In every human society, large or small, there are people who don’t fit in with the main of the society. At the extreme end, these are criminals and subversives. At the more benign end there are oddballs and eccentrics. In small numbers they are harmless, just as long as they don’t form up into an organized whole. A criminal organization is a collection of people, who are no threat as individuals, but as a group they become a threat to the society. They become an alien body.
Human society is an organism. Like any organism, it must always be aware of threats to its existence, internal and external. A group of people inside society that is either hostile to the whole or merely alien to the whole must be treated as a threat. Since self-preservation is the prime directive of any organism, the most prudent approach is to treat the alien as hostile. To do otherwise risks making an error and allowing a hostile alien inside the society. That is a pointless risk.
Societies, like all living organisms have two general approaches to the problem of alien bodies inside the society. One is to destroy the alien body and the other is to isolate it and render it harmless. In the human being, the immune system will attack the foreign entity in an effort to kill it. If the foreign body in not a living thing, then infection will set in until the foreign body is removed. In some cases, the body will surround the item in a cocoon of calcium to isolate it and render it harmless.
In the case of human societies, the alien body is going to be people, like the criminal gang or some group of foreigners. For most of human history, this meant rounding up the aliens and executing them. Hanging criminals was the surest way to deal with the threat of people hostile to the whole. In the case of the non-violent, people who were just irritants, they would be expelled, Banishment solved the problem. This form of elimination allows the aliens to find a more suitable home.
Banishment also allows for reinstatement. A person or group that is cast out can, in theory, earn their way back inside. That requires a commitment to fit into the society and proof of rehabilitation. Banishment and the threat of it was a way to force people to assimilate into the society. A group of dissenters, for example, could remain just as long as they respected the wishes of the whole. Maybe they would be compelled to recant and accept the rules to which they were dissenting.
Human societies, like other living organisms, can isolate the problem. Prisons are really just a way of isolating the hostile foreign body. Instead of surrounding the criminals in calcium, they are placed in concrete boxes. Obviously, they can be permitted back into society, so it is not a perfect analogy, but the underlying logic is the same. Since modern societies do not want to execute trouble makers or banish them to the wilderness, they isolate them from the whole with prisons.
Segregation, formal and informal, is another way the problem of aliens is addressed by societies. The majority group forces the alien minority into a certain area and does not permit them outside that area. Segregation can be physical or logical. In the American South, segregation was mostly logical, as blacks and whites shared the same physical public spaces. In the North, it was physical as blacks were herded into ghettos and physically isolated from whites.
The story of Europe is really the story of people trying to figure out how to deal with aliens in their midst. Slowly and violently Europe has self-segregated. Every ethnic group has a place, either as a country or as a cultural zone within a country. There are notable exceptions, like gypsies, who roam about in all of Europe, but remain culturally at odds with the host population everywhere they live. Gypsies are an implacably alien nation within every nation they reside.
America, which has been multi-racial and multicultural since the beginning, has had another way of dealing with outsiders on the inside. That is to pretend they are not really outsiders. Some form of the phrase, “despite our differences we’re all Americans” is the national motto. The American creed is, in fact, built on this bit of self-deception about our differences. The fact that this is a big country with a low population density makes it easier to perpetuate the charade.
In Europe, a similar experiment is underway with the great homogenization within the European project. National identity is to be replaced with a European one. While less common, you can hear people say, “despite our differences, we are still Europeans” when talking about the current cultural and social unrest. In other words, the differences at the root of the social unrest are waved away and therefore the frictions are waved away as well. Everyone just has to pretend harder.
This actually works in the short run. Initially, the first generation of aliens bumping into one another want the new arrangement to work. They are willing to overlook the differences in favor of the assumed benefits. It is subsequent generations that begin to question the arrangement. They were not around to enjoy the giddy promise of the multicultural paradise. The kabob stands and food trucks are just part of the scenery of their life. What they see are the aliens around them.
This is the heart of the crisis in the West. Man is a social animal, who naturally wants to live in a society of people who look like him, sound like him, love the things that he loves and hates the things that he hates. Those are the invisible bonds that commit him to the other members and the other members to him. A society of strangers is not a society, but an ad hoc collection of people living outside their natural society. There is a word for such an arrangement. It is called a prison.
Note: Some have asked why comments end up in moderation. This is the doings of the spam filter I’m using. It is often triggered by epithets, certain links and mysterious word combinations. These messages get flagged as possible spam. Now, in half a dozen years it has blocked over 3.5 million spam messages, so it is trade-off I accept. It means I check the moderation queue once an hour or so. I approve the real comments and trash the spam. Otherwise, there is no moderation.
For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!