People who argue for their God, their sexual mores, their past, their family, their community often get branded as xenophobes but what they are I think is scared nostophiles. They have an emotional attachment to home and view change and outsiders as threats.
When I have had my most conservative moments I was fighting an internal sense of panic — that what I loved was actually either going to be lost forever or, more frighteningly, had never been real at all, and I fought back against this fear.
What if the parents whose presence and smells (slightly burnt coffee for breakfast, damp leaves in autumn) were themselves anxious? What if the feeling of familiarity was just fortuitous? Scary thoughts because they meant my own ability to create a home for my children was vulnerable.
Fear of losing what we love leads to a blind rage against what we think can destroy what we love. It is all the blinder because it is often a self-blinding; the fear that the more we learn the more fear we will have to undergo fosters, below the level of awareness, a hatred of learning anything new, because learning the new will cause more pain and more panic.
Obviously this sort of fear of the new, and hatred of thought, and hatred of self can have bad consequences for other people. To give just one example — Heidegger’s hatred of Jews, whom he really should have loved: a weird bunch of particularistic people sticking to old ways. And he would have loved Kabbalah. But instead he thought of Jews as a creep frightening symbol of everything that threatened him: de-racination on two legs wearing a yarmulke. (Or he pretended to in order to get promotions and be a big shot– who can judge someone else’s sincerity?)
Obviously the xenophobes and the nostophiles are the same people. But rather than hectoring our friends for being xenophobes I would like us to all acknowledge that home and the past are worth loving but start a conversation about how to best preserve them.
Do racial and religious wars help preserve our home? No.
In fact if we take a look at our childhood home we will find a lot of wonderful stuff that is inconsistent with a fear of the new and of others. Curiosity and a desire to grow nad meet new people.
The goal is not to go back to our childhood home (which is impossible — because time marches on and we are adults). The goal is to make this planet a home for everybody.