‘Racism on the way to extinction’

Nieuws | de redactie
9 mei 2012 | The ‘real European’ Umberto Eco thinks intolerance is an animal instinct that has to be beaten at the roots through constant education. “Just as children learn to control their own sphincters.”

On the eve of Schuman Day, the 9th of May, Nijmegen University(together with the City of Nijmegen, Royal Haskoning and the DutchMinistry of Foreign Affairs) has honoured the famous scientist andauthor Umberto Eco with this year’s Treaties of Nijmegen Medal.

Eco was awarded this medal for having devoted himself topromoting peace in Europe, in remembrance of the Treaties ofNijmegen that were in 1678 and 1679 one of the first forms ofEuropean agreement and cooperation.

Obsessed conflict

Receiving the medal, Eco started his speech with theremark that Europe is obsessed by conflict, nowadays mainlyconflict within its own borders. “We still are, inside ourfrontiers, involved in a form of warfare with people who are livingin Europe but whom we are considering as non-Europeans.”

“We are not yet prepared to accept the idea that in theforthcoming years every European city will be like New York or likesome Latin American countries.” By mentioning New York Eco negatedthe utopia of a ‘melting pot’. “In stead of merging together,different cultures coexist […] and all succeed in cohabiting onthe basis of some common laws and a common lingua franca.”

Face the facts

So how to tackle the ever present intolerance? Eco thinks itstarts by facing the facts. “Europe will definitely become amultiracial continent or a ‘colored’ one, if you prefer. If youlike it, that’s how it’s going to be; and even if you don’t likeit, that’s how it’s going to be just the same […] However,racists ought te be a race on the way to extinction.”

“Intolerance is a perpetual menace for our state of presumedpeace, and it is difficult to eliminate it. Intolerance hasbiological roots, it manifests itself among animals asterritoriality, it is based on emotional reactions that are oftensuperficial – we cannot bear those who are different from us,because their skin has a different color, because they speak alanguage we do not understand, because they eat frogs, dogs,monkeys, pigs, or garlic, because they tattoo themselves…”

Umberto Eco sees no point in inculcating tolerance in adultsthat shoot at one another for ethnic and religious reasons. “Toolate. Therefore uncontrolled intolerance has to be beaten at theroots, through constant education that starts from earliestinfancy, before it is written down in a book, and before it becomesa behavioural ‘skin’ that is too thick and too tough.”

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