“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought” said George Orwell, referring to the enormous power of words. We are not fully aware of this, but the truth is that language largely determines our reality. There are words that mark a generation, a social group or a phase of history. These words are the fruit of a collective conscience, expression of a reality, sometimes sublime, sometimes shameful. Therefore, it is never too much to wonder what lies behind the new words that we incorporate into our vocabulary.
The word of the year, a deaf cry that nobody listens to
In 2014 the word of the year, according to the Spanish Foundation Urgente, was “selfie”. That of 2017 “Aporophobia”, a term that may seem new but in reality does not hide anything new, refers to a very old fear that is activated every time we enter a period of economic crisis, those periods that can pull off the better and the worst of being human.
The word Aporophobia was coined by the Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina, who used it in several articles and books. In her works she indicated that, for a mere political question or perhaps in an attempt to save the face, our society often defines “xenophobia” or “racism” the refusal of immigrants or refugees, when in reality this aversion is not due to their foreign status, but the fact that they are poor.
Therefore, the term Aporophobia literally means “rejection or aversion to the poor”. In Greek, the word áporos means “one who has no resources”.
Why is it so important to call things by their real name?
All phobias – homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia – are social pathologies that manifest themselves as hatred towards someone who is perceived as different, but in this case, the refusal is masked, therefore, more difficult to fight.
If the social normative discourse refers to the refusal of foreigners, it leads to misunderstandings. But it is evident that the foreigners with a lot of money are welcomed with open arms and with a red carpet. The neediest are rejected.
This philosopher argues that what worries a large part of the western rich society is poverty in general, but does not have the courage to recognize it, and as usual it comes with foreigners, it is less embarrassing and easier to present these people as a threat to the national identity. In this way the social discourse of hatred is constructed.
George Orwell explained how such discourses can make a breach in our conscience: “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them”.
Obviously, calling something with its name will not make it disappear like magic. Knowing that there is Aporophobia will not eliminate the rejection of the poor, but at least is the first step in becoming aware of the real problem. It is also the best way to take off the social masks.
In any case, we must remember that nobody is too poor to have something to give. In this regard it is worth remembering what Seneca said: “The poor man lacks many things, but the miser lacks everything”.