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THESE GUIDES SAY, SATIRICALLY from the start, that xenophobia is “an irrational fear of foreigners, probably justified, always understandable.” Then, removing tongue from cheek, they’re described as “an irreverent look at the beliefs and foibles of nations, almost guaranteed to cure Xenophobia.”
Here are tidbits gleaned from several, each suggesting that beliefs and foibles tend not to change over time.
Americans. Author Stephanie Faul observed in Xenophobe’s Guide to the Americans, “As befits a nation originally settled by misfits, convicts, adventurers, and religious fanatics (a demographic mix that has changed hardly at all in 400 years), the United States retains a strong flavour of intransigent non-cooperation.”
Approaching what appears to be particularly contentious midterm elections in a few weeks, I see that Stephanie sure got that right as one of us. She’s described as “a typical product of American hybrid vigour… half Czech immigrant, half Connecticut Yankee, with a German-speaking grandmother and cousins in Canada, England, and Switzerland…. At home [in Washington, D.C.] she enjoys African music, Vietnamese food, Italian footwear, Siamese cats, and English novels.”
“Americans,” Stephanie wrote, “are proud to be American—it’s the best country in the world—but each individual will explain that he, personally, is not like other Americans. He or she is better. Americans are proud to be different from each other, and from the world.”
But That Was Last Week. “In some countries,” Stephanie observed, “disgraced politicians kill themselves. In America they run for office. If nothing else, Americans believe in giving people a second chance, or even a third. This is in part because Americans are a forgiving sort, but also because the public has a short collective memory.”
Family Values. Stephanie said, “Conservative politicians in particular like to natter on about family values. The problem is that in America nobody is exactly sure what ‘family’ that means.”
Manners. “Middle-class parents,” Stephanie wrote, “have realised that their children not only don’t know which fork to use at a formal dinner but rarely use a fork at all—in large part due to the fact that they are eating most of their meals at fast-food restaurants with their friends instead of around the family table.”
“Manners,” Stephanie noted, “have had to adapt to a number of situations hitherto unthought of…. Should a woman introduce her children to her new boyfriend on the first date?”
Others of Stephanie’s headings include “It’s Not Real Life, It’s Television,” “A Nation of Lawyers,” and “Let’s Verb Nouns.” All in good fun, if occasionally wince-producing in recognition.
Others in the Series. The anglo spelling betrays U.K. origins of the Xenophobe’s series, but authors tend to be from home countries. Samples continue here.
Germans. Stefan Zeidenitz and Ben Barkow wrote, “The Germans take their humour seriously. It is not a joking matter.”
“German culture,” Zeidenitz and Barkow noted, “is for the most part earnest, and big. Not for them the slender volume of elegant stories beloved by the French. Nor do they like the wry observations of village life or frail metaphysical puzzlings of the contemporary English novel. Germans want value from their Kultur and Kunst (culture and art), and value means bulk.”
Among examples cited: “Wagner’s operas, two weeks’ listening if you don’t break for meals or sleep….”
English. “The attitude of the English towards other nations,” our two English authors Antony Miall and David Milsted wrote, “is not so much xenophobia (fear of foreigners) as xenopili (pity for foreigners for having the misfortune to be, well, NOT English.)”
Miall and Milsted said, “As Cecil Rhodes once observed [and SimanaitisSays has cited], ‘To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life.’ It is hardly surprising, then, that the English should feel a bit sorry for all the runners-up.”
The Arts. The authors noted, “It has been wisely observed that the English do not much like music, but they do love the noise it makes. Indeed, on the whole this sums up the English attitude to practically all the arts. They are vaguely in favour, so long as they do not have to think about them too much.”
I’ve enjoyed five of the Xenophobe’s Guide series. I look forward to reading others. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022