If pushed, I think that everyone would admit to some form of unconscious racism at some time of their lives. If an identifiable group of people seek a change in their social class, some resentment from other classes is to be expected.
Similarly, if there is a perception that one such group is more likely to commit crimes, take coveted employment opportunities or change the character of a neighbourhood, then you would reasonably budget for a spot of social tension. You don't need a degree in Sociology to know that race-related issues will come to the fore at such times.
On a more basic level, there are a thousand day-to-day experiences that must tempt everybody to make an assumption about someone based upon their appearance? Nothing in this observation is, of course, intended to condone it, but I'd suggest that an immunity from casual racism of any kind could be a working secular definition of 'saintliness'.
In international relations, I suppose there is a more dangerous equivalent. Take President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent version of Holocaust denial.
Hard to condone, I think you'll agree? But I suppose that, if you are president of a country that has major differences of regional policy and principle with Israel, it is not a huge surprise that you should resent the existence of one of the historical facts that helped bring about the founding of that state.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not making a comparison between the relative saintliness of someone who occasionally doesn't trust someone because their eyes are too close together, and the pretty-fucking-far-from-saintly argument that the holocaust was invented as part of a conspiracy to procure a portion of the fertile crescent.
But here is the question - and it's not a rhetorical one:
President Ahmadinejad's historical revisionism has resonances in Europe and the US. Why is this?
In a previous post, I've speculated that there is a narcisistic quality to some extremism. I used to work for a political magazine that featured Nazi Skinheads on the cover one week. Our circulation took a perceptible leap. I watched 'Downfall' last night on TV, and alongside the absurdity and tragi-comedy of the script, the visual aspect of National Socialism is still compelling.
There is something quite fetishistic about all of that leather, the swastika armbands, the goose-stepping and heel-clicking. But leaving the narcissism / fetishism aside, how does anyone in Europe or the US get fixated on Jews in this way?
I could quite happily get into an informed discussion of religious sectarianism in Northern Ireland, discrimination against black and Asian people in the UK, and so on. But anti-Semitism always stumps me.
As I say, this isn't a rhetorical question.