Contributed by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD, DLFAPA
Last article, I wrote about xenophobia — a nasty human trait threatening our civilization, even our presence on this earth. Now I want to write about Philoxenia –- i.e., the eagerness to help and take care of others.
Xenophobia, while embedded in all of us as a latent propensity and part of our human nature, coexists among other propensities which are competing with it — such as compassion cooperation, and philloxenia.
The exception, as expressed rarely by lone individuals, is when an aggressive act is prompted by their own psychopathology. It expresses itself only under certain circumstances, such as in the presence of social and especially economic distress of which two are now present: the prevailing worldwide gross economic disparity and the population moments (themselves due to conflicts).
The expression of overt acts of xenophobic hatred is now catalyzed by opportunistic political chieftains, the latter sensing an opportunity for obtaining or augmenting power. Xenophobia with its expressed nastiness, does not have to be with us. In fact, we can and have to get rid of it.
After all, we have flourished as social beings on this earth for millenniums. We cooperated, formed bands, and used together our genius and industry. We ended up walking on the moon and we are now preparing for the stars. We cared, and still care for, each other. We displayed compassion and affection, we practiced altruism, and still do. I, personally, witness these daily by the spontaneous, unsolicited help by kind strangers offered to me in my physical difficulty. (I am a double-amputee walking with prostheses.)
There is also usually a quick and often massive response in physical disasters, by nations and institutions helping the victims — no matter where the disasters occur. When cooperation and kindness have prevailed, we ended up conquering the earth, thanks to our sociality and philoxenia. As a result we multiplied, we defeated diseases, overcome famines and natural catastrophes, and we now live longer and better — the majority prosper and enjoy life.
Where in the world xenophobia came from? This nasty trait in fact expresses itself in violent acts by individuals rather rarely — we lose 40,000 in car accidents and another 40,000 in gun-related events yearly in our country, in comparison to a few hundred by individual mass killers. But when distressed groups — steered in their anger and fanaticism by malevolent charismatic leaders– reach a critical mass, then they as a group become mass killers. It ends up repeatedly as a calamity for the whole of humanity.
This trait of xenophobia is banded together with yet another trait, equally nasty: the aggressive territoriality. It is embedded in our human nature and expressed from time to time, to our grief and suffering. Together, they carry a bunch of supporting practices by our institutions and leaders along with tribal narratives — like exceptional-ism and special-ness. These narratives are sustaining these nasty traits in their irrationality, adding to our vows and suffering while threatening us with extinction.
What is their origin? Undoubtedly they must have provided a survival value for our species back there, back then in the Savannah grasslands as we were roaming as small bands, competing for land and food with other bands and wild predators for untold millenniums. We will never know for sure. But no longer! These traits, are now not only obsolete in their usefulness but outright dangerous since the sticks and javelins of old, have now been morphed into atomic bombs.
We have no choice. We must modify or sideline these traits or they will sideline us. We are left with only one guideline for our survival: the golden rule — Do to others what you want to do to you — and the inverse — Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.
We have to do it soon. Problems are pilling up demanding collective efforts and cooperation.
We already have made progress, as the various international agreements for pressing problems shows. We have the genius and altruism and rationality and cooperation: the philoxenia. These qualities define our humanity in spite of the defects mentioned. We can do it given time, but time is what we may not have.
Copyright © 2016 by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD
For more information on Dr. Pediaditakis and his Raleigh NC mental health clinic, visit his Facebook page.
Dr. Nicholas’ blog may be read at chroniclersofthesoul.com.
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