Trapped by the destiny instinct
Within seconds of arriving at Tel Aviv airport I was pulled aside and questioned by officials. As far as I can tell, I was the first and only passenger to be treated this way.
This was compounded by similar treatment at the immigration counter, and the knot in my chest has only grown with each lingering stare by a security guard or IDF member.
In some respects I saw this coming. I’m young, brown and male. I’m ethnically ambiguous and have been projected on to by people as diverse as lovely Portuguese tourists and German racists.
But this fresh experience has reminded me of something I recently read in Factfulness by the late, great Hans Rosling. Something he called the destiny instinct:
The destiny instinct is the idea that innate characteristics determine the destinies of people, countries, religions, or cultures. It’s the idea that things are as they are for ineluctable, inescapable reasons: they have always been this way and will never change.
All airport security dude wanted to know was where my passport was from and who my parents were. After finding the white woman who had previously passed him was my mother, my passport is Australian, and my father’s name is a rather banal Christopher (this was an actual question), he summarily lost interest.
Here’s what I haven’t been able to let go since – not one question was about something I can control. My skin is sufficient to condemn me. My white mother and the historical accident of my Australian birth were enough to earn a reprieve.
There were no questions about my interest in Israel, education, career, religion, who I associate with, or anything else over which I actually have some power.
His line of questioning betrays thinking trapped by poor assumptions. In essence, that there is something about me that can only be discerned by looking at my parents. That birth is a straight jacket and identities are linear.
This is the ultimate in nature over nurture.
I’m going to stop now, before I extrapolate too far from this one data point. Except, it isn’t really just one is it? I was put on the defensive from the moment I arrived. Told that there is something suspicious not in who I am, but where and who I come from.
And now this is all I can see in the eyes of everyone I look at. Even if its all in my head, I too have become trapped by the destiny instinct.