The tendency of human beings to have an instinctive desire to accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive, rather than the other way round as recommended in the song, is not an attractive one.
It exists throughout nature but our ability to think, to rationalise and to imagine should steer us away from the stranger danger reflex a little more than it all too often does in practice.
I was told a story this week about a group of friends walking in North Wales who stop at a pub whilst on their trip and noticed that those already in there instantly switched from speaking English to speaking loudly in Welsh as they entered. One of the group that contained my friend was a Welsh speaker and he was able to share with his fellow walkers the many uncomplimentary anti-English things being said that were provoking Celtic mirth between the regulars.
On the way out the Welsh speaker expressed in their language his gratitude to them for their running commentary and wished them Good Day. This provoked the worried question ‘Can they all speak Welsh?’ I should add they are all strapping lads. ‘Yes, he replied, ‘but unlike you, we’re friendly.’ Lesson learned? Who knows?
Another friend went into a Welsh Tourist Office to ask for help when she couldn’t get a taxi to come and take her to her hotel four miles away after phoning many different firms. ‘It’s your English accent’ she was told. ‘We’ll call for one for you.’ One came immediately. Presumably she kept quiet in the back. I wonder if she tipped?
A Finnish speaking friend recently had a similar experience on a tube journey in London, when two young female Finns were making derogatory remarks about all their fellow passengers, including my friend, and giggling irritatingly. As she left the carriage, she said in that most difficult of languages, Finnish ‘You really should be more careful you know. You never know who you’re with’. I am pleased to say the girls went bright red and were mortified.
Whilst these are possibly minor events in the grand scheme of things as evidence of our propensity to marginalise or shun ‘the other’, these incidents do serve to remind us all that we should all try to be a little kinder to strangers.
If these seemingly minor slights remain unchallenged grudges can grow into tribal hatred before you know it.