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The bigot’s anxiety

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The key to removing bigotry and all the anxiety that comes with it is to banish fear and remove ignorance, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

Ignorance and fear are the two pillars of bigotry that reinforces inaccurate ideas of human relations – two very strong allies that support one another.

Bigots lack rational reason, sound moral judgement and hardly ever use logic.

They play on sentiments and magnify society’s insecurities when faced with something different other than the status quo.

They succeed in instilling an irrational sense of fear by sowing the seeds of discontent and discrimination into the hearts of average citizens.

But what makes this more disturbing is that no one is immune to this fear – those on the far right, far left, centre to the left, centre to the right – every inch within the political spectrum, we come across individuals who are apprehensive of change and fearful of “compromises” that may need to be made for the greater good.

So here we are – Malaysians in the 21st century, almost six decades after Independence, and still trying to figure out a way to get along with one another.

Many of us are still trying to break through the shackles of racism by presenting an alternative vision of this country. Malaysians can do away with race-based policies and try and identify ourselves as Malaysians first,but for many of us, it’s a case of one step forward and two steps back.

The fear of change or socio-political reforms creates fear and selfish arrogance that could single-handedly thwart any progress humankind has made since the turn of the century.

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The unfortunate resistance to reforms occurs when individuals are successfully swayed by self-proclaimed “true believers” who think diversity is bad and there is an unfounded determination to protect a select group and preserve its values at all costs.

They make you believe that regression (be it consciously or not) is something required. This is a typical response to uncertainty – imposing a personal security blanket on the world and over a select group of people.

What we can’t suppress, we fear, and what we fear, we distrust – and what we distrust, we hate.

A bigot’s anxiety overwhelms reason and unfortunately is ingrained in human nature, but it is important to recognising the causes.

It would be great if we could learn from the global communities’ response to the recent terrorist attacks – to see how paranoia and ignorance are driving societies to the brink of self-destruction and nihilism.

Of course, one need not look that far – this kind of bigotry is also prevalent in our own backyard and sometimes masks itself behind philosophical friends as well as political foes.

To paraphrase an Albert Einstein quote, it is a depressing thought when we find it easier to smash atoms than it is to quell our prejudice.

It would be great to hope for that kind of rational self-awareness. But let’s not be naïve or stupid: “emotions almost always trump reason, and there is no more powerful emotion than fear.”

Diversity should never be made a scapegoat for our prejudices or discriminatory ways. It surrounds us. It is a natural part of our universe, the evolutionary process, and ultimately, it is what makes us human.

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Individuals or groups that discriminate seek only to justify their imagined superiority over the rest of us. The key to removing bigotry and all the anxiety that comes with it is to banish fear and remove ignorance.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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