What I’ve learnt about xenophobia is that the only logical question is why?

What makes people fear ‘the other’ – those different to themselves?

Sean O'Grady
Monday 28 October 2019 01:52
Fear is the key, but it is still a hard subject to unlock
Fear is the key, but it is still a hard subject to unlock

The panel I joined at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas was a distinguished one. A couple of Cambridge professors: Mary Beard (classics), Rae Langton (philosophy), plus a lecturer in modern languages, Andy Martin, as chair. They were complemented by two talented rights activists and writers, Temi Mwale and Jane Fae. Plus me.

One of scores of short sessions on big issues, our agenda was “Hate Speech, Xenophobia and Trolls” and it is fair to say that we didn’t sort everything out in the 90 minutes or so we were gathered together with a lively and thoughtful audience. A video if the event will be online, so you may judge for yourself, but for myself I felt I learned a few things. Or rather, I learned what I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

For example, I got a better insight into the cruel and irrational trolling Mary Beard has been subjected to, and how she has been more concerned for the safety of her students than herself after the death threats she has been subjected to for the crime for having an original mind as well as an incredibly intelligent one.

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