1. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Believing in racist beliefs

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by CMastah, Mar 18, 2016.

    In the fantasy world I'm working on, humans are essentially colonizers and have a negative view of anything not human or dwarven (and even dwarves are beginning to get nasty looks). I remember a question posed in 'to kill a mockingbird' for which actually I would very much like an answer. There was a teacher who was against Hitler's antisemitism and yet supported racism against black people, Scout asks Jem about it but because he was so upset about the trial he doesn't bother answering.

    I actually very much so would like the answer to that.

    In my setting, humans are simply unsympathetic and inhumane against all other races in the world, and at first I was going to go with propaganda having been spread against other races. Now on the other hand I'm seeing an opportunity to explore a venue (an avenue?) I would've much preferred to go with in the first place, but have no idea how to realistically explain it (as one of the viewpoint characters thinks nothing of killing non-humans or their children). These would be folks who could be so kind and wonderful to one another yet so absolutely inhumane against all others.

    You even had folks like Columbus who saw native americans and believed they were nice people and in the SAME letter where he spoke on that (if not the same sentence), he mentioned how it would make them easy to control. I can't understand how folks see goodness and see it as an opportunity for wealth and slaves rather than 'we have discovered another people, and they are a wonderful people'.

    I also want to go ahead and say, I'm not opening this so we can just rant on racists and such, I honestly need helpful understanding on the matter so I can bring the characters in my book to life, heh.
     
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  2. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Racism derives from survival paranoia, the instinct that creates all xenophobia. Essentially, survival paranoia is the snapping twig principle. Better safe than sorry that could be a predator. When confronted by the unknown, survival paranoia tends to kick in and the worst seems more likely. But this can be dangerously illogical when it comes to human diversity, especially with the onset of internationalism. Religions have taken survival paranoia an enshrined it in bigoted doctrines. This means they can be even more irrational because of faith, they can ignore evidence because God.(not dissing religion though, not exactly) A large part of such examples as that school teacher are social pressure. Prejudice moves with the times, and people like that are simply following, albeit unaware. For the last 60 years more or less, the least-hated prejudice is LGBT rights. It's the one that's the easiest to get away with without being judged. But in the 50's, black suppression was big and the holocaust had just ended so being antisemitic was not cool. The holocaust solved the west's antisemitism problems by demonizing the fuck out of it. Jew hating was now a Nazi thing. And you don't want to be associated with "those German devils" as the 50's westerners sometimes called them. Is that enough?
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2016
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you may need to distinguish between different forms of racism - I'm not convinced they all have the same roots.

    There's a virulent, hateful, aggressive form that seems to come from a place of fear - ignorance is probably at the root of the fear, but the fear is genuine. Anti-Islam sentiment in the West is a good example of this, I'd say.

    But there are other ways to be racist. Without the perceived threat, ignorance and intellectual laziness may lead people to believe inaccurate things about others, but without any real ill intent.

    And I don't think you can overestimate the human capacity for self-deception, when self-interest requires it. Confirmation bias is a powerful thing! Slave holders in the US South needed to believe their slaves were inferior creatures because how else could they possibly justify their treatment? So they exaggerated any examples they saw in which black people were behaving is "lesser" ways, ignoring the possible causes (like being raised in poverty and brutality) and ignored any examples of black people doing well. They needed to believe something because if they didn't they'd be forced to change their whole lives and the lives of their entire society, or else live with the knowledge that they were monsters.

    For your characters? I'd look at how they were raised, what they have to lose or gain, and how motivated they are to find the truth vs to find the easy way.
     
  4. Sileas
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    Sileas Member

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    One of my sisters....well, no. Let's be honest. Both older sisters married people with racist (or some other -ist) tendencies, but one very much so. Anything that's not a heterosexual white male is treated viciously. In this guy's case, I believe it comes from low self-esteem, among other things. People also hand down their beliefs from one generation to another, more or less well. Each individual person is going to have their justification, which is not to say each person's reason is unique. Just will differ from person to person, sometimes wildly. Intellectual laziness, "that's the way we've always done it", etc. I think BayView makes a good point about different kinds---active and latent, to give 'em names. Whichever one it is, the driver for the racism should be noted and written appropriately, I think.
     
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  5. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Consider a society with three rankings: powerful, powerless, and outcast. The powerful will usually be the ones who benefit most from bigotry, but the strongest bigotry will often be that held by the powerless towards the outcasts. After all, without the outcasts at the lowest point of society, the powerless would have no one to feel superior to. Take lower-class white people in the slave-holding American South, themselves too poor to own a single slave:

    Also consider bigotry through competition. When two groups are both outcasts, like immigrants from different countries, it's common for each group to view the other as "stealing" jobs, homes, and other resources. Even when they're suffering from similar problems, competition pulls them apart instead of bringing them together.

    Harry Turtledove draws this distinction in The Guns of the South, comparing the paternalistic racism of the Confederacy ("we need to own them because they're too stupid to care for themselves") to the fanaticism of Afrikaner nationalists ("we need to brutalize them so they'll be too scared to rise up against us.") In practice, however, the difference can be pretty slim. The Slave Ship: A Human History has some great passages about a real-life slave trader who considered himself a good Christian and thought he cared for his slaves, but committed all manner of atrocities against them to keep them in line.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, for one thing, you're coming at this from a modern mindset of all persons being equal. Columbus wouldn't have come from that mindset. Even people of his own nationality and race would, I believe, have been divided in his mind into a detailed hierarchy of superior and inferior.

    And inferior wouldn't be bad, it would be inferior. The woman who cooked his dinner or the man who shod his horse or the low-ranked crewmen on his ship may have been regarded as very fine people of their rank and class--good people, but good people that were inferior to him. He presumably similarly saw the Native Americans as both "good" and "inferior".

    In modern day, the default is that men are equals, so racism tends to translate directly to hatred. In the past, that wouldn't necessarily be true at all.
     
  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I am going to set the cat among the pidgeons.

    To me it looks like what you are asking here is only a question about racism on the surface. You stated the conflict yourself: "These would be folks who could be so kind and wonderful to one another yet so absolutely inhumane against all others."

    This conflict goes on in our world, today. For an extremist view, look at Guantanamo (and similar). These guards are loyal to their mates, kind to their families, have friends and a life. Normal in every aspect. Apart from one. But I go so far and say that most humans would act similar in a similar situation. Look at "The wave". What goes on in these minds, in these situations? Probably something gets shortened out.

    Yesterday I wrote an absolutely horrible scene about something similar. And I experienced it from two sides. One was the MC who got written, the other the Narrator who wrote. I stalled for a whole week in fear of this scene before making myself write.
    During writing something strange happened. Emotions were set at one-remote. The narrator just put words down, the MC didn't think beyond reacting to his own actions, carried forward by them.

    I think this is what happens in real. Why people can display such diverse behaviours combined in one guy. These others are not people. In war, the very first thing which happens is the vilification of your enemy. If soldiers do not view them as human, as having the right to an equal life, then it is easy to kill them.

    Oh crap, I will stop my rant now. I could go on and on.
     
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  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Such a complex issue. Not something that can be simply explained in a few sentences. However, what you're after I think for your book is a way for people to justify their racist beliefs - and that is somewhat easier.

    We usually tend to think of racism as believing that others are less than us. But the true paradigm and the thing that keeps getting missed, is that it's rooted in the concept of us and them. There's us - and we are the people we trust. And there's them - and they can't be trusted. And in the end it's that simple. We hang out with people like us - let our guard down etc - but look twice and don't mingle with people like them.

    To an extent that's simple human nature and every race has the same outlook to some extent.

    Where it gets dangerous is when we go beyond this to the point where us becomes superior. So this is the Aerian race. The white supremicist god. And the other stereotypical ideals of the other races of the world. Because if we believe we are superior then we believe we should be in control. You don't need to justify it in fact - it's self evident.

    If you asked a white man two or three hundred years ago how he could say he was superior to a black man he would look at you strangely and then probably say something along the lines of "isn't it obvious? I'm white!" In the same way if you asked him why he should be the boss of the house he would look the same way at you and say something along the lines of - ""isn't it obvious. I'm the man!"

    These attitudes by and large weren't examined let alone questioned, and the fact was that they never had to be. The danger, the violence and hatred and potential race wars etc come in when for some reason those beliefs have to be questioned. A black man earns a lot of money - and suddenly he's "uppity". A woman show's competence or education or what have you - and she's some sort of freak. Certainly not marriageable material.

    Don't get me wrong, there were problems and abuses before. A black man challenging a white man's authority? That requires a beating etc. But these were less common when the superiority of the master race was assumed, and often they were done in the strange (to our modern sensibilities) belief that in fact they were doing these things to actually "teach" the poor benighted savages how to behave. (Because they obviously didn't know how to before!)

    But it gets a thousand times worse when the different groups are forced into competition for something like jobs etc because now that quiet almost unassuming attitude of superiority is threatened, and that cuts to the core of who that man is. Once he was superior - now he's threatened. That's a recipe for disaster.

    So to get back to your book, my thought would be to give your humans some sort of reason to believe themselves superior. Some value that they have or believe they have, that others don't. It could be religious - the worship of a particular deity. Maybe it's that they are logical and intelligent. Different skin colour. Height.

    Then if you want conflict and violence - challenge that superior quality whatever it happens to be. Oh no! An elf that's logical and not singing and dancing in the forests! A dwarf that follows our god! A pixie that tells us we're wrong!

    Light touch paper and step well back!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Not sure if this had been touched on yet, but something to keep in mind: not all bigotry are of the same level. You can hate a certain race/ethnicity/religion without wanting to go all Hitler on them, or indeed without even reacting to them with violence at all. You can think you're superior to women without wanting them to only be baby-making factories. You can be a good person in a lot of ways and still think that people of a certain group are beneath you, or are extremely dangerous.

    For some, it's about superiority. For others, it's about fear and paranoia. The latter interests me the most, as it feeds off of something that's natural: our primal fear. It doesn't care about logic, it doesn't care about anything other than "what is dangerous" vs. "what is not". Maybe it's something horrible that happened in the past (ie, getting raped by a black guy for an extreme example), or maybe it's what was heard from the elders (and the elders know best, yes they do). The primal fear feasts off of this and records "people from this group are BAD, so AVOID AT ALL COST!" It's our own survival instincts working against us for all the wrong reasons.

    And the funny thing is, if you're not careful, that paranoia warps your perception of the world, it makes you convinced that this is natural, because it is! Fear is a natural part of the human psyche, it's what kept our ancestors alive, and it's what's keeping us alive. The problem is that it's activating on something wholly illogical. It's taking a small sample and smearing the entire group with the "they are bad" brush.

    For this kind of bigotry, it's less "I hate you because I know I'm superior to you" and more "I hate you because I'm afraid of you, you're dangerous so stay away from me".

    Just some of my two cents.
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    The superiority kind of comes from the same place though. Survival paranoia is like a snake rattling it's tail. A lot of the time it doesn't look as vulnerable as it is.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    True. The survival paranoia tends to also dehumanize the group you're afraid of, make yourself bigger and tougher than they are (even if it's in your own mind.)
     
  12. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    This is a fascinating topic, but unfortunately it's a bit like the blind wise men trying to describe an elephant: one feels its leg and says it's like a tree, one feels its trunk and says its like a snake, one feels its tusk and says it's like a stone, etc. All of the replies above are very interesting, and I think you could really use any of them as a point of departure.

    I would, though, just like to elaborate on what @Feo Takahari said about how racism fits into larger systems of controlling a population. Back during the US Civil War, Jefferson Davis made this point rather explicitly (as a defense of slavery), saying:

    "You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us."

    He's basically saying, explicitly, that poor/marginalized whites have some feeling of superiority, thanks to slavery, that they wouldn't otherwise have. Left unsaid, of course, is that without this feeling of false superiority the poor whites might rise up against the landed aristocracy (like Davis and his pals), and therefore slavery helps Davis and his white friends keep down other white folks, as well as black folks.

    It seems to me that, because racism is so tied up in maintaining the social order (within the races as much as between them), it only really turns violent--like what you're describing--when some part of that social order tries to upend things. Either the subordinate race tries to put itself on an equal footing (like the beat-downs that civil rights protesters got in the 60s, or, you know, nowadays) or a cross-racial coalition tries to overthrow some other facet of the established order (hence the attempted association by conservatives of Communism and the civil rights movement back in the day, as well).

    I guess tl;dr...racism is all about maintaining people "in their place", and only really turns (overtly) violent when people try and leave their established roles in some way. Of course the threat of that violence is omnipresent, and is exercised against individuals on a daily basis, but the sort of organized mass killings that you're talking about, it seems to me, only result as a reaction against some kind of equally large-scale movement for equality.
     
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  13. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I don't think I entirely agree on that first bit though. A lot of the opinions are very similar, and there is somewhat of an established explanation with psychological evolutionary principles like survival paranoia.
     
  14. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    I'm actually rather interested in this thread because I'm kinda wondering the same for my story (except instead of humans, they're birds). Gonna keep an eye on the topic here. ~w~
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Firstly, I agree with pretty much everything @BayView has stated below. If you are not to fall into the trap of viewing the dynamic from within the insular bubble of where you live, then you have to be open to the idea that similar end actions can have very different root causes.

    Completely agreed. The history of engagement of the different people involved has to be taken into account.

    Also agreed. Racism is detestable, but if we are to honestly engage it (or write about it) then we cannot dismiss why the behavior exists by simply moralizing it away as unmentionable. We have to address its core.

    I have a friend with whom I served in the USAF who now works as an English teacher in South Korea. It is becoming known across the internet - and my friend confirms it beyond all shadow of doubt - that racism is rampant in the country. But, it's of a different kind and source than we are accustomed to in the West. S.K. is still very much a homogenous population of only Koreans. If you were born there and grew up there, Koreans are pretty much the only type of person you will come into contact with. People from outside Korea are an academic concept that their culture is only now really learning to deal with given the sudden economic boom their country is enjoying. For them, the comments and behaviors that we view as wildly racist, are merely observations and reactions to what they feel are real things. For the most part they genuinely don't view their behavior as racist.
     
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  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    So, to address your original question, you need to think about what is driving this racism. Was there a war or skirmish when the humans colonized? Resentment for that event would come into play were it present. Do the beings that are looked down upon live in ways that the humans find easy to pigeonhole as less or primitive? Now you have an opening for the humans to be dismissive of the other races which easily and quickly mutates into racism. Are they of a physical form that the humans find hard to engage? Petty and stupid as that may seem, you don't need much more than that. Are there rituals or behaviors in which the other races engage that the humans find easy to moralize as bad? Again, an easy opening.
     
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  17. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Hey guys, thanks for the advice and breakdowns!

    To give more in-depth analysis into the world (as I should've mentioned slavery wasn't an issue in the world), humans only appeared in it ~10,000 years prior and began to invade the parts of the world that weren't inhabited by any empires. They then exterminated the two other races who did have empires (but their immortal kings (whom they don't know are immortal) drove that one to happen through propaganda and faking attacks and other atrocities), and drove all other species who don't have one unified government (as in think many races that lived like native american tribes) to either extinction or to fleeing mankind to lands beyond the mountains. The only three races that stayed behind are goblins, Arraqui and Nevoha.

    From those three:
    1. Goblins are naturally stupid, and don't act on malice so much as their mental capacity is that of children so you can expect violence and bad naturedness.

    2. Arraqui are actually creatures that are driven to act in a protective manner to all races, yet humans in my original draft believed it was all a ruse and that they secretly kill and eat children (and that Arraqui TRIED to foster a goodly image of themselves). My original intent was that humans kill them because man believed in manifest destiny (though I struggle to understand how non-frontiersfolk would think like that, folks who would be far removed from any conflict with such creatures). Aside from one incident, Arraqui have never attacked people other than in self defense or avenge fallen family members. Arraqui tend to travel in pairs and never stay in large groups, it's what's leading to their extinction.

    3. Nevoha, powerful pacifist creatures that actually aid man directly. Humans are at war with a powerful race that, if that race ever got out the world would be doomed, and the Nevoha use their powers to move troops and other necessities of the military (like food and such) to make the eternal war (the war isn't expected to end within the next thousand years) manageable. These creatures also take care of the elderly and all those in need, they're essentially the good samaritan race.

    The last two races are actually beneficial to man, yet humans are very manifest destiny-like at this point. The Nevoha can't actually be killed, although if they were, mankind would be doomed and they know it. Humans don't bother trying to kill Nevoha either, although the military and royalty are always trying to find a way (think middle age fantasy entering renaissance period, though more for architecture, aesthetics and education than art and philosophy).

    Humans don't engage in slavery either, they number around 40 billion (although I won't touch on that number in the book) and don't need slaves. Farmers form a huge percentage of the populace, and they're all located in the south (this is not related to real life south vs north in that regard, the south has the largest amount of land), they're also the ones pushing the boundaries of the human empire to settle all uninhabited lands/inhabited by non-humans. Conscription is in effect, and the conscripts are used for all manners of violence but are primarily shuffled off to the 'eternal war'. Humans actually live at peace with one another and believe in the dream of the superiority of man and that they have the right to take all the land they want because the others aren't human so it's okay to kill them (and here is where I falter because I don't get it, lol).

    One of the parts that I'm worried where people won't suspend disbelief is with the Arraqui, who save wayward children and elderly and yet are still disbelieved in by the very people they saved (they notify others to the location of the Arraqui to have them killed). Another would be humans' unwillingness to see the creatures they interact with as being people like them (the female MC is raised by a human who sees her as a dog for instance).
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Your problem as I see it is that your humans have plenty of direct evidence that two of these races are friendly and will help them. I presume they even talk to one another regularly. Yet have to somehow find it within themselves to believe they are enemies. They aren't threatened by them. They aren't challenged by them in any way. And they are apparently at war with another race or races?

    So based on that I could see them believing themselves superior to these other races - your manifest destiny. But I can't see them engaging in pogroms of destruction against them. Surely some people would stand up and say this is wrong. I mean I can believe myself superior to a dog (not a cat of course!), but I can't see myself and everyone I know engaging in a pogrom to kill all dogs - even when we know there are occasional dog attacks.

    I don't know how you get around that. A religious manifest destiny? But every human would have to be a devout believer in that religion. You could try to argue that all these other races are in someway diseased - plague carriers. Jews were regarded as unclean by the Nazis for example. And lepers have had a long history of persecution. But how long could you maintain that fiction for?

    Your best bet is to give the two races some characteristic / trait that goes hard against what people would consider acceptable. They drink blood perhaps?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  19. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I'm not sure about the Arraqui, but the Nevoha are powerful and mysterious enough to be hated. Humans are fighting and dying against a powerful threat, yet none of the Nevoha are dying. It would be easy for a charismatic human leader to convince people that the Nevoha are playing both sides, helping both the humans and the enemy for their own purposes, and that the only way to end the war is to defeat the Nevoha and thereby take their support away from the enemy.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    There are many ways to establish racism. Often, it's just the fact they are different. Everything else is a lie you tell yourself. Like discrimination against homosexuals. It's really about survival paranoia, with faith thrown in,
     
  21. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    It's not that they're not racist. I'm happy for the humans to be so. But it takes something to go from beyond simply believing yourself to be superior to genocide. And it's that that they obviously don't have. They aren't threatened or challenged in any way by these other races.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    How do you know that? When did they say there was no bad history and/or ongoing political tension? They didn't. And they coudl be motivated by their own bad situation to take out their frustration on a scapegoat, you know, like with Nazi's. So maybe they've got an economic downtime?
     
  23. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Ah, here's the thing, ALL the farmlands are located hundreds/thousands of miles to the south, it's the Nevoha's ability to transport food thousands of miles in a matter of seconds that makes them valuable. Cut the Nevoha out of the picture and the conscripts starve in a matter of days.

    As for Arraqui, for the benefit of the above posters, as humans are following a manifest destiny, at first they were committing genocide against anything not human so as to take their lands. Humanity's population increased from mere hundreds to billions in just five thousand years (looking over my notes and timeline again, it was actually five thousand, not ten), the human kings encouraging overpopulating and taking every scrap of land. Towns, villages and cities dotted the landscape and expanded so quickly that many of them merged. They took down forests and simply killed anything not human because the human kings were pushing the idea of human supremacy as being something to strive for. As humans have essentially struck that ideal place or are only slightly short of it, they've stepped down from their originally militaristic ways and somewhat mellowed out (originally in the first few thousand years, any nest of non-humans were eradicated. Good and evil weren't important things, only the successful supremacy of man).

    Although perhaps what would make sense here is that killing Arraqui is legal but not actively pursued without warrant.
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    So, after reading the above, about all I can think that fits into the scenario is a concerted propaganda machine during the time of human expansion. Because, really, everything I see here is great fodder for why the other races would hate humans and come to think of them in a homogenizes, stereotyped, demonized sort of way. I can totally see why the other races would be racist toward humans, but the other way 'round leaves me questioning, unless there was a structured push for people to believe these things about the other races.

    Also, it's legal to hunt Arraqui, though not an actively pursued endeavor, but the Arraqui still help the humans? This would take some serious writing to explain to me in a way that I would buy.
     
  25. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    There was indeed a concerted effort, originally when humans appeared, their kings (who would become immortal) led an aggressive colonization effort AND purged human settlements/groups who weren't made up of combatants. They led a very spartan like existence, favoring combat ability and seeking to rule the world. The propaganda appeared later when humans began to mellow out and live more peaceably.

    That was another point of the Arraqui, their most natural instinct is to aid others. While humans are not creatures of instinct but ones of reason, the Arraqui are ruled by an instinct to aid. In this, they are many steps above rescue dogs and probably a step or two beneath humans. Humans have the power of free will and can choose to go against any natural inclinations like protecting their children or parents, while Arraqui's instincts tell them they must protect. They have no civilization or society to speak of, and they are a naturally nomadic race that travel in pairs until a child is born, then the parent of the respective sex takes the child to raise it. They live as you would expect of solitary organisms, yet are sentient. Their only interest is in anything they can make/take with them when they go to aid others. They view the races of the world as under their protection. Their species is at risk of extinction at this point in the story, their inability and unwillingness to go against their instinct the strongest cause.....kind of like the dodo.

    But I do admit that the second part I quoted was an issue brought up by my beta readers. I'll have to find a way to explain this well to the reader.
     

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