Xenophobia and ethnocentrism

It is very interesting to watch people try to state succinctly what is happening in other parts of the world. Largely because none of us have any idea what happens in other parts of the world. If you ask people here in Abu Dhabi about Brexit, even though we are all abroad and from varied countries and living in a melting pot of nationalities, most likely we can’t tell you much beyond “Britain left the EU.” If we’re well-read, we might add that it’s something to do with racism, maybe?

If you haven’t heard, there was a terrible bombing in Baghdad a couple days ago. It was during Ramadan, which is the holiest month (for both Sunni and Shia), so that’s especially shocking to those of us in countries that celebrate Ramadan. I started to read an article about the bombing, but got quickly annoyed with how it didn’t give me enough background information. It assumed that I understood who Abadi was and all the politics surrounding him, for example. But I don’t know any of that. And while usually I’m likely to delve a little deeper into such things, yesterday I couldn’t be bothered because I am not smart enough to figure it out right now.

Lately I’ve heard a lot of people say things along the lines of “the world is falling apart.” (Usually with more expletives and references to the underworld, maybe a bit of sorcery or portentous religion and definitely a lot of apocalypse speculation.) People seem to have noted trends of the time and decided that it clearly means the end of the world. Or a serious downward trend at the very least. It’s really quite a pessimistic and depressing viewpoint, but everyone nods their head along and agrees that yes, we’re all doomed, so it goes, so it goes.

According to the very wise and complete statistics of Wikipedia, there were 20 more Islamic-related bombings in 2015 than 2016 at this point in the year. I tried looking up the US shootings, but it got too difficult. But that’s sort of my point. It’s the way the information is provided that leads to this mindset. Each bombing is sensationalized and it’s all we think about for like at least half a day. But we truly know so little about all the myriad complexities that led that person to do that disastrous thing. I don’t know why people ever think that they know anywhere near the whole story, let alone how the story continues. They just shout out “oh no, another bombing/shooting/disaster/super hot weather day! The end of the world is coming!”

I guess my real point is that we’re all dumb. As Socrates allegedly said, you have to know that you know nothing to know anything. (He didn’t say it like that. He also might not have even said it at all… which is of course, supremely fitting.)

In 12 hours or so, I’m going to begin my long trip home to the States. I’m currently in the midst of packing up my entire life. It makes me feel overwhelmed and small and insignificant. But also, apparently, contemplative.

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