reply: “That’s not a stranger, he is a normal person.” The child had interpreted the word “stranger” to mean someone who “looks scary like a monster”, rather than someone he didn’t know. It would be interesting to know what the words ‘discriminate’ ‘stigma’ ‘xenophobia’ actually connote to students. Likely, genuine and independent meanings of those words don’t even enter their heads.

    • It is true that globalization makes pandemics worse, and it is also true that we are not supposed to mention this. You will have noticed the way authorities have framed “social distancing” as something to be practiced between individuals, but not between populations. It is good that you stop talking to your neighbors for two months, but bad to inconvenience frequent flyers with travel bans or quarantines.

      There is no question that thousands upon thousands of people have been murdered, raped and robbed because their natural wariness had been erased by the ideology of openness and trust towards strangers. If you read about con men, you find that their most basic mind game is to make their victims feel guilty about mistrusting them.

  2. Pingback: With Strangers at your Gate | Reaction Times

    • The email that accompanied the poster said, “the Office for Diversity joins you in fighting back against hate.” This of course presumes an alternate reality in which a war on Chinamen has already begun. But the email itself admits that “xenophobic and anti-Asian racism” manifests itself “as discriminatory behaviors, online comments, and acts on social media.” This is a pretty picayune pogrom if you ask me. When I read the words “fighting back,” I imagine there has been a sudden, vicious and unprovoked attack by a formidable enemy. So I would like to see evidence of that attack and I would like to hear the names of the leaders of that formidable enemy. Drumming up a war against a faceless enemy who has yet to act disgusts me. It creates a false emergency that will justify even more minute regulation of students’ private lives.

  3. “Xenophobic and anti-Asian racism [manifests itself] as discriminatory behaviors, online comments, and acts on social media.”

    It is an odd statement, coming at the end of the semester — and the students having all been sent home months ago. I imagine that the Obersturmführer is fervently hoping for “discriminatory… online comments, and acts on social media,” although how he would detect them remains a mystery to me. He faces the question, what’s the point of his office once the students have become a mere “virtual” presence?

    • I know. That’s why I used it. I don’t wish to offend Chinamen, but neither do I wish to have my language controlled by offended Chinamen or the white-knights who get offended on their behalf. There is also a question of tit-for-tat reciprocity here, since the post was written in response to a poster that accused my group (non-Chinamen) of Hate. That is a libel to which I will not respond with elaborate courtesy.

  4. Social media is a treasure trove for these people. When you have nearly 50,000 students, some are certainly going to type some rude and regrettable words. Power is the ability to recover those rude and regrettable words and used them to shame the 49,975 students who did not type them. Power is the ability to say what 25 students have typed, 49,975 are thinking.

  5. My little area has a “Chief People Person.” That’s no joke. We have had people of color, and I guess we now have persons of people. I also cannot believe that “chief” has escaped the word purge. The only person I trust in the entire enterprise is the secretary who gives me white tea because – she assures – it decalcifies the pineal gland, a fate suffered by my pineal gland due to my drinking the flouridinated water from the office water cooler. Sci fi writers were prophets.

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