Define “Other”

I turned off the television, and flipped closed the laptop, as much in distaste as tiredness. The seemingly constant flow of reports of intolerance and distrust of whoever this year’s “others” are was draining.

“Others” – they didn’t know the half of it. Scared people making so much noise that everyone else jumped on instinct. The problem was that they really were focusing entirely on the wrong definition of “other”.

People have forgotten so many different “others” over the years, decades, centuries that this always seems so senseless. Even in my own, only slight extended, lifetime I’ve seen signs saying “No Irish” replaced with popular theme pubs and rushes to gain dual nationality. I’ve seen three generations of Indian families birth a fourth whose synthesis of cultures is a joy to behold.

That’s just four generations in, so how about those who are so many more generations in? Those others who are so intertwined with humanity as to be able to hide in plain sight. You don’t see them being targeted in the media – at least not openly. Nobody sees them as other.

Take my wife, for example, who looks as normal as most people you might otherwise bump into on the street. She and I would of course both take great offence at such a label, but that’s bye the bye. Her heritage is a proud one, stretching back thousands of years and is carried forth in her genes as proudly as any cultural artifact or practice.

Her diet is very particular, but not so unusual in an era that embraces vegetarian or vegan principles. She can’t really stand salt in her diet, and has great difficulty in properly metabolising iron. Both these of course have caused comment from doctors, but not so much as to warrant the sort of investigation that in centuries past might have involved stakes, firewood, and possibly kindling and pitch.

Indeed, iron has something of a tricky effect on her in general, making her skin burn and throwing her into confusion. As a consequence her otherness is somewhat more obvious than some merely cultural issue. It’s particularly a problem in those old parts of the country where the old conflicts are still remembered.

Our oldest cultural fights with her forebears are remembered in myth and old wives tales. The old stone arrowheads of her relatives still turn up in archaeological digs to this day. The memory of the Lords and Ladies still lives, even if cultural drift has changed the meaning of the words we use to describe them.

So, don’t talk to me about the dangers of those who are other. You really don’t know what you’re talking about…