“Violence and the Need to Belong”

in the name of identity

. . . Taking the line of least resistance, we lump the most different people together under the same heading.  Taking the line of least resistance, we ascribe to them collective crimes, collective acts and opinions. “The Serbs have massacred . . . ,” “The English  have devastated . . . , “The Jews have confiscated . . . ,” “The Blacks have torched . . . , ” “The Arabs refuse . . . ” By blithely expressing sweeping judgements on whole peoples, calling them “hardworking” and “ingenious,” or “lazy,” “sly,” “proud,” or “obstinate.” And sometimes this ends in bloodshed.

I know it is not realistic to expect all our contemporaries to change overnight the way they express themselves. But I think it is important for each of us to become aware that our words are not innocent and without consequence: they may help to perpetuate prejudices which history has shown to be perverse and deadly.

For  it is often the way we look at other people that imprisons them without their own narrowest allegiances. And it is also the way we look at them that may set them free.

  • In the Name of Identity Violence and the Need to Belong by Amin Maalouf

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