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Destructive divisiveness
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-05-20 09:31:56
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Why is the destiny of some countries that have suffered so much to turn one day to the other side of the hill? I suppose the same question applies to people as well, but when it comes to nations the emotion is so much stronger.

Take the Jews and the state of Israel for example. These people have suffered prejudice and racism for centuries, they actually lived genocide and they been blamed for anything you can imagine real or false. Still if you ask the people of Israel what they think about Arabs and especially the Palestinians from a great, scary majority I would add you get the most prejudice often racist answers. I was shocked once to hear from a very well-educated and intellectual man that the only good Arab is the dead Arab. And yes I never spoke with that person again in my life because I felt insulted personally as human but that didn’t make the certain person the exception, on the contrary.

Excuses plenty, hundreds of innocent bodies in malls, schools and hospitals but none of them enough to make me understand it, but don’t think that this happens only in Israel with the Palestinians, I’m coming from a country that has seen her citizens immigrate to every corner in this globe for centuries. There are Greeks in every single place and sometimes in some of my travels I was shocked to find that there was a Greek who either lived somewhere nearby or had lived there before and I’m talking about small islands in the Indian Ocean or in the steppes of Mongolia.

Often I hear the joke; there is no place without a Greek restaurant! These people have really tasted what racism and prejudice means and please don’t tell me that it’s not like that because I have traveled from Australia to USA and I know, I heard the stories, I interviewed people and some of the things I heard brought tears in my eyes. Stories even close to Greece, stories from the UK, France, Belgium and Germany. There are not many Greek families who haven’t got at least one member who hasn’t immigrate abroad and hasn’t told them all these stories. Not necessarily theirs but stories of other compatriots who suffered the worst way prejudice and racism and even I have been a few times victim of prejudice comments even in the liberal Scandinavia.

The sad thing was when a few years ago I found myself back in Greece and I faced the way Greeks were treating Albanians and immigrants from the former soviet democracies. I was shocked and sick at least. In my question how they would feel if I was treated the same way where I lived the only answer I could get was …it’s different! Why is different? They are all thieves, criminals! But how many times Greeks heard exactly the same things abroad? They have no right to be here, they are taking our jobs, they are taking our money! But I heard exactly the same things about me from Scandinavians. Accidently one day I forgot my work’s badge on my jacket and a local attacked me in the metro because I was taking …his job, in my question if he was qualified to do my job he answered …you are a bloody foreigner! So after knowing all these stories my compatriots how could they treat others the same way?

Destructive divisiveness indeed! And is not me who came with these words, it is a legend, a man who fought prejudice and racism more than any contemporary who said it, Nelson Mandela after the latest incidents against immigrants in south Africa. I was in South Africa for a very brief period and while I was there and with the things I saw I felt embarrassed not only been white but belonging to the human race. I was crying the day Nelson Mandela took the long way on feet from the prison to freedom and I had tears in my eyes the day he gave his oath as the first president of all the South Africans. South Africa during these years transformed from the worst example of prejudice and racism the African oasis of democracy, equal opportunities and freedom. South Africa became the settler of all these who tried to escape from barbaric dictators like Mugabe. It is the last hope for Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Malawians, even Sudanese who need just a chance to live like humans. South Africa became the example the rest of the African countries were forced to follow but most importantly as I said before the hope for the future.

I’m just copying from the news: “At least five people have been burnt or beaten to death in the South African city of Johannesburg as violence against immigrants spreads. More than 50 other people were taken to hospital in the suburb of Cleveland with stab or bullet wounds. The trouble began a week ago in the sprawling township of Alexandra. Immigrants from neighboring African countries were set upon by men with guns and iron bars chanting "kick the foreigners out". They were then attacked there as well - shacks were burnt down and shops looted. The violence has since spread to another three areas.”

Sad? Angry? Disappointed? I don’t know! Destructive, definitely!!!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-20 16:32:13
I couldn’t agree more, countries, like individuals, end up with the reputation they deserve and will eventually be subject to the judgment of history. Socrates was branded a gadfly and found less than “patriotic” and put to death for daring to wish to improve Athenian democracy. Aristotle had to leave Athens “less it sin twice against philosophy.” Indeed, nations too (especially democratic ones) have freedom of choice between being constructive and being divisive in the world. What is troubling however is the tendency in today’s brave new world to judge individuals and nations by relativistic rather than universal standards of ethics and morality. The other troubling phenomenon is that of branding a whole people by the actions of some of them, usually a minority. One hears statements such as: “you Americans….” or “you Jews…” or “you Europeans…” which I for one usually interrupt to ask: “which Americans, which Jews, which Europeans?”

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