web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Contradictions


Beres-Louis-Rene

Share Button
Each time I get on an airplane, I am struck by contradictions. We are a species that can take tons of heavy metal and transform it into an instrument of travel, transporting millions of passengers at very high speeds from one place to another. At the same time, we are required to take off our shoes before being allowed to board the plane, not for reasons of civilized comfort, but rather to ensure that we are not about to destroy the aircraft.

Moreover, many of our fellow human beings are forever trying to invent still more ingenious methods of mass killing in the skies. Recently, we were warned of the special dangers that now lie latent in various electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops – devices originally designed not for murder, but for pleasure and convenience.

What has gone wrong for humankind, especially in the overtly death-centered Arab/Islamic world? As a species, how shall we explain the growing gap between technical intelligence and reason?

In the time following 9/11, certain elements continue to reveal with anguish and clarity the delicate veneer of human society. Recalling William Golding’s shipwrecked boys in his novel, Lord Of The Flies, we discover that behind our civilized veneer always lurks a dreadful barbarism.

Reading through the daily newspapers, we unavoidably encounter a world apt to become bloodless, a skeleton, facing war and genocide with little concern about its impending fate. To be sure, our global civilization does make a great deal of noise, but the true point of all this delirium is ultimately to keep man from remembering G-d.

Why? How has so large a portion of our species scandalized its own creation? How many people are potential murderers of those who live beside them? Must every airplane passenger be a suspect terrorist? How have we gone so terribly wrong?

Today, as we look back at a 20th century that can only be described as the Age of Atrocity, there is little cause for optimism. Wherever we look, the corpse remains in fashion. Soon, with the assistance of spreading weapons of mass destruction, especially in Iran and other portions of the Arab/Islamic Middle East, whole nations of corpses will be the rage. Following even a small nuclear war, almost certainly a jihad or “Holy War,” cemeteries the size of entire cities will be needed to bury the dead.

How sad it all is. The appalling silence of good people is absolutely vital to all who would madden and torment. Yet these good people remain generally still, as quiet as they were from 1933 to 1945, content to spend their days impressing the neighbors and preparing their children for prestigious nursery schools.

Yes, of course there are appropriately impassioned reactions to the latest suicide bombings against Israeli civilians; to expanding exterminations in Africa, and even to the accelerating nuclearizations in Iran and North Korea. But the sighs and tears and obligatory exclamations of disbelief are rarely so serious as to interfere with lunch.

How sad, how sad it all is. I write these words as parts of the Arab/Islamic world think excitedly about future wars, some very carefully planned, others still largely unrehearsed. How much treasure, how much science, how much labor and planning, how many centuries have been ransacked to allow this seemingly unstoppable spasm of chemical, biological and nuclear conflict! Frightened by the spectre of personal death and also by the persistently desperate need to belong – how much longer can our fellow humans disguise and project their tortuous private terrors in world politics?

I don’t really know the answers, although I am certainly making some progress in figuring them out. I do know for sure that the universities are essentially unmindful of these important questions, and that they now proceed in their day-to-day business of education with precious little regard for anything that is not marketable, measurable or narrowly profitable. The French philosophers of the 18th-century Age of Reason liked to speak of a siecle des lumieres, a century of light, but most nations in the early 21st century remain mired in the bruising darkness, unaware that we are not here forever, and that we can make ourselves disappear.

As Jews, we understand that memory is always the beginning of redemption. But how shall humanity recall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome – ground to dust and burned into oblivion. Is this our collective human fate? Are we all presently still alive merely to become captives of corrupted knowledge and of an increasingly ominous terminal despair?

Hope remains, as it always must, but it should now sing softly, muted, in an undertone. First we must all learn to understand that the visible Earth is made of ashes, and that ashes have authentic meaning. Through the obscure depths of history, we must now struggle to make out the phantoms of great ships of state, and to learn that the disasters that sent them down were unquestionably of their own making.

We must study history, but no longer in an atmosphere of contrived greatness. The barbarians are not all outside the gates; the inclination to tolerate barbarism lies latent within many, heavy and dangerous. As for politics as usual - the upcoming festival of yet another presidential election is a good example - it can never save us. All ordinary politics is “normally” a distraction; shamelessly besmirching life’s great promise with complacent and purposeless babble. There are exceptions, to be sure, but not enough to grant modern civilization the reprieve it now needs to survive.

The Jewish philosopher Abraham J. Heschel, in his Who Is Man? (1965) lamented that, “The emancipated man is yet to emerge.” Heschel then asked all human beings to raise the following questions wherever they turn: “What is expected of me?” “What is demanded of me?” Indebtedness, an indebtedness to resist mass society, is assumed by Heschel to be part of our very being in the universe.

We are living at a moment in history when it is almost impossible to think of collective human behavior without revulsion. It is essential that camouflage and concealment in the mass give way to what Heschel calls “being challenged in the world,” to creating and sustaining small oases of reverence and achievement.

We humans can build complex machines to fly through the air, but we must also fear that some others will use these aircraft as calculated instruments of murder. The contradictions are stark and dense with implication. It is high time to finally figure them out at the most basic species level. Until we do, even our most informed musings about particular human issues and problems will remain distressingly incomplete.

 

Copyright The Jewish Press 2003, All rights reserved.

 

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for The Jewish Press.
Share Button

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Contradictions”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arrival of self-declared mayor of Slaviansk at town's administrative offices in eastern Ukraine.
Israeli-American Journalist Held Hostage in Ukraine
Latest Indepth Stories
Al-Aksa Mosque was claimed to be the site from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven, but it was built nearly 50 years after Mohammed died.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Israeli police enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s's overall security.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/contradictions/2003/12/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: