Also called „fear of strangers”. It is a feeling of dislike and hostility towards people of different race, religion and culture. It is intolerance and an excuse for aggression. (greek. ksenos „strange” phobos „fear”).
Usually it is a contact with „the others”- people who are strange because they belong to a different world, brought up and educated in a different cultural order.
Xenophobia is not a new phenomenon because we can give examples of it from the ancient times. Romans didn’t like Greeks and made proverbs about them: Graeca fides, nulla fides (Greek loyalty is No loyalty). In earlier times Greeks had also bad opinions of other nations because all people who didn’t speak Greek were called by them as those making strange sounds (bar-, bar- ) (gr. barbaros)- barbarians. Also Polish did quite the same calling Germans – Niemcy- which comes from „niemy” – not being able to communicate with us in our language.
Xenophobia in Poland is characteristic not only for modern times. Between XVI and XIX century Polish nobility had a concept of coming from ancient tribe living by Lower Volga River. In the beginning their motto was being brave, courageous and loyal for the own country. Later the values were distorted and changed into something completely different. Noble people often with limited imagination became egoistic, noisy, nationalistic and intolerant (both to religions and cultures).
Polish people remember many examples of xenophobia from history and everyday life. On one hand, we had holocaust of Jews during the Second World War, have seen religious wars, the madness of XXth century extermination of nations in Europe and Asia. On the other hand – we have negative emotions for Gypsy women telling the future and foreigners begging for money in the street. Not so long ago many Polish people hated Russians as our oppressors of a few hundred years or disliked Germans for the world wars. We are sorry to say that these are xenophobic behaviours of different degree and consequences.
In short, aversion comes from their strangeness and differences. We see them separated from us and the group that we identify ourselves. The group is connected by common traditions, religion, values, behaviours, often clothes and physical appearance. Foreigners are different, don’t belong to us. They evoke fear because by their presence among us they ruin our established order or hierarchy.
The strongest xenophobic behaviours appear in traditional, closed communities (often limited to a small area, e.g. a village) without frequent contacts with other cultures. The minimal xenophobia is in communities with strong material position, communities who accept cultural novelties, prefer mobile, active life, and for whom contact with other people is a constant element of their life.
We observe stronger xenophobia in communities who see or experience a degradation of values or bad economic or political situation around them. The consequence is that it is easy to say that it is „the others” fault. People blame strangers or foreigners for all the wrong that is happening to them. They also tend to create myths abot „good old times without the others”
Xenophobia starts with intellectual laziness. It’s easier to negate, protest, reject, say NO - rather than think, understand and finally maybe, accept. What makes xenophobia powerful is its connection with human basic instincts. People try to keep families, help them exist in a group on as high standard as possible (in material and nspiritual sense).
When strangers come - it is a danger. Maybe they want to have a share in everything the group has – so there will be less for us. Maybe their norms of behaviour or their culture will take our sense of confidence for our norms. In both cases the presense of strangers can lead to destruction of our own group. This makes people to defend/ protect instinctively their own group and be afraid of strangers.
Meeting other people doesn’t leave us neutral. Positive or negative feelings connected with getting to know people of different cultures, races, religions bring in a human, emotional aspect. Xenophobia is fear of strangers (gr. ksenos ‘strange’ phobos ‘fear’). Xenophilia is liking strangers (gr. ksenos ‘strange’, phileo ‘like’). So we have two completely different behaviours!!!