Avoiding Stranger-Danger

“It is a tiresome meme that people in the North are “colder” than people in the South. And yet I have lived in a southerly place where you call everyone “my brother” whilescrewing him over, and I fail to see why the verbal affection makes the con any better. I am Nordic enough to prefer deeds to words. But there comes a point at which Northern reticence does become diabolical rudeness. To me, this point is reached when people approaching you on the pavement swerve into the middle of the road in order to pass you at a safe distance. Better to be hit by a car, they feel, than approach you within a metre.

You do not see this every day, perhaps, but in most countries they don’t do this at all. I used to wonder what bug was up the Norwegian ass to explain this avoidance ritual. One of the safest countries in the world, and they act as if every stranger is an axe murderer? This is an extreme example, but the general avoidance of other people in this society can hardly be denied.

Ultimately I worked out the aetiology to my own satisfaction, though so far unable to convince others. I am persuaded that it is a consequence of the extreme low-church Protestantism of yore. For if you are called out of society to form the True Church, you can only maintain your salvation by avoiding outsiders to the sect. Until proven otherwise, the stranger is not one of you, and may imperil your own salvation by his heathen or heretic influence. The danger is not trivial, like a physical attack, it is existential. Crossing the street to avoid the stranger is therefore only prudent behaviour, a pattern that has become fixed as a fundamental attitude of even a post-Christian culture. As Eric Berne would have put it, You Are OK, They Are Not-OK.

Posted on July 20, 2011 at 08:12 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, The Longest Con, Miscellaneous

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