Saturday, January 31, 2009
I am currently reading Ryszard Kapscinki's collection of essays on living in and and reporting from Africa called The Shadow of the Sun. As many of you know, I am intrigued by parochialism and in-group and out-group preferences. Kapuscinski (2001, 188-89) captures the idea perfectly in his essay 'The Black Crystals of the Night,'
Our contemporary suspicion of and antipathy for the Other, the Stranger, goes back to the fear our tribal ancestors felt towards the Outsider, seeing him as the carrier of evil, the source of misfortune. Pain, fire, disease, drought, and hunger did not come from nowhere. Someone must have brought them, inflicted them, disseminated them. But who? Not my people, not those closest to me - they are good. Life is possible only among good people, and I am alive, after all. The guilty are therefore ther Others, the Strangers. That is why, seeking retribution for our injuries and setbacks, we quarrel with them, enter into conflicts, conduct wars. In a word, if unhappiness has befallen us, its source is not within us, but elsewhere, outside, beyond us and our community, far away, in Others.Does this not capture the notions well? Parochialism, war, altruism towards our in-group, distrust of the out-group all of these ideas are illustrated. Reading is such a pleasure.