Group Intolerance

     An obvious example of work done to settle my own disquiet is the small set of papers written around the "Jewish question". My own family life was completely free of any antisemitic feeling or indeed racialist tendencies of any kind. But I did meet such prejudices in school and university life. Prejudices of this generic kind have a fatal attraction for the young and immature in spirit. By classifying human­-kind into two groups, a majority (minority) to which you and I belong, and a minority (majority) of others, inferior and excluded, we unite with one another in a cosy and protective world which claims our loyalty and promises us support. It is the same tribal togetherness which I learned in my first year at boarding school, when a whole classful of fifteen‑year‑olds, I among them, turned on an unfortunate prefect sent to keep order, and drove him from the room with sadistically directed riot and disorder.

     Antisemitism in England was the feeblest flicker here and there until Hitler and his disciple Mosley appeared on the scene. When I arrived at the Maudsley in 1931 some of the senior psychiatrists were Jews who distinguished themselves as a group from the rest of us mainly by absenting themselves from duty on Jewish festivah, and by refraining from certain articles at the midday lunch table. While we all liked and respected these colleagues, I think we would have had to be angelic not to be the slightest irked by the self‑sought differentiation. It would seem as if, incomprehensibly, we and our ways were rejected by them. That one should have such feelings at all was degrading. Where did they come from? Why should we, the non‑Jewish, have the guilt of feeling antiscmitic? [1] Were the Jews right, that it was entirely our fault and nothing to do with them? Or were they too to be blamed?

     When I arrived in Nazi Germany the need to come to terms with myself over this issue became a matter of urgency. I solved the problem for the time being by a strong repudiation of all Nazi racist ideas, indeed rejoicing when I was able to proclaim my repudiation in my marriage.

     But the to and fro did not entirely cease then. Even during the war, waged on our side against the Nazi ideology, our minds showed symptoms of the infection from time to time. Somehow one should attempt to discover whether there was any truth in the group differences that were maintained and again denied. Was there any truth in the belief that while the Jews were more intelligent on average than we, they were more neurotic? A little bit of head‑counting I conducted suggested that among enlisted men Jews were several times more likely than non‑Jews to be ad­mitted to our psychiatric centre, and to be discharged from the Army on psychiatric grounds. Then how was this difference to be accounted for? And how was it to be combined with the tenet which I held as an article of faith that group differences are no basis for value judgments? I could not allow that the Jewish race, if it was a "race," could be either chosen or rejected; it was an integral part of humanity, like all other such groups.

     I would not change anything I wrote in Paper 29 [A Biological View on Anti-Semitism], though the same basic problem now shows a different face. In England antisemitism has diminished to vanishing point, and we are bedevilled by a greater bogy. Important group differences based on cultural patterns and language are made conspicuous by having a coloured label attached to them. We cannot deal with the practical problems this causes by pro tending that the differences don't matter, and that the silly mob is being upset by labels. The real differences are the main problem. They have their worth and value, and they must not be played down, even though we are determined that all groups are to be allowed the same status in human dignity. If a harmonious society can be built on heterogeneous communities living alongside one another, it is so much the richer, provided there are the transcultural communications which enable us to enrich our experience and our awareness from this diversity. Communication there must be, and sexual and reproductive exchange must be a part of it.

     But with this added richness, there are added dangers. Group differences divide loyalties and provide a culture medium for hostilities. If these are serious, it may only be possible to deal with them either by separating the groups and reducing contacts or by dissolving group boundaries and mixing all in an inextricably com­pounded mishmash of individuals. The final aim of the assimilative process would be to reduce intra‑pair ties to being no stronger within groups than across groups. This is probably impossible, and very doubtfully desirable. It is unrealistic, however, to suppose that all that is necessary is to pass laws against racial discrimination, and by educative processes to prolong the universal acceptancies of childhood into adult life. Children in infant schools do not form themselves into gangs, coteries, clubs, and mutually exclusive clusters; but let them only grow old enough, and they will do so, however they have been indoctrinated.

     It is probably true that the greater the genetic and cultural homogeneity of a society, the easier it is to allow room for individual extravagances and eccentricities. The greater the genetic and cultural heterogeneity, the greater must be the social pressure for conformism in any highly developed community, especially with a high population density. Extremely intricately involved factors must be interacting with one another in producing concord or discord; and we seem to know practically nothing about them.

[1] Perhaps "we" is quite wrong; perhaps I was the only one. We never discussed it, that I can remember.