Blog Entry: “Consciousness-raising”

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Social Justice Activism through Arts-based Research: Agency and Tranformative Identity Politics

When thinking about habits I have to inevitably think about trust and mistrust in our society.
Nowadays it is a common habit to mistrust most of the people and especially when they are not local people. Why do I come to this conclusion?
During the weekend I was visiting the parents of a friend of mine, since they wanted to sell me a bicycle. At the same time my friend dropped by with his girlfriend and we all got invited to a cup of coffee. We started to talk about several topics and suddenly the conversation leaned towards living in places with lots of immigrants around you. It did not take very long until the word “thief” was connected with the immigrants living there. “You can’t trust them. You can’t leave things unattended for a single second there. Or it is gone! For sure!”

I am by far not naive and I am also always watching over my belongings. Regardless if there are locals around me, or people from foreign countries. But still this kind of thinking made me ill. Reflecting on the conversation we had, I need to rise a question now.
Why is it that we have this habit of mistrust? Why has the thief always to be the “foreigner”?
Is it experience? Did they witness “them” being sneaky and stealing everything not being bolted down? How do they know that their missing mobile was snatched by a Croatian, Russian or a Chinese person?
The answer is quite simple. It is the stereotypical thinking most people build up throughout their lives. Not being built by experience (mostly), but by interaction and storytelling with other people. Just because they act, look, behave or “insert random reason here” differently, they are not bad people by default. Of course there are bad ones too! Nobody questions this fact. But there are also bad locals as well. Maybe your Austrian neighbor is happy about his new mobile phone (your missing one!) now and the Croatian guy who lives downstairs was the whole time working for charity reasons.
I’ve earned some harsh comments for standing up and defending foreign people. And all that just because they heard about the fact, that foreign people may be the reason for things disappearing. Criminal statistics going up? Must be because of immigration.

If you watch little children who play with foreign kids, you can witness their behavior without external influence on their habits. Try to notice some difference in their behavior towards foreign kids. What do they do differently when playing with local children?
I bet you won’t find any. There are no prejudices at all.

This unspoilt state is something I miss. Even for myself:

(Picture Source: http://explodingdog.com/title/imisstheoldyou.html)

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