One thought on “Do they think they’re being talked about?

  1. There are a number of interesting layers to this!

    The surface layer is the concept of “having said this, I need say nothing more”. As far as I know, English doesn’t have a word for that. In this case, having hinted that our opponentsa are “xenophobic”, they are henceforth banned from the marketplace of ideas. Victory for ideological uniformity!

    Of course, xenophobia has been ubiquitous through human history.

    The inadequacy of banning the xenophobic is that although we can ban them from speaking, we can’t ban them from voting — deplorables are still allowed to vote. The problem doesn’t go away by snarking at it.

    Deeper is the question of What is xenophobia?

    As a person who has graduated from a good college, I’m part of the contemporary elite class, and I’ve been trained in elite culture, equipped with its cultural signs (No artificial fibers! Fresh and local foods!), and provided with an array of social and economic privileges. I have a job in high tech and can afford to live in an expensive suburb that excludes people who are unlike me.

    I work with an array of people who come from many countries and speak with various accents. But they all have educational backgrounds like mine, speak quite salable English, have been trained in the same cultural attitudes, have the same privileges, and live in the same suburbs. Similarly, I go to IETF meetings, which carefully rotate to different cities around the world, but the fact that we carry passports from different countries doesn’t mean we’re culturally different. Or that if two people at the meeting speak to each other in Spanish, that I will have to learn Spanish to function there.

    The guy at the next desk is a quite dark-skinned Indian fellow, but even though his kids might call themselves “black” doesn’t make him much different from me. Conversely, the Trump voter in Appalachia is “white like me” but otherwise resembles me in almost no way. It also means I don’t worry about his interests when I’m voting.

    In regard to foreign languages, even as far back as the 1980’s, businesspeople noted “Don’t bother to learn their language. If you need to speak to them, they know English.” But if you live in a low-rent part of a city, the more people you hear speaking Spanish on the streets, the more likely you can’t get a job unless you, too, know Spanish.

    So as far as I can assess, the most serious xenophobic threat is the disdain of the elites for the non-elites. That keeps us from addressing the pressing problems of internationalism — the non-elites are rapidly coming to compete economically with a huge number of poor people around the world.

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