One of the most acclaimed and influential superhero comic books of all time, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, ends with the character Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) transporting a massive, Lovecraftian, psychic squid from his secret island to NYC in the precarious two-minutes-to-midnight at the height of the Cold War. Adrian knew that the creature–bred on an island by artists, psychics, and scientists–would not survive the teleportation to NY. He knew that physically the massive thing would kill millions, and that upon materializing in the diverse metropolis it’s mind would pop, sending brainwaves of grotesque celestial horror out beyond it’s physical form. He did this to unify all of humanity against a common foe and put an end to all wars happening on Earth, and it worked.
Adrian was the smartest man in the world, so he knew there had to be some suffering if he were to save it. People will not accept peace, so he turned humanity’s violence against an outside other, these apparent invading alien monsters which all of the nations on Earth have put aside their differences and come together to guard against. Though it is our instinct to prefer ingroups, we can learn to exist with those who are different if something even more different comes along.
In our connected information age, Xenophobia (fear/hatred of strangers or foreigners), which refers to the unknown, has become more rare than it used to be. People today have lots of specific kinds of prejudices and bigotries going every which way, but compared to the days of seafaring exploration on planet Earth, there isn’t much in the way of anyone new or unknown to fear.
In a great reddit post which I’m unable to find now (you should read it, it’s great), a user makes the case for how outgroup hatred in the multicultural West hasn’t actually decreased but has merely turned inward to one’s own. Rather than being drawn around geographical lines, outgroup hatred today is mostly drawn on political lines, so that it apparently has less to do with color or creed, but rather, ideas. On the surface it sounds like real progress–rather than focusing on inherent superficial differences we have come to recognize its more sensible to regard political differences which can actually affect policy–but as this mystery reddit poster notes, it’s still only skin deep. That is why the ‘diversity is our strength’ tribe will generally give Muslim communities a pass on their more egregious conservatism than they do white deplorables.
Pro-life? You monster. Pro-life and willing to fine the offending mother the value of anywhere between five and one hundred camels (capped at 50 if the fetus is a girl)? Crickets. It is inconsistent, and thus still about color and creed, only it’s been inverted. In the lack of any new Xeno to fear, many Western societies have turned this instinct inward to those of the same color/creed but with different ideas. Nonetheless, color and creed are still the basis for this hatred.
The covid endemic has highlighted this clearly with reports that NYC is not cracking down on POCs who violate health policy and places which explicitly exempt POCs from health policy.
But white folk, black folk, Asian folk, we’re all human. We have more commonalities than differences when compared to a giant psychic squid or a microscopic RNA virus. These things are so alien and awful that it is OK to outwardly hate them, even more than white people. But consider Adrian Veidt’s psychic squid, created on an island laboratory and beamed without its consent to the middle of NYC only to have it’s brain explode–has it really done anything wrong to deserve such hatred? It’s only crime is being new and different, an engineered scapegoat.
And likewise the SARS-COV-2 virus, also created in a lab and released upon the world by a madman, is admittedly really weird looking under the microscope, but has it done anything wrong for us to hate it so and to proactively wage an all out war against it with hand sanitizers and simulated spike protien immune responses? It’s been an agent of death, yes, but like Veidt’s squid it is innocent of any culpability. Some African Americans who commit more than their share of murder have likewise been the agents of death, but (and others may disagree with me here) I believe they do have culpability for that. If we can bring ourselves to exempt POCs from the health rules then surely we can be inclusive of the virus as well, who’s only crime is being different, and being an unwitting agent of death, like Veidt’s tragic squid monster.
Our collective Xenophobia acts as a wall, preventing us from true unity and understanding. The known trend of viral attenuation (wherein a virus becomes milder and more manageable) is being sabotaged upon the altar of prejudice and fear. “We’re all in this together” …against that horrid thing. That different being is excluded at all costs. Wear your mask. Stay home. It wants to share in your life. Don’t let it. Keep it out. Build more walls, around your friends and family. Become like Trump. Walls are good. Accepting those who are different is bad. Build the wall.
I say no. Enough hate. Enough division. Whether virus or human, we’re all in this together. The division is killing us both. It’s killing the virus by blocking its path to attenuation. Its killing the people by turning us against one another, people fantasizing about infected patients dying and gasping at the closed hospital door. The virus wants to learn to coexist, and we aren’t letting it. We are dragging this ordeal out needlessly, all because of the blind pride of myside bias and the hatred of the other.
I ask you, dear reader, to put aside your differences, not to unite against something yet more different, but merely for the sake of love and unity and all that is good in the world.