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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

We’re Turning Japanese Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s an article of American faith that Japan is an incredibly strange place. The world has been mapped and GPS’ed to death ruining much of the thrill of discovery. There probably aren’t any hidden cities with remnants of lost civilizations lurking in the deserts of Africa or the jungles of South America. That just leaves the land of the rising sun as the X on the map, the strange place that suggests that the world that we know all too well, might still be odder than we can imagine.But Japan isn’t really all that strange. We are.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track.

Japan isn’t really a technocratic wonderland. It has a few robot cafes, but not a lot of ATMs. Its tech companies got by on Western products that initially never caught on in the West, like the Walkman and the tax machine. There’s not much of a digital economy and the computer isn’t all that ubiquitous. Daily life for the Japanese these days is usually lower tech than it is for Americans or Europeans.

It’s not as bad as some Gulf Sheikdom where desert Bedouins fire off assault rifles in view of the glittering new skyscrapers whose waste products have to be manually removed from the building, but the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there, as it is in Russia.

Like Russia, Japan tried to beat us. Unlike Russia it did, only to stop halfway there and wonder what the whole point was.

And that’s the problem. There is no point.

American technocrats talk incessantly of beating China. But what is it that we’re supposed to beat China to? The largest pile of debt? The biggest collection of light rail and solar panel plans? The lowest birth rate and the most homeless farmers? The greatest disastrous government projects?

A country should move toward the future. But it should have a goal that it’s moving toward and a sense of connection with its past values.

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.Marriage and children are more extinct in Japan than they are here. They are more extinct in Europe than they are here. And China is still struggling with a bigger social fallout headed its way.Japanese modernism has made for a conservative society of the elderly. That is what Europe nearly had a few decades ago and it is what it would have had if it hadn’t overfilled its cities with a tide of immigrants. Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion only because of its dislike for immigration. If not for that, Japan really would have no future the way that the European countries which have taken in the most immigrants have traded their past and their future for the present.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It’s far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it’s less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences than the youth-worshiping voting cultures of America and Europe. Japanese political culture may be lunatic, but even they wouldn’t have elected a Barack Obama. The prospect of an American Shinzō Abe backed by a right-wing coalition winning are poor. The last time Americans voted for a conservative message was 1980 and even Reagan’s message was leavened by liberal ideas. A genuinely conservative resurgence in which the type of politician who might have run for office in 1922 could become president on a similar platform is nearly inconceivable.

Japan is a long way from fixing itself. As a country and a society, it’s still peering into the abyss.

The cultural eccentricities that Americans fixate on come from a society of young men unmoored from normal human connections, a decline of national values and an obsession with trivial consumerism– all commonplace elements in postmodern American and European life. The difference is that Japan got there first.

The loonier elements of American pop subcultures were predated by Japan. Indeed the latter are often influenced by the former. The same holds true with petty plastic surgeries, a truly epic plague among Asia’s newly rich, and some of the more ridiculous accessories for living a life with no meaning or human companionship, but we’re all going to the same place. Just not at the exact same speed.

The common problem is that our journey has no meaning. The postmodern world of robots, fast trains and handheld computers is shiny, but not meaningful. It’s less meaningful than the earlier technological achievements that saved lives and made ordinary prosperity possible.

We can go fast, but no matter how fast we go, we seem to keep slowing down. That’s what Japan found out. Its decline was social. And social decline translates into a technological decline, because technological innovation is powered by a society, not some soulless force of modernism. Innovation must have goals. And those goals must be more than mere technology. They must emerge from some deeper purpose.

American innovation hasn’t halted entirely because its tech culture had enough purpose to make the latest set of digital revolutions possible. But each revolution has slowed down, becoming another shopping mall with microprocessors, replicating the Japanese problem. And at some point we’ll run out of revolutions and be left with the skeleton of a digital shopping mall that is no longer anything but a place to buy more things.

A healthy culture transmits values. When it stops doing that, it dies. When the values no longer seem to be applicable, than the culture hunts around for new values, it undergoes a period of confusion while its forward motion slows down. That is where Japan is now. It’s where America has arrived.

The values of the left, that are present in both Japan and America, are a cultural suicide pact.The left pretends to add a spiritual dimension to modernism. It has been peddling that lie for two centuries and it has yet to deliver. In countries where it wielded full control, there was neither modernism nor values. Russia destroyed the economic, technological and spiritual potential of generations of its people. China is trying to use Communist values to avoid turning into another Japan, not realizing that those are little better than the collective obligations with which Japan rushed into the future.

As America gazes at the ruins of Detroit and the insanity spewed forth by a digital frontier that increasingly looks every bit as eccentric and toxic as anything coming out of Japan, it is all too clear that we are Japan. There is no unique insanity in East, only a common disintegration of values in the East and the West.

Asia and Europe have both witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. It isn’t technology that destroys civilizations, but a lack of values.To understand where Japan and Europe are, imagine an America decaying with no new ideas, losing its religion and values, losing its economy and finally its sanity, becoming coldly conformist and inhuman, while its families fall apart and its youth retreats into their own makeshift worlds. That reality is closer to home than we might like to think.America is destroying its values on an industrial scale. In a post-industrial nation, the destruction of values has become one of its chief industries. And while there is value in challenging values, in the conflict and clash of ideas, that requires that values go on existing, or there is no longer anything to challenge. And then there is nothing left but emptiness and madness.

Another stupid product from an infomercial. Another ridiculous politician. Another protest. Another indicator of economic decline. Another day, week, month, year of empty nothingness.

That is the modern abyss. And Japan is waiting for us there.

Daniel Greenfield

St. Peter and the Reform Movement

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

The three articles we ran at the end of last week regarding the notion that the Reform movement now ordains “rabbis” who are not Jewish resulted in a huge explosion of responses, and that’s always a good thing, even if in the process yours truly came across as a big meanie, a racist, an extremist, a divider, a hater, and someone who contradicts the very spirit of the month of Elul.

There is a midrash (homily) about Shimon Kefa, who was none other than Peter the Rock, the first Christian pope. Jewish sources have been doing battle over the veracity of this story since at least the time of Rashi and the Machzor Vitri (earliest cited Jewish prayer book), in the 11th and 12th centuries. There are at least four versions of the same midrash, which vary on specifics, but relate essentially the same story:

The Christians were persecuting Jews and encouraging Jews to join their fold, which they did in droves. The sages were distraught about this, until one of them, a sage by the name of Shimon Kefa (rock in Aramaic) volunteered to go as a Trojan horse into the Christians’ camp and change Christianity forever so it would not look Jewish.

He received the sages’ blessings and went to carry out his mission. In a major Christian enclave, he told the gathered that he is the messenger of Jesus. To prove this, he performed some of the miracles Jesus was famous for: healed a leper and resurrected a dead person. When they were convinced he was truly a messenger of their departed master, he started instructing them—and here each version differs on what he told them to do, except that they all emphasize not attacking Jews any more.

Other than persuading the Christians to leave the Jews alone, in several versions Shimon Kefa—Peter—tells them to move the day of rest to Sunday, to eat all the animals and all the blood they wish, and not to circumcise their sons. And so, in short order, the gap between Christianity and Judaism became so wide, no one in his right mind would suggest they’re the same religion.

What was is it about Christianity that so disturbed the sages? After all, Christians to this day embrace many of the Torah commandments and rely on Biblical verses for practically everything they do and say. Why couldn’t the sages say, well, it’s true that Christianity is not exactly Orthodox Judaism (a 19th century term which I doubt they were familiar with), but at least it keeps them away from paganism.

Because it doesn’t. By placing man at the center of the story, even when it is a god who becomes man through congress with a mortal woman, Christianity is paganism 2.0, promoting the same self-centered ideas but using Biblical verses in the process.

I’m well aware of the scant few sources in the Talmud which defend Christianity as an essentially monotheistic religion which employs pagan concepts. I’m not a scholar and this is not a scholarly article, so I’ll cut to the chase: according to Jewish law, a Jew is not allowed inside a Christian church where Christian icons and symbols are on display (but we are permitted to enter a mosque and even pray—Jewish prayers—there).

Our modern poskim, most notably Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, have already prohibited Religious Jews to set foot in a Reform temple. Rabbi Feinstein rules that Conservative and Reform temples are the same as places of idol worship with respect to both of the following rabbinical notions (source: Institute for Dayanim):

1. Since praying together with a Conservative or Reform congregation is forbidden, the need to avoid the appearance of worshipping in a prohibited manner is applicable to these temples.

2. Similarly, the prohibition on being in the vicinity of a place designated for people with heretical beliefs applies equally to idol worshippers and to Jews who do not accept the fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism. (Orthodox Judaism itself has a broad spectrum of beliefs. For a working definition of Orthodox Judaism we can use the thirteen fundamentals of the Rambam [Maimonides]. All streams of Orthodoxy accept the thirteen fundamentals of Judaism of the Rambam as correct. Anyone deviating from those principles is considered a kofer-heretic).

(There are some who make a distinction between the Conservative and the Reform, in that while the Reform completely removed themselves from rabbinical halacha, the Conservative still consider halacha as their legally binding law, they just interpret it differently. Not my place to decide that one.)

Before we continue, I want you to understand that these supposedly harsh and firm demands, as presented by Maimonides, are broad enough to include a huge variety of Jewish congregations, all the way from ultra-Haredim in the neighborhood of Geula in Jerusalem, to the most left-wing shuls in hip America. They all manage to find themselves inside this tent, and quite comfortably and happily at that (OK, some not as happily as others, can’t win everything).

There is only one fundamental, unwavering rule at the core of all these varied congregations: we all connect to God through the commandments, and we all do this in line with rabbinical interpretation.

This is the core difference between the monotheistic and the pagan: in our tradition, we do the will of God, in theirs, it’s the god who does their will.

Their god provides the beauty of a great singer, the loving kindness of a great teacher, the spiritual wonder of the seeker, the helping hand to the needy, the diversity of all of mankind, the generosity of the human spirit – there are so many incredible things their god does for them. It’s truly lovely, and as a recent comment suggested on one of our articles: “Yori Yanover, listen to the singing one more time. Only THIS time, listen with your 2,000 year old ‘wandering Jew’ neshamah, and NOT with your intellect.”

And that is the essence of paganism. A Jewish relationship with God is anchored in a covenant, a legal document the essence of which we recite twice a day, every day, in the Sh’ma. We accept the yoke of mitzvot and in return we have a relationship with God, we get to be alive and to have national and personal continuity.

It’s wonderful when this relationship results in a lot of beauty and personal satisfaction – why the heck not. But it is there also when He in His wisdom kills us en masse, kills our babies, ravages our fields, inflicts cancer and boils on us – we still hold on to the covenant, and we work hard to love Him, especially when He in His wisdom makes it so difficult.

We don’t do this out of an emotional or spiritual yearning – those are wonderful aspects of our faith, but not the essence of our religion. We do this out of a commitment to the mitzvot as a clear expression of the Will of God. we don’t need to imagine what would God want of us – He came down on Mount Sinai and told us specifically, and empowered our sages to teach us the meaning of His words.

And so, we insist that Jews be made aware that only our places of prayer and study are sanctioned by our Jewish tradition, and that non-Orthodox places are not – despite all the sometimes incredible beauty emanating from them.

An ugly etrog is still an etrog, but a beautiful lemon is never an etrog.

Yori Yanover

Who Needs the Family

Monday, February 25th, 2013

For most of human history the family was the basic social unit of the species. Family was a way of passing down genes, beliefs and wealth. It was a retirement plan that you paid into by keeping your children alive long enough for them to grow up and support you. It allowed the individual to pass on his ideas to people who would care about them because they were part of their heritage. Family was a collective endeavor, small enough to reflect the individual. It was a practical and philosophical aim that made life beautiful and meaningful.

But who really needs it anymore?

The basic practical functions of the family have been replaced by the nanny state. It is the nanny that takes over the care and teaching of the child as soon as possible. And when their parents grow old, it is that same nanny that oversees their care and death.

Governments have come to serve as undying guardians of human society, ushering new life into the world and ushering old life out of it. New parents are as likely to turn to the government for help as they are to their extended family. When their child is old enough to look around for a career, it is the government that they expect to provide the education and the jobs. And when they grow old, the child can keep on working at his government job and paying off his student loans knowing that the government will be there to make all the difficult and expensive decisions about their care.

With all that taken care of, who needs parents or children anyway?

People once had children to pass on wealth, genes and beliefs. But wealth is now thought to be the collective property of society, which is taxed to death or often just given away on some quixotic quest to stamp out disease in Africa or illiteracy in Antarctica. The thought of passing on genes carries with it a tinge of racism for the European and European-descended populations whose birth rates are dropping, but raises no such concerns for minority groups with high birth rates. That only leaves beliefs, which are also thought to be the collective property of the society and the state. Public education, mandatory in some countries, means that the best way to reproduce your beliefs is not to have children, but to get a job as a teacher.

The family has been displaced and replaced. In some places it is even repressed. Like an old station wagon, it idles by the side of the road, while its former ownersdrive away in their new sleek electric government compact car built for two or a micro-car built for one into a wonderful childless future of unfunded pensions, social collapse and death panels.

Marriage rates have dropped sharply. Not only is divorce more commonplace, but many couples aren’t even bothering to marry at all. And many of those who do marry don’t bother having children. Childfree is the new Zero Population Growth, not on behalf of the planet, but on behalf of the self. Modern society has made the price of children extremely expensive and many couples have found it easier to end the family with their own deaths.

The future of the West has been aborted or never conceived. It has been broken up, divorced and never married.

The state gave its citizens the impression that it could fulfill all the functions of a family far better than the real thing. Its appeal was the power of bigness, the stability of a system too big to fail and rooms full of experts working night and day to improve on the fallible family. With its vast industrial social services bureaucracy, the state would be able to provide a more stable social safety net, save everyone money on health care, educate their children, care for their elders, perpetuate their values, protect their income, safeguard their way of life and usher in a bright new future.

Unfortunately not only can’t the state do any of these things better than the family, but it can’t do them at all without the family. And the family has collapsed, falling apart into disassociated lonely individuals, looking for their father and mother, their children and their future, in the great soulless body of the state.

Daniel Greenfield

Herman Cain Threatening Georgia Senator Chambliss in Poll

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss is theoretically very vulnerable to a primary challenger in 2014, and his fate will depend on whether anyone is interested in taking him and take advantage of that vulnerability, Public Policy Polling reported on Tuesday.

PPP found that a mere 38% of Republican primary voters say they want Chambliss to be their nominee next year, compared to 43% who would prefer someone more conservative.

Chambliss is extremely weak with Republicans describing themselves as “very conservative” – 61% of those would like to replace him, compared to only 23% who would like to see him nominated again. He would trail Cain 68/19 with that group of voters.

By far and away the Republican who would pose the greatest threat to Chambliss in a primary, if he changed his mind about running, is Herman Cain. Cain would lead Chambliss 50-36 in a hypothetical match up. Cain has a 68/20 favorability rating with GOP primary voters, which compares favorably to Chambliss’ 45/36 approval spread.

Jewish Press News Briefs

The Problem with Haredi Magazines

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Mishpacha and Ami Magazines are competitors. They both seek to serve the same populations. They are virtually identical in Hashkafa – which is decidedly Charedi. How Charedi are they? Well neither of them will show a picture of a woman no matter how Tzanua (modestly dressed) she is. Even if she were wearing a Burka. That’s pretty Charedi.

At the same time they both seek as broad-based an Orthodox readership as they can find. Thus they will feature very positive articles on both the Satmar Rebbe and Rav Hershel Shachter of Yeshiva University.

While I believe they are both absolutely wrong in excluding pictures of Tzanua women – I applaud them for their broad based approach to Orthodoxy. There are many informative articles and weekly columns by talented writers in both magazines. But all is not rosy. I often find things in these magazines which are truly maddening. This week both magazines had articles like that.

In what was an otherwise very positive story in Ami about how the Jewish community’s extraordinary efforts in alleviating the pain of those who have suffered – and are still suffering – the after effects of Superstorm Sandy, there was one little blurb that bothered me. It read as follows: “The Rosh Yeshiva gave us a Psak to help anyone who asked.”

On the surface that sounds wonderful. The Rosh Yeshiva is Rav Reuven Feinstein. He of course said the right thing. Now the Yeshiva students who were working so hard helping their fellow Jews could also help to alleviate the plight of non Jews suffering the same fate.

Really? They had to ask a Shaila? Did they think that if a non Jew desperate for some help – they should tell him, “No”? “Sorry, we can’t help you”? “We can only help Jews”?

That too is a Shaila? What kind of Chinuch do these young Jewish students get that causes them to hesitate in feeding a fellow human being in need? The implication is obvious. Had they not been able to ask a Shaila and a non Jew desperate for food – saw these boys handing ou t food and asked for some himself, they may very well have refused them until they asked a Shaila. Can there be a greater Chilul HaShem than that?

Now I don’t know if they didn’t “shoot first and ask questions later”. Maybe they did feed the needy non Jew and merely wondered if they were doing the right thing. But even that is ridiculous. A fellow human being needs food to survive – you give it to him. Did they think God would punish them for doing so?

There is something terribly wrong with Charedi Jewish education if it does not make obvious the absolute requirement to help your fellow man in these circumstances.

On a completely different subject – this week’s column in Mishpacha by Eitan Kobre really got me upset. In yet another in what seems to be a never ending assault on the President by right wing pundits, Mr. Kobre goes to town on how stupid the black community in Washington DC is for voting for the President.

I am going to stop short of calling Mr. Kobre a racist. I don’t think he is. After all in using economist Thomas Sowell – a black man – to bolster his opinion it is kind of hard to say that he is prejudiced against black people.

But still there does seem to be a subtle prejudice that is hard to prove. He is not castigating all black people. Just those who voted for the President. Which – if I recall correctly – was well over 90%. He attributes this to voting racial pride rather than voting for what’s good for you. As an example of that he points to the fact that Republicans advocate vouchers which – where they have been used – has benefited the black community immensely. I believe that many black people endorse vouchers. And yet they voted for a President that will never implement them and instead will continue funneling money into the black hole of the public school system.

But is it really so surprising that people will vote their racial or ethnic pride – choosing that over someone whose substantive positions have proven to be more beneficial to them? How many Jews vote for the Jewish candidate because he is Jewish? Are Jews stupid too? Besides – are vouchers the only thing to base one’s vote upon?

To be clear, I have no problem with Mr. Kobre’s arch conservative politics. Although I am more of a centrist than a political conservative, I tend to lean a bit more toward the conservative approach. So politically we are not that far apart.

But to bash the President as if he were some sort of socialist “Robin Hood” interested in taking from the rich via taxes and giving it away to the poor via an enormous increase in entitlement programs – is taking the criticism to a new low. Mr. Kobre may not have used those terms in his column. But that is clearly how he thinks of the President. (Not that he’s alone. As I said Thomas Sowell agrees with him. As do many conservative pundits. In fact Rush Limbaugh makes Mr. Kobre look liberal by comparison.)

I do not recall this kind of criticism made against any other Democratic President. Nor even against a democratic candidate for President. Is he the most left leaning President or Presidential candidate in recent history? You would think he was the second coming of Karl Marx if one looks at the sheer venom of some critics. While I wouldn’t go that far with Mr. Kobre’s criticism, there does seem to be an inordinate amount of dislike for the man that goes beyond politics.

Like I said, I do not accuse Mr. Kobre of being a racist. And yet he goes to extraordinary lengths to foment hatred of the man by the Jewish people. Why else did he once again make reference to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright?! What was his point here other than to somehow connect the President to Wright’s rabid anti Israel stance?

And all this in the face of the President’s unqualified support of Israel’s bombing raids in Gaza. I wonder how Reverend Wright characterized it?

Adding insult to injury – that Mr. Kobre wrote this article and that Mishpacha published it before there was a cease fire and while Hamas was still firing rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem make it even more egregious. Especially since it was the Obama administration’s financial investment in the Iron Dome Defense system which prevented the kind of carnage that would surely have ensued had it not been there! If anything Mr. Kobre should be thanking the president profusely instead of calling black people stupid for voting for him.

Come on Eytan. You can do better than that!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

The Jewish and Post-Jewish Vote

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Last Shabbat I sat at a table in my local synagogue while a group of men argued over the election. They weren’t arguing over who they should vote for, they were arguing over just how bad Obama was, their voices rising and falling as they named one detail after another. They weren’t necessarily Republicans, but they were politically conservative, as my community and as almost all of the traditional Jewish communities in America are.

This is how I grew up, and while for many, the Liberal Jew in the norm, for me he remains a strange creature, a shipwrecked sailor marooned on a liberal desert island for a century who no longer knows who he is anymore.

There is a great deal of talk about the Jewish vote in this and every election. Probably more talk than it merits. But let us clarify what we are talking about when we talk about the Jewish vote. As with the Catholic vote and the vote of every religious group, there are the votes of those who believe in the religion and the votes of those who do not. With the Jews, who are not only a religion, but a race and an ethnicity, there is the Jewish vote and the post-Jewish vote.

Or to put it another way; there are Jews and there are shipwrecked Jews.

American Jews can be broken down roughly into the products of three periods of immigration. The first began with Columbus’ Jewish crew members and continued down to the mid 19th Century bringing primarily Spanish Jews and then German Jews to the American Colonies and later the United States.

This is the immigration that produced famous American Jews like Asser Levy, the first Jew to win the right to bear arms in defense of the place that would later become New York, Uriah P. Levy, a Navy Commodore who helped preserve Monticello,Judah P. Benjamin, the Secretary of State for the Confederacy and Emma Lazarus, whose famous poem has become synonymous with the Statue of Liberty.

This group was roughly split between Republicans and Democrats; though at the time those party identifiers didn’t have the same conservative and liberal signifiers that they do today.

The next wave of immigration was primarily made up of Jewish refugees from Russia and Eastern Europe escaping the meltdown of Czarism. They arrived mostly after the Civil War, in time for the Unionist experiment that created centralized educational systems and the “melting pot” that was meant to efficiently transform the United States of America into a modern republic.

This second wave turned rigidly Democratic under the rough tutelage of the urban political machine and the gentler tutelage of an educational system meant to turn Jewish, Irish and Italian immigrants into proper Americans– and to the people running the melting pot machine, Americanism meant Liberalism. They didn’t always succeed, but they succeeded well enough to build an immigrant electorate for the Democratic Party.

The Liberal Jew was a product of that melting pot which stripped him of his cultural identity and his religion, leaving behind a hole that he filled with the messianism of liberal politics. The graduates of the melting pot were economically successful and well educated, but they had lost their sense of self. Looking for that sense of self, they became devout attendees of progressive politics, filling the hole with bitter greenie humor that poked fun at everything, especially themselves.

American Jewish identity became liberal identity, and the massive cultural hole was filled with humor which has found its natural end in the degraded vaudeville of Woody Allen and Larry David or the bitter frustrations of a Philip Roth. The trinity of FDR, JFK and Obama became their faith and their identity became a series of in-jokes about eating Chinese food on Christmas. Like the Spanish Jewish Conversos, they had a secret identity but they no longer knew what the secret was.

This second wave of immigration would define American Jewish identity. It is the invariable focus of American Jewish literature and the PBS specials on the American Jewish journey that run before major Jewish holidays. It is also on the way out for the simple reason that such an identity is in no shape to be passed on to the next generation. The copying errors of cultural DNA in such bad shape mean that each generation ends up knowing less about who it is than the last one. And that means each generation is also less likely to be Jewish and more likely to be liberal.

The second wave’s DNA copying errors has produced a lot of abortion and gay rights activists, it hasn’t produced a lot of children. Like all cultural mistakes, Liberal Judaism is wiping itself out. It leaves behind a lot of jokes, some inventive pop products that defined 20th Century Americana and some Unitarians with Jewish roots who fast for Gaza and denounce Israel.

Second wave liberal Jews had become Post-Jews within a Post-American ideology. And though they still identify as Jewish, what they mostly are is an echo, a faint snatch of song now rendered illegible, a lost people slipping away into the shadows.

The third wave of Jewish immigration began shortly before World War II and continues into the present day. It consists of the Jewish communities of Europe who fled Nazi persecution, Russian Jews who fled Communist persecution and Jews from the Middle East who fled Muslim persecution.

This third wave is largely conservative, and while the same could have been said of the second wave  arriving in 1882 or 1914, the third wave came as communities, and have largely been able to transplant their culture and religion to the United States.

In 1892, Jews came to the United States as cheap labor. In 1946 they came with the remnants of communities that they were determined to rebuild. While the second wave fled to the suburbs, they stuck it out in the cities building up integrated communities that remained true to their culture and their religion. These communities were primarily concerned with the education of their children.

This is not true of the entire third wave, just as not everything that I have said is true of the entire second wave. But largely the second wave operated on a progressive impulse, while the third wave operated on a traditionalist impulse. The second wave was concerned with leaving behind the old ways, while the third wave tried to preserve them, reconstructing the ashes of the thriving Jewish communities of Russia, Poland, Syria, Egypt and Iran in the United States.

The second wave adapted, and lost their identity. The third wave adapted and kept their identity. The second wave had few children and even fewer Jewish children. The third wave had a great many children and viewed having children as a cultural and religious duty. And through the force of simple demographics, theirs is the future. 74 percent of Jewish children in New York are Orthodox. Ten years from now, the New York Jewish vote will be as reliably Republican as it was once Democrat.

The third wave is innately conservative. Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe and Syria are as reliably conservative, as second wave Jewish college educated suburbanites were liberal, and Russian refugees from Communism are as conservative as Cubans refugees from Communism. All three groups have an instinctive distaste and distrust for the rhetoric of progressivism. They have lost too much not to be traditionalists. Their identity is all that they have.

Second wave liberal Jews is what most people think of when they think of American Jews, but the relevance and demographic sway of that group is dimming. The new American Jew can be found in the working class sections of New York and he is an Orthodox small businessman poring over boxes of t-shirts or toasters in a hole in the wall in Brooklyn, he is a Syrian Jew clearing land on a new lot and an Israeli getting another moving company off the ground and a Russian immigrant driving a cab.

This is the new face of the American Jew and it will be the definitive one for some time to come. The Post-Jewish vote of the Liberal Post-American Post-Jew is on the way out and the Jewish vote is already coming into play in Brooklyn where Republicans are beginning to win Jewish districts.

The new American Jew is not overly committed to political parties, but to values. He believes that small business should be able to operate without government interference, he believes that families raise children, not governments, and he distrusts government in general. The messianic impulse of progressivism holds little appeal for him. He does not feel guilt over race relations and is not moved by appeals to abortion. He has no use for gay marriage and while, like a lot of working class people, he feels some sympathy for unions, he does not like public sector unions who seem to have it made.

Unlike his liberal second wave predecessors, he believes in G-d, not as some abstract inspiration, but as an actual reality. Values to him are objective, right and wrong is black and white, and family is all that matters. Government to him exists to crack down on criminals and on foreign invaders, he does believe that the country can kill its way to a solution and dismisses politicians who think it can’t.

He is a man or woman of common sense and what his common sense tells him is to distrust glibness and to trust results. He doesn’t want to lower the oceans or worship at the feet of a political messiah. He isn’t looking for a religion to replace his religion, he doesn’t want a savior, he wants a future for his family. He is the new American Jew and his vote, the vote of the third wave is the vote of the Jewish future.

Daniel Greenfield

The Graveyard of Neoconservatism

Friday, September 21st, 2012

While Maureen Dowd warns that the neo-conservatives are coming back, an event surely worse than the siege of American embassies and the murder of American ambassadors, she can rest her head easy on that account. The neo-conservatives died  in the siege of Benghazi, much like Mubarak they are still around, but completely irrelevant in the way that most ideas are once they lose their meaning.

Dowd would know better than to celebrate the death of neo-conservativism, if she understood what that really meant, beyond the shadowy menace that her dinner party guests tell her about before the main course is served.

In the Middle East, neo-conservatives offered a middle ground between appeasement and belligerence that blended Cold War politics and Third World democracy outreach. The ideas that made so much sense when former liberals were confronting the nightmarish repressive powers of the Soviet Union met their end in the Middle East for reasons that neither they nor their ideological enemies can explain.

Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq’s ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.

The Baath Party, unlike the Bolsheviks, was not an external ideology imposed on the Iraqis. Like most regional Socialist movements, its ideology was a fig leaf for tyranny and tribal alliances. Saddam was a cheap mass murdering thug with dreams of even bigger empires and atrocities. Removing him made a certain amount of geopolitical sense, but replacing him with purple fingers and democratic elections was never going to lead to a better Iraq.

Many neo-conservatives backed Obama’s own democracy experiments in the Arab Spring and his invasion of Libya because they seemed to resemble their own ideas. But Obama had actually reached back for Carter’s Green Belt playbook with the goal of defusing Islamic terrorism by giving their supposedly more moderate Islamist cousins what they wanted– their own countries to play with.

This wasn’t neo-conservatism, though it looked a lot like it, enough that Maureen Dowd should have blushed before beginning a tirade about the neo-conservative threat, it was appeasement politics dressed up in the same old democracy colors. The tyrants we were overthrowing were men who had made deals with us, and who were for the most part fairly benign by the standards of the region. That is what made them easy targets for the knife in the bag and the Islamist mob in the square.

By the light of burning embassies, it is somewhat redundant to even mention that this policy failed. Turning Islamists into rulers has upgraded their “extreme” wings from terrorists to militias and the September 11 attacks were an announcement that everyone, except the idiots in Washington DC still wailing about the video, understood. When armed militias and mobs besiege your embassies and plant their flags on your walls, it’s a territorial claim, not a protest rally about a dead pedophile.

The Arab Spring was the red line of democracy promotion. It pulled the trigger that Condoleezza Rice had been nervous about pulling and it did it to disastrous effect. And aside from the death toll, what all that noise really means is that neo-conservatism of the democracy intervention flavor is dead. The only people who still believe that local democracy works also believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is misunderstood and that we need to kill the Bill of Rights to appease Muslims. These are not, for the most part, neo-conservatives, they are the sort of appeasers who show up at Maureen Dowd’s dinner parties and at White House press conferences.

The death of neo-conservatism, unmourned as it may be, leaves few options between belligerence and appeasement. The neo-conservatives held out hope for a more rational order that fused the classic idealism of FDR, Ike and JFK as a formula for a foreign policy that would allow American to transform its enemies, rather than bombing them to bits.

That was why so many Democrats, especially in the most conservative Senate, got on board the George W. Bush express. Much as the left’s revisionist history might try to paint Bush as a wacky cowboy off on a shooting spree, his policy was an extension of what Clinton had done, and before liberal political calculation got in the way, had brought the senior leadership of the Democratic Party on board… not to mention Tony Blair.

What we are witnessing is the death of any such middle ground in the Middle East’s graveyard of idealism. The future will, as it turns out, not be one of purple fingers and people cheerfully accepting elections as a means of political representation, rather than a non-violent way of seizing power and then making sure that no one else can win an election again. The same mechanisms that kept Saddam in power made Maliki’s war on Sunnis and Kurds equally inevitable.

The Muslim world is not individualistic, nor is it made up of individuals seeking their own version of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a collectivist place, even more so than the United States is becoming, where tribe and religion matter because they are the only ways that individuals get ahead. We were not dealing with meritocracies, not even the damaged affirmative action kind we run now, but with tribal systems with a smattering of modern politics on top, where local nationalism is also economic survival. The family’s social capital counts for much more than empty talk about freedom and old hatreds against neighbors can be pursued by men who wear army or police uniforms, but who identify with old vendettas more than with new governments.

We have already seen the left’s answer to neo-conservativism, if we hadn’t already seen it earlier in the Carter years. Shameless appeasement tethered to a reflexive hatred of the United States where all violence is incorporated into blowback theory. The Carter Doctrine rewards the worst enemies in the hopes that doing so will eventually make them our friends and blames all setbacks on new anger for some real or imaginary offense by us. The Carter Doctrine is now the Obama Doctrine and it’s why our embassies are burning brightly in the night.

The only good thing about the Carter/Obama Doctrine is that it cannot be sustained for long, not because our boys and girls in DC and the UN can’t keep it up, but because the Islamists won’t let them. The Salafi raids ruined a perfectly good Arab Spring because the raiders couldn’t resist rubbing the noses of the infidels in their own weakness. And those raids will only escalate because Islam, like a steroidal weightlifter, is so insecure that it constantly needs to show off its power.

But that doesn’t leave much of an alternative on the conservative side. Republicans liked neo-conservativism because it was idealistic, and by the standards set by the decaying left, had become conservative. It allowed Republicans to cheer American Exceptionalism as the solution to all global problems, without understanding that its aggressive good cheer was completely misplaced.

Exceptionalism is exceptional. If American Exceptionalism can be plonked down in Iraq or Afghanistan, then it isn’t exceptional anymore. And in fact, it can’t be. The United States has conquered and reconstructed several countries before, and only the ones with a tradition of democracy that predated the need to conquer them, are worth mentioning today. And none of them are little Americas and have, at best, a conflicted relationship with the United States.

Romney is still echoing vaguely neo-conservative talking points, but it’s doubtful that he, or anyone, besides McCain, really wants to invade Syria for the Muslim Brotherhood. Americans didn’t want the Libyan War, and aside from some of senate fixtures like McCain, few Republicans really want to do it either.

The second set of September 11 attacks may have finally begun convincing Republicans that Muslims really don’t want to be Americans and they aren’t going to be turned into Americans any time soon. It has not quite led them to the logical conclusions to be drawn from that, but it still might. The death of the middle ground of neo-conservativism leaves few options but appeasement and belligerence, not democracy belligerence, but plain old fashioned saber rattling.

If Muslims can’t be taught to be nice people and won’t leave us alone, then there are two alternatives. Give them what they want or give them hell. Obama has tried the former with the expected results. The window on giving them hell is slowly starting to creak open, though I wouldn’t expect many prominent Republican politicians to start talking like Patton any time soon.

The Israeli example has demonstrated that Muslims never miss an opportunity to sabotage their own appeasers. It’s why the Israeli left has a death grip on unelected government positions, but is about as popular with the voters as cholera on a stick. The American left could learn from its example, but if it could learn from examples, it wouldn’t be the left. Instead it banked its political capital on appeasing Muslims and if it gets a second term to do so, it will be that much closer to becoming completely unelectable– especially when Muslims decide to celebrate another September 11 in an even flashier way and with a larger death toll.

The Israeli left did everything possible to appease Muslim terrorists and the terrorists repaid them by politically destroying them with constant violence. Now Obama is on the receiving end of the same treatment and had he been as familiar with the Muslim world as he claimed to be, then he would have known to expect that. And the same process will likely kill Eurabia in its own cradle.

The ball is in the court of the right. It can choose between fake moderation and assertive action. It can rediscover the military as a force for defending the country, rather than a means of introducing Muslims to the concept of elections, and it will be pursuing the popular course. But to do that it will have to believe in America, rather in the universal goodness of human nature and the other pablum that led us into this mess.

People are not interchangeable, apart from the governments. Governments reflect the people. No country will last for very long under a government that does not reflect its national character unless that government is backed by foreign armies. It is best to treat other governments as reflective of their peoples and to treat their peoples as reflective of their government. And it is best to keep a wary distance from any people and country that are under a system too different from our own for our own safety.

Above all else, it is important to make clear to our own people and to theirs, that we have borders and nations for a reason. That if foreign nations and peoples would like to use force to tell us what movies we can make, then we will use force to tell them what protests they can have, and that in a contest of force, we will win.

It is time for a new way, a way in which Muslims will no longer have to learn about America and Americans will no longer have to learn about Islam, where we will give up on winning each other’s hearts and minds, and stick to watching each other’s property lines. That is the argument that needs to be advanced in the face of Obama’s catastrophic Arab Spring failures and the alternative to it is four more years of terror and appeasement.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Daniel Greenfield

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/sultan-knish/the-graveyard-of-neoconservatism/2012/09/21/

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