Gypsies stink and are always stealing. Gays dress and act extravagantly. People from Bratislava are arrogant. People from Košice are alcoholics. A woman who cannot cook will never be a good wife. A man who likes to clean and does not drink beer deserves to be mocked. Immigrants are stealing our jobs. Muslims are terrorists.
These are just a few examples of widespread ideas about specific groups in and outside of Slovakia.
Esperantists themselves are often the victims of stereotypes and prejudices. People often comment: “Only weirdos would learn a useless language that nobody speaks!”, but they don’t consider that the Slovak language is small as well (as are many others).
FROM STEREOTYPES TO PREJUDICES, FROM PREJUDICES TO DISCRIMINATION
A stereotype is a simplified, generalized and exaggerated picture of a group – it is the mind’s way of structurizing the complex world around us.
One can difine prejudices as values of judgement and attitudes which one applies to some people based on such simplified pictures about their groups of belonging, without knowing the facts.
While prejudices and stereotypes can be positive or negative, their results are often negative, because they do not reflect the reality. They limit people, specifically young people, in their self-development and take away their oportunities. Negative pictures create distance and ignorance between different groups in society. When people act according to their prejudices, this leads to discrimination or rejection.
What is the source of prejudices? Is it a bad education system? Is it fake news from the mass media? Is it the fear of an ever-changing life? Is it laziness?
In the current multicultural world full of diversity, we need to become aware of prejudices if we want to exist and function well as a society. More so, the process of globalization makes it necessary to understand that the fight against prejudices is key in the matter of world peace and international security.
To use the words of the UN’s ex-General Secrety Ban Ki-moon: “At a time when prejudice and hatred are all too common, when extremists seek new recruits through incitement and identity-based appeals, when politicians use divisiveness as a strategy to win elections, dialogue can be an antidote.”
In the context of the congress’ theme we want to explore this problem and discover how we, as esperantists and generally as young citizens of the world, can contribute to this dialogue.