ETHNOCENTRIC


What it is: If you are ethnocentric, you think your own country, nation, race or group is naturally superior to all others.

What it means: An ethnocentric person is likely to be indifferent to, dislike, or even hate other groups. And because of this, conflict is likely. Science shows that all human beings have the same origin: we are all descended from the same prehistoric ancestors. The things we all have in common are much greater, and there are many more of them, than what we think of as differences. What is more, throughout history people have travelled the world, meeting new people and forming new families: we are all of 'mixed' blood, and scientific tests prove it. It's natural, of course, to feel most at home with people who 'talk the same language' in every sense. But the fact that the world is full of people who are 'different' is something to celebrate rather than detest (even when the 'difference' is perceived as anti-social).  Fortunately, many people round the world realise this, and are spreading the word in the hope that many more will listen.

Think about it: One group which has been harassed and abused for centuries is the Roma, or Gypsies. Most people today know about the genocide of the Jews, but not that the Nazis targeted the Roma just as aggressively. Hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, labelled 'not fit to live', were killed in the Nazi death camps. But the Roma are marginalised still: when a monument to the victims of racism was planned in Berlin, the German Roma were not included - still oppressed by the verdict that they belong to an inferior race. In Britain a Romany family - the father a deeply religious, non-drinking and gentle man - was refused permission to live on land (that had been purchased for the purpose): 'A Gypsy caravan site would have the potential to cause extreme social nuisance and to blight the lives of those living nearest to it beyond belief', wrote one objector. In a town in the Czech Republic (from which many Roma have fled to seek asylum elsewhere) one woman offered to pay some of the travel costs for local Roma to emigrate. 'In no way do I consider myself a racist,' she said. 'It bothers me that the Roma don't fit in and we don't have the power to force them to. They keep us down by their inability to adapt.' However, in the late 1990s, at least one Czech town began to negotiate with the Roma, offering them living spaces they could take pride in and also preserve their customs and way of life.  

This is what a Russian who grew up in a mixed society wrote in 2000: 'From what age do we develop this Neanderthal dislike, irritation and hostility towards people of a different tribe or faith or origin? Neither Nazism nor racism is present in children who are just beginning life. They are born internationalists. It is only later, within the family, at school, in the street, from peer groups, that prejudice begins to break through with its ability to subvert any primal truth, especially if it falls on fertile soil.'