THE BLOG

Xenophobia - It's About Choice

07/09/2015 17:23 BST | Updated 07/09/2016 10:12 BST

Sometimes in life we have a choice. Not always, but sometimes. You and I both have a choice about how we react to and act towards other people, people who are different, who look different or are from another culture.

In a few days' time it will be 14 years since 9/11. The world changed then. We became more scared of people who are not like us. Xenophobia grew and spread.

The Oxford online dictionary defines 'xenophobia' as: 'dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.'

Xenophobia doesn't smell of anything. It looks innocent and is smaller than a particle of dust and it can be found anywhere; online, offline, in any forum where people interact.

It's normal to have an instant reaction of fear when you are confronted with things that are different and new. That is okay. But what matters is what you do with that tickling feeling of fear. Do you let it become bigger and grow into hate? Or do you try to counter-balance it with reality and facts?

When we decide to just accept untrue facts we are shutting down our mind and we are acting as if we have no choice. But you have a choice, and that choice is called education.

The best cures to xenophobia are applying knowledge and becoming familiar with what you fear.

If you suffer from xenophobic tendencies and are stuck in the prison of fear and want to get out, you can start by looking at what you let into your mind. What kind of news, books, magazines and newspapers are you consuming? Maybe you need to talk to people who are tolerant and accepting of those who are different. We tend to see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear. If we are looking for something vile and terrifying it's easy to find it.

Humankind has always sought answers. Why, who, where, what and how? Pick your teachers wisely and avoid people who distort facts and research for their own advantage.

How do you know who to trust? You need to check the sources of and intentions behind the words you read and listen to.

Cleaning out your prejudices should be a regular routine. Just as you brush your teeth daily you can shake and clean your own mind and ask yourself why you believe what you believe. What are your true values? You have a choice about what you believe about others, the people who are not like you.

You are here now, for real, for a limited time. The Earth is turning and bringing on one more day and you have a choice how you behave. Tomorrow can be too late.

I've written this before but it's worth repeating: We don't all have to think and act in the same way to show respect and care for each other.

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Image John Hain at Pixabay