11
$\begingroup$

The whole 'prejudice against mutants with powers' thing has been done to death, most notably with X-men. However, I always felt that it was too over the top, the blind hate being excessive and no attempt was made to justify it. The point is sort of lost if the ones who are bigoted are so over the top villains that everyone can say "well, I'm not that evil, so guess I'm fine."

If someone was trying to write a story that used prejudice, but not in an anvilicious manner, I'm wondering what are more reasonable way those who had anti-mutant prejudice would be like.

What forms of prejudice would occur, and more importantly how would those who were prejudice justify them? My belief is that plenty will hate the unknown, but will try to cover their bigotry with all kinds of rationalizations. Most bigotry of today has these rationalizations, ones that are blatantly flawed and just excuses to hate; but still have some tiny kernel of truth that is simply misrepresented in insane ways to justify bigotry.

Today people try claim come minority is 'stupid' because they have less education on average (ignoring that this is due to difficulty of someone from lower socioeconomic standing getting into, and paying for, colleges) or how illegal immigrants are destroying America by not paying taxes (which ignores the fact that illegal immigrants are a tiny fraction of our population and frankly there are not enough to have a significant impact on our economy no matter what their doing), or that all Muslims are terrorist or untrustworthy by pointing to the actions of a tiny group while ignoring that 99.95% of Muslims do not agree with or approve of the group. I'm looking for these sort of flaws rationalizations people would use to 'prove' their bigotry is justified.

For example assume a world where people develop powers, usually around puberty. Some may look different (think Beast from x-men), others may look like normal humans, and those that look different may or may not gain any power (may in fact have only disadvantages from the changed form).

Also presume that the government is reasonable enough to document special powers and register potential lethal powers. Few powers are much more lethal then having a gun, and many aren't lethal at all. People often use their powers as source of employment, people teleport themselves and another as human taxis, weak healing gifts used at hospitals to patch wounds etc. Powers are rare, but not unheard of.

Also, what will be the thoughts of the err..subtly bigoted. Not the ones that put on white robes to burn effigies or stand outside of funerals with colorful signs about how God hates everyone, but the ones who are mostly decent folk and don't have a desire to hurt mutants, but still have some subtler distrust or unease about mutants.

I already know pretty well the religious argument, and the "they're dangerous" argument; as these are the most common ones used in fiction. I'm more interested in the other arguments that might be made. What would an atheist use as a justification to distrust a group of mutants who are certified as not having 'weapons grade' powers?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Any particular reason for it to be an atheist, other than to avoid the religious reason? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 29 '15 at 16:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 just to avoid the religious arguments. I know the religious arguments, so I didn't want anyone to waste time answering what I knew. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Jul 29 '15 at 16:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Along the line of registration... there were a couple of volumes of UK short stories from the early 1990s, published as Temps, that dealt with a world where a substantial fraction of people (~5%?) had some form of paranormal power - but all different, and mostly utterly trivial ("I can move things from one container to another!"). The government paid them all a small stipend to agree to be called up if needed. Bingo, economic motivation for public dislike - "they're scroungers, living off public handouts", etc. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Jul 29 '15 at 17:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Andrew Conservatives hate them because they're scroungers, living off public handouts, liberals hate them because so many get recruited by the army and security services who abuse those powers. "FOI documents today revealed that civil rights leaders personal papers were remotely taken from containers in their homes by a mutant working for MI5" $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 29 '15 at 17:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Reason? Same as they use now against people who sre smart or talented in any way. "Different" trumps any reasoning that it doesn't matter or is even superior. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 29 '15 at 21:51
23
$\begingroup$

So you're looking for the somewhat reasonable arguments for why people might resent people with powers?

For that you'd still probably want to look to the real world. Many people resent smart people. They may benefit directly from their doctor knowing how to diagnose heart disease but they can also resent people for their knowledge, status and income.

Lots of people complain about "Ivory Tower Intellectuals" and make up narratives about how they're disconnected from the real world or don't have real knowledge or understanding.

They may believe that the smart people look down on them in their normality. "thinks he's so high and mighty". They might resent the status that the person gains from their ability. "Just because his daddy sent him to medschool he's making 6 figures while I'm stuck here".

Your mutants are going to have unusual abilities and even if most aren't powerful most are going to be unusual meaning that a large portion of them are likely to be able to pull in a big income whether it's as emergency responders teleporting people to hospital, seeing glimpses of the future that can be used to make the occasional stock trade or similar.

They may even be justified. Many of the people with extra abilities may actually look down on normal people.

People who are unusual in some shared way are also going to naturally form their own groups at which point human ingroup-outgroup behavior kicks in and people start thinking in terms of us and them.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/robbers-cave.html

Some people are going to be put out of work by mutants, judges put out of work by mind reading mutants, steel workers put out of work by mutants resistant to heat etc.

Some mutants are going to abuse their abilities in horrible ways and people are going to judge mutants by the actions of the few who hit the headlines like that one guy with mind control powers who collected his own harem of slaves or the mind-reader who used his power to con people.

There's going to be arguments about your registry, there's going to be accidents where some teenager has a nightmare and burns a bording school to the ground and then there's going to be calls to ban people on that registry from living near vulnerable people even if 90% of the people on it are harmless.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was just writing up a post that referenced that experiment, but you beat me to it. +1 $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Jul 29 '15 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ It should be noted that using future predicting to game the stock market is sort of bad, since you are just draining money from the economy without putting anything in. People do it already though. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Jul 29 '15 at 16:45
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez Not necessarily. Technically you're providing information in the same way that someone who was simply good at predicting using normal information. So for example if you were trading commodity futures if you had a premonition about a major nickle mine being flooded and bought lots of nickle futures you'd incentivize people opening up alternative nickle mines or running plants recovering/recycling nickle which would soften the blow to the economy after the mine floods. Of course it might be more moral to warn people about the mine flooding but hey. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 29 '15 at 17:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez if you have a vision of a companies CEO being found out to be a supervillian and being defeated by superman you'd obviously short their stock in the expectation that the value of the company would go down which would discourage other investors from investing in the company as they could see that the market believed the stock was overvalued. Thus other investors would lose less when the company gets shut down for trying to take over the world. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 29 '15 at 17:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Murphy Hmm, okay. The could also get visions of random stock market fluctuations, and sap them. I guess it would be like investing now, except now they are more skilled. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Jul 29 '15 at 17:42
3
$\begingroup$

Misunderstanding and mistrust of the 'other' are huge in human psyche. Many that have useful talents might be looked on as taking jobs away from others. If you have a small healing power you are more likely to be hired as a nurse or doctor over someone without it. Even if they are a better candidate on all other metrics.

The teleporter can deliver goods and people much faster and easier than any other form of transport. These are just the regular low end powers. Now you add in some very powerful powers, reading minds, or worse changing thoughts, controlling actions. If 1 out of 10,000 with powers have something that can be dangerous or abused to harm or humiliate others, then in the eyes of many all will be grouped together. The ones with only physical changes will be the worst hit, since they are obviously 'one of them'.

You add in economic downturns and people want to blame someone for their ills, mutants are an easy scapegoat, an easy line to make. Even easier than targeting Jews during WWII.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Probably the first place superpowered individuals are going to have problems are at school, with other non-superpowered kids. Puberty is already a dangerous time for kids, but throw in random powers and these individuals are most certainly going to get bullied. At this point, there doesn't need to be a justification: teenagers are irrational. The interesting part is that a childhood of bullying is going to mean that a lot of these mutants are going to have things in common; they'll have a common culture of coping mechanisms, and the lucky ones will find a community of their peers to turn to.

Unfortunately, what started as a comforting place where these children could escape the persecution of others becomes a box from which they can never escape. For the rest of their lives, many of these mutants will define themselves by this group, and surround themselves with other mutants. To them, it just feels right, but to the rest of the world it looks like the mutants think they're better than everyone else, or at least different.

This presents a problem, as now pretty much anything the mutants do to help each other pushes them ever further from the rest of the world. They make a school to bring up mutants in a more accepting environment? "What's wrong with regular schools? Do they think they're better than us?" Some mutant gets shot by a scared cop, and his mutant friends hold a memorial? "Why do they have to make this a mutant issue?" Mutants live in an all-mutant neighborhood to avoid the dirty looks? "It's like they're not even trying to be a part of this community, so why should we treat them like equals?" From here, it's a feedback loop: the mutants have to band together to stave off an ever-more-threatening public, and the public takes every new step by the mutants as an insult. People may not think they're bigoted (they may have a 'mutant friend', maybe they like that one actor who's a mutant), but deep down they've already been indoctrinated into the crowd mentality.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

What would an atheist use as a justification to distrust a group of mutants who are certified as not having 'weapons grade' powers?

Almost any useful power can be weaponized, and restrictions would be called for under the umbrella of Terrorism. With "useful" being defined as "can make a living from".

Teleporters, for example, are extraordinarily dangerous. They can bypass security, stealing money, weapons, or intelligence. They can do the reverse to place untraceable bombs. They can kidnap high value targets, kill people by dropping them from great heights, etc.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

If the government had any reason to initiate a conflict then they could spin the news and have the majority of citizens backing the conflict in two weeks. So lets say a corporation wants access to resources in a country high in mutants. The government will then claim that the mutants are terrorist and need invading, as the intelligence agencies secretly fund and support those terrorist organisations or get their own operatives to pose as terrorists and send provocative videos. In two weeks the country would be ready to invade and seize the resources.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

One theory I’ve heard from otherwise well educated people is the Great Replacement theory. Basically the idea is that some in-group (e.g. the supposed “native people” of a country) is being "replaced" by some other out-group (e.g. immigrants flooding into a country, and having more children than the “natives”), especially when the two groups have different ethnicities or faiths. The core idea is that, if the out-group’s population growth is higher than that of the in-group, they will eventually outnumber the in-group and impose their values and beliefs on the rest, thus “replacing” the in-group’s culture and identity with their own.

In France, this idea is pushed a lot by the far right, notably by writer and far right militant Renaud Camus. The theory is that immigrants in France, and particularly Arab Muslim immigrants (for some reason white immigrants from neighboring countries aren’t as much of an issue), will “invade” the country of “native” white Catholic French people, and because they supposedly reproduce faster (which is false, 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants tend to have about the same average number of children as the general population), they will eventually outnumber the “native” French and impose their own culture and identity (sharia law, the Arab language, etc.). Despite all the evidence contradicting such theories, it’s still very popular among far right groups, and is a classical way to portray the dominant majority as somehow in danger or threatened. It is (apparently) a very compelling justification for racism, and in particular mass expulsion of immigrants and forceful assimilation of minorities by erasing their culture and forcing the “native” in-group culture upon them, so as to remove the perceived existential threat posed by foreign cultures to the in-group’s.

This works especially well with super-mutants, because people like Magneto explicitly claim they intend to replace non-mutants, portraying mutants as the natural next step in the evolution of the human race. This is great kindle for anti-mutant pressure groups who then claim that the very existence of mutants is an existential threat to non-mutants, as they risk being “replaced”, marginalized, and even exterminated by mutants who see non-mutants as less than themselves. So in a world with mutants, I would imagine far-right intellectuals writing many books on the subject, organizing anti-mutant protests and seizing any opportunity to marginalize and assert control of mutants. One of their justifications would be the Great Replacement by mutants of non-mutants, the idea that if we let mutants be, they’ll eventually, necessarily, become so numerous or powerful that they’ll assert themselves as the norm and treat non-mutants as second-rank citizens. This will be portrayed as unavoidable, a natural way for cultures to evolve.

Although the parallels are interesting, this doesn’t apply perfectly to super-mutants. Mutants don’t form a well-defined out-group, because they naturally emerge from the general population rather than emigrate from a foreign country. In fact, before any mutation manifests itself, these individuals are completely indistinguishable from non-mutants, which isn’t the case for children of immigrants (which are distinguishable by e.g. their skin tone, accent, and name). However, neither Arabs nor Muslims form a clear out-group either, since a lot of them have been born and raised within the country and their cultural identity has become a blend of both their heritage and their adopted country’s culture, blurring the lines. The idea that both cultures are fundamentally incompatible is itself an unsubstantiated and racist one. However, as a group becomes more isolated – in particular as a result of discrimination and prejudice against them – they become an out-group, and the racists can then conveniently push their Great Replacement theory to marginalize that out-group even further.

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Replacement_conspiracy_theory

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer. The last argument about why it may not apply is easily 'fixed' by implying that if kids of 'mutants' are more likely to get powers as well. That can throw in some of the transphobia nonsense (where discovering that the person your having sex with has different genitals then expected was supposedly justification for rage/assault against them) as well of being concerned of being 'tricked' by a mutant to have a child and only later finding out your child is mutant, due to their ability to 'pass' in the general population. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Apr 1 at 14:36
-1
$\begingroup$

Prejudice: dislike, hostility, or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

Your world needs no prejudice to justify treating mutants differently.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.