Competition, perspective connected
Nothing like scarcity will heighten competition. When scarcity lies in basic resources, competition becomes fiercer. Justifications are thus created, both rational and irrational.
Hardly surprising then is the coincidence in timing of increases in marked antagonism against immigrants - both legal and illegal - and sagging economies. As national belts tighten so have attitudes toward non-mainstream ethnicities, even against those who are citizens.
Popular pushes for tougher enforcement against illegal immigration and more restrictions against legal immigration, both which may be categorized as rational responses to dwindling job markets, are not the only results. Higher incidence of hate crimes and other irrational, prejudicial responses have also been noted as the world's economies shrink.
The phenomenon is hardly limited to the U.S. Europeans struggle with the same issues. A scan of British, German, and other European news stories in 2010 reveals that anti-immigrant sentiment, hate crimes, and anger at local populations of certain ethnicities is as much of a problem abroad as here. What used to be more of a fringe perspective is becoming alarmingly mainstream.
The competitive instinct may be exactly that. Insects illustrate well the way behavior changes when the delicate balance between resources and populations teeters too far in one direction.
Locusts are benign creatures. They cooperate with each other and rarely attack. Yet infamous plagues showed when their populations have overrun, they become extremely aggressive, attacking each other, animals, and crops in uncharacteristic fashion.
Ants can behave similarly. Introduce a different species of ant to a few ants in the vicinity and he is ignored. Introduce the same ant to a large group, and they attack him mercilessly. Take that to human perspectives by comparing crime in large, urban areas to the rates in small towns.
This is not to say that we can't overcome baser instincts. Humans have the gift of more brainpower; we are able to become self-aware, to analyze and evaluate potential outcomes. At the very least we can seek to understand our own motives before determining solutions.
Sholeh Patrick, J.D. is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. E-mail email@example.com