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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘tradition’

Pretenses the West Goes On Pretending

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

Here we go again! Many will recall the former President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, referred to by the Western media as “controversial.” Recently – with the sort of Foreign Office understatement which is both admirable and infuriating – the UK’s paper of record described his eight year hold on the presidency as “turbulent.” One has to wonders what it would take for them to describe a regime as “murderous,” “terrorist” or “crazed.”

Anyhow – with the “controversial” and “turbulent” presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behind us, we now have the “moderate” and “reforming” presidency of Hassan Rouhani to look forward to. We know that it will be “moderate” and “reforming” because that is what, again, all the Western media has told everyone.

A few weeks ago, when this new “moderate” and “reforming” leader had just been elected, the British columnist and publisher Melanie Phillips found herself on the BBC’s main political discussion show, “Question Time.” During the program, the question of Syria and thus Iran came up. Phillips outlined the terrible ideology of the Iranian revolutionary regime. She pointed out, among other things, the intense and genocidal hatred which is at the root of its actions as well as its rhetoric. She even attempted to explain the peculiar end-time Shiite fantasies of the Iranian leadership. But the rest of the hall in London were having none of it. For her explanation, she was rewarded with boos and cat-calls from the audience and of course an unhealthy dose of incomprehension and disdain from her fellow panelists.

One of these fellow-panelists – a man so unremarkable that he is unremarkable even in his own Liberal Democrat party – Ed Davey, poured especial scorn on her. Without answering her charges, he explained that Melanie Phillips’ comments were not merely wrong but “couldn’t be more poorly timed.” After all, he explained, the Iranian people had just gone to the polls and voted in a new president. And everybody knows that this is the time for the obligatory outpouring of optimism and mass idiocy.

And this, unfortunately, is the way in which the Western elites behave in relation to Iran. If there is a problem, it is pinned onto an individual rather than the regime. If there is a problem with the regime it is seen as something that can correct itself through – among other things – the miraculous and healing process of “an election.”

It is hard to know where to start with this narrative. Of course it presumes that Iranian elections more closely resemble the British or American elections than they do, say, those in Zimbabwe. True the mullahs are more clever than Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF. Last week’s Zimbabwean “election” saw the ruling party declare overwhelming victory over their opponents, not merely before the votes had been counted but before they had been cast. It is true that Tehran has a subtler approach. There is a process which looks like candidate selection. There is a slate of candidates (all approved by the mullahs) who are presented as representative of a varied slate of opinions. And there is the sweet pretense that once the people have gone to the polls, the results can be forever “unexpected” and “surprising” – as though an election like that of President Rouhani can have come out of nowhere and leave the Supreme Leader smacking his forehead and saying, “Wow! How did that happen?!”

So yes – as electoral charades go the Iranian process is an intelligent and subtle one, but it is a charade nonetheless. Yet in this perpetual tyrant “reboot” phase of American and Western foreign policy, perhaps even charades like these need to be welcomed, even though the illusion of a democratic process is not the same as actually having one, and merely serves to legitimize the deceit.

The White House even went so far as to congratulate President Rouhani on his swearing-in. They said he would find “a willing partner” in the United States. How unfortunate then, yet how unsurprising, that poor Mr. Rouhani had to go through another new tradition of West-Iran relations even before the tradition of his swearing-in. That tradition is the new saga of the perpetual “mis-quote.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Son at Last!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

“I think it’s coming,” Carmel said. Tevye opened his eyes. As far as he could tell, it was the middle of the night.

“What’s coming?” he sleepily asked.

“The baby.”

“Go back to sleep,” he said, rolling over onto his side. Tevye was no great scholar, but he was knowledgeable about two things in life — cows and babies. After all, he had fathered seven daughters. And with Golda, it was always the same hysterical false alarms until the real moment arrived. Tevye knew from experience that the birth of the baby could he hours away. Even days.

“Tevye. . .Tevye,” Carmel called in the dark.

Tevye grumbled. The next moment he was snoring.

“Tevye,” Carmel called urgently, poking her husband in the back. “Are you ready to be the midwife?”

Tevye stirred and sat up in bed.

“Midwife? What midwife?”

“I need a midwife, Tevye. I’m having the baby.”

“You’re having the baby?” Tevye asked, still groggy from sleep. He reached over to the table, found the matches, and lit a candle. On the other side of the tent, Guttmacher’s two children were sleeping. Carmel’s eyes were wide with a mixture of fear and wonder. Her forehead was sweating.

“You have contractions?” he asked.

She shook her head yes.

“For how long?”

“For hours,” she said, biting her lip as another painful contraction seized a hold of her hips.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“I tried to. Three times.”

Tevye attempted to think clearly. If that were the case, his wife was liable to give birth to the baby right then and there in his lap. Wasn’t it written that the Hebrew women in Egypt gave birth in a lively fashion before the midwives would arrive? Maybe his Yemenite wife was like them. He stood up and thought about what he should do. In Anatevka, he would go and get Shendel, the midwife. But who knew where Shendel was now?

“Whom should I call?” he asked his wife as he hurriedly pulled on his trousers.

“My mother,” she answered.

“Your mother is a midwife?”

“All Yemenite women are midwives.”

“All of them?”

“Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. Will you please hurry and call her before the baby comes out!”

“My shoes,” he said. “Where are my shoes?”

“Outside the tent,” his wife answered. Her back arched in pain and she let out a long anguished sigh. She clutched the bed with both hands and whimpered. Sweat shone on her forehead.

“Hurry!” she whispered. “But first check your shoes for scorpions.”

“What a saint,” Tevye thought. His wife worried about him, even when she was in the middle of labor. Quickly, Tevye hurried out of the tent. He didn’t bother to put on his shoes. He ran straight to the tent of Elisha.

To make a long story short, as the great writer, Sholom Aleicheim, would say, Carmel gave birth to a boy! When the moaning and groaning were over, Tevye had been blessed with a son! After seven daughters, a male child was born to Tevye, the son of Schneur Zalman! In the middle of the night, the whole settlement turned out to wish the proud father mazal tovs and L’chaims! While Carmel embraced her precious baby in the tent, Tevye danced outside. Everyone shared his great joy. Hillel was so happy, he played his accordion, stamped his feet, and blew into his harmonica, all at the very same time. Liquor and refreshments arrived as if by magic. Everyone joined in the party.

In the middle of the dancing, Tevye felt he had to make sure that this happiness wasn’t a dream. He simply couldn’t believe his good fortune. After so much hardship and sorrow, how could there be such great joy? He hurried to his tent and demanded to see the baby. The crowd of women made way. Pushing the cloth diaper aside, the father took a glimpse to be certain. There was no doubt about it. The good Lord had blessed Tevye with a boy! Holding his newborn son triumphantly up in one hand like a freshly baked loaf of challah, Tevye carried the bundle toward the door of the tent.

The Noise that Drowns Out all Peace

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Followers of the Passover story can rightly wonder why frogs were such a terrible plague. Was God really showing His power to the Egyptians by sending against them an army of reptiles? Would the nation that would eventually produced Cleopatra, who purportedly killed herself by grabbing a poisonous snake, really have cared?

But the true plague of the frogs was how the din of their incessant ribbetting robbed the Egyptians of all peace. We who inhabit the modern world have a unique understanding of the utter agony represented by a world that is never silent.

When the United States invaded Panama in 1989 to oust General Manuel Noriega, he took refuge in the Vatican Embassy. The United States Army brought huge loudspeakers and blasted AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” in order to drive him out of his refuge, a tactic that was also employed by the FBI at Waco.

Forty years ago John Lennon made the observation that when he grew up what was always heard in the background of homes was the soothing crackling of a fire, only to be replaced by the incessant noise of televisions that are always blaring in the background.

That noise has actually so much closer today with ear buds that pumps music directly into our eardrums. The net result is that we are rarely ever afforded any peace.

Even today harsh interrogations methods against terrorists involves keeping them up for days by constantly blasting music which drives them to the bring of insanity. Many argue that this is a form of torture.

The inability to ever shut out noise is a plague. But beyond the pain caused by the utter lack of peace there is the further consideration of the drowning out of the inner voice of conscience.

Each of us is immersed in a culture that throws various voices at us. Hollywood and the fashion industry hits us with the aesthetic voice, telling us that what most matters is beauty. Best to spend our time in front of a mirror and at a gym. Wall Street and Madison avenue hits us with the monetary voice which tells us that the most important thing in life is money and affording the material objects that will bring us pleasure. Washington and politics hits us with the power voice which tells us that the most significant thing in life is acquiring dominion over others. And the NFL and NBA hits us with the physical voice which whispers that life has meaning through great athleticism. We should be spending our time on the sports fields.

But beneath all these noises which are so central to the fabric of modern life and its aspirations is the inner voice of conscience which whispers to us that we are born for lives of compassion and goodness. It’s nice to be pretty. But it’s even nicer to be nice. It’s wondrous to be sporty and adventurous. But even more spectacular is to teach our child how to throw a spiral and catch a ball. Through doing so we grant our children a feeling of significance. It’s a blessing to be wealthy. But even more important is to live lives of charity and humility where we make others feel that they matter too.

There is no human being that is born without that voice and to the extent that it is lost it is because it is drown out by all the other voices that surround us.

The Egyptians, like all human beings, had an innate sense of morality and fair play. So how could they have enslaved a helpless people? Because the soul’s voice of fraternity and brotherhood was drown out by Pharaoh’s voice of dominion and power. As the Bible related, “Look, he said to his people, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” The Egyptians allowed the foreign voice of the will to power to override the voice of sensitivity of compassion. In this sense, the racket of the frogs-plague was an external manifestation of what had already occurred. The Egyptians could no longer hear the inner song of their own souls. They could only hear the clamor of the artificial, external voice that slowly erodes our spiritual peace.

Passover Guide for the Perplexed 2013

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

1.  A central Passover lesson: Liberty entails responsibility, communal-awareness, blood, sweat and tears; not complacency, wishful-thinking or egotism. Sustaining liberty obligates free people to assume the cost, risks and sacrifice of self-reliance, including forty years in the desert and the defiance of great powers, lest they forfeit liberty and risk oblivion. The Hebrew word for “responsibility” – אחריות – consists of the word “liberty” – חירות – reinforced by the first Hebrew letter – א – which is the first letter of the Hebrew words for God, faith, Adam, human-being, father, mother, light, soil, land, love, tree, covenant, soil, credibility, awesome, power, courage, spring, unity, horizon, etc.

2.  The Passover-U.S.-Israel connection:  Moses, the U.S. Founding Fathers and Israel’s Founding Father, Ben Gurion, were challenged by the “loyalists,” who were intimidated by the cost of liberty, preferring subjugation to Egypt, the British King and the British Mandate.

3.  Passover (פסח) highlights the fact that the Jewish People were passed-over (פסח) by history’s angel of death, in defiance of conventional wisdom.  Non-normative disasters have characterized Jewish history ever since slavery in Egypt and the Exodus: the destruction of the two Temples, exiles, pogroms, expulsions, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, daily Arab/Muslim terrorism and wars, etc. The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty – against global, regional, economic and military odds - constituted a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.  Principle-driven tenacious defiance-of-the odds constitutes a prerequisite to Jewish deliverance in 2013, as it was during The Exodus some 3,450 years ago.

4.  Passover’s centrality in Judaism is highlighted by the first, of the Ten, Commandments: ”I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Passover ethos is included in daily Jewish prayers, Sabbath and holiday prayers, the blessing over the wine, the blessing upon circumcision, the prayer fixed in the Mezuzah (doorpost) and in the annual family retelling of the Exodus on the eve of Passover. Passover symbolizes the unity, interdependence and straight line/direction between the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel.  In Hebrew, Israel (ישראל) means “straight,” “overcoming” and the acronym of the names of the Jewish Patriarchs (אברהם, יצחק, יעקב) and Matriarchs (שרה, רבקה, רחל, לאה).

5.  David Ben Gurion, the Founding Father of the Jewish State, Passover and the reaffirmation of Jewish deed over the Land of Israel: “More than 300 years ago, a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World. It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread the people ate when they left Plymouth.

Well, more than 3,300 years ago, the Jews left Egypt…and every Jew in the world knows exactly the date we left. It was on the 15th of [the month of] Nisan. The bread they ate was Matzah. Up to date all the Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same Matzah, in America, in Russia. [They] tell the story of the exile from Egypt, all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish by these two sentences: ‘This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.’ Jews are like that (The Anglo-American Committee, March 11, 1946,http://bit.ly/evSqbP).

Rabbi Gamliel, Head of the Sanhedrin, mid-first century: “In each generation, every individual must consider himself as if he/she personally participated in the Exodus from Egypt.”

6.  President Ezer Weizman, Passover and the avowal of Jewish roots in the Land of Israel, Jewish unity and collective-responsibility:

Only 150 generations passed from the Pillar of Fire of the Exodus from Egypt to the pillars of smoke from the Holocaust. And I, a descendant of Abraham, born in Abraham’s country, have witnessed them all. I was a slave in Egypt. I received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Together with Joshua and Elijah, I crossed the Jordan River. I entered Jerusalem with David, was exiled from it with Zedekiah, and did not forget it by the rivers of Babylon. When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, I dreamed among the builders of its ramparts. I fought the Romans and was banished from Spain. I was bound to the stake in Mainz. I studied Torah in Yemen and lost my family in Kishinev. I was incinerated in Treblinka, rebelled in Warsaw and migrated to the Land of Israel, the country whence I had been exiled and where I had been born, from which I come and to which I return…. And, like our forefather King David who purchased the Temple Mount, and our patriarch Abraham who bought the [Hebron] Cave of Machpelah, we bought land, we sowed fields, we planted vineyards, we built houses, and even before we achieved statehood, we were already bearing weapons to protect our lives… (German Bundestag, January 16, 1996, http://bit.ly/10aOcJr).

7. “Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem” concludes the annual reciting of the Haggadah, the Passover saga.  It reaffirms the ancient Jewish commitment to build homes all over Jerusalem, the 3,300 year old indivisible capital of the Jewish people.

8.  Passover’s centrality in the American ethos inspired the Puritans, the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and contemporary American morality and state of mind.

The Pilgrims
 – beginning with William Bradford’s “Mayflower” and John Winthrop’s “Arabella” – considered Britain “modern day Egypt,” the British king was “the modern day Pharaoh,” the sail through the Atlantic Ocean was “the modern day parting of the sea” and America was “the modern day Promised Land.”

The Founding Fathers
 were significantly inspired by Moses and the Exodus.  In 1775, the president of Harvard University, Samuel Langdon, said that “the Jewish government [that God handed down to Moses] was a perfect republic.”  Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (the cement of the 1776 Revolution) referred to King George as “the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England.”

The term Federalism is based on “Foedus,” the Latin word for “The Covenant.” The Founding Fathers studied the political structure of the semi-independent 12 Tribes (colonies), which were governed by tribal presidents (governors) and by Moses (the Executive), Aaron (the Judicial) and the 70 Elders (Legislature). John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin proposed the “Parting of the Sea” as the official U.S. seal. George Washington and John Adams, the first and second presidents, were compared to Moses and Joshua. Washington was eulogized as Moses and Virginia was compared to Goshen.

Yale University President, Ezra Stiles stated (May 8, 1783): “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people – the number of people in America in 1776.”

“Let my people go” and “Go down Moses” became the pillar of fire for the Abolitionists. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) is inscribed on the Liberty BellThe Statue of Liberty highlights a Moses-like tablet. The biography of Harriet Tubman, who dedicated her life to freeing other slaves, is called The Moses of Her People. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was motivated by the laws of Moses, which condemn slavery. Martin Luther King was considered the Moses of his age.

Daniel Boone
 was referred to as “The Moses of the West.” 

A statue of Moses stares at the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is featured (along with Maimonides) in the U.S. House of Representatives Rayburn Building subway station, towers above the Supreme Court Justices (in addition to seven additional Moses statues in the Supreme Court Building) and is found in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.  A Ten Commandments monument sits on the grounds of the Texas and the Oklahoma State Capitols. Cecile DeMille’s hit movie, The Ten Commandments, promoted U.S. liberty, morality and freedom of religion and expression, in contrast to Soviet oppression.

Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never enter, but which Joshua would make his own.”

9.  Moses, the hero of Passover, has been a role model of effective leadership, highlighting humility, faith, principle and endurance-driven leadership, along with human fallibility.  Moses’ name is mentioned only once in the Passover Haggadah, as a servant of God, a testimony to Moses’ humility. The only compliment showered upon Moses, by the Torah, is “The humblest of all human beings.”

10.  The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee, a pivot of liberty. Fifty days following the Exodus, Moses received the Torah (Pentecost Holiday), which includes – according to Jewish tradition – 50 gates of Wisdom.  Where does that leave the 50 States?!

11.  Passover highlights the centrality of spiritual, social and national Liberty. The difference between the spelling of Ge’oolah (“deliverance” in Hebrew - גאולה) and Golah(Diaspora in Hebrew - גולה) is the first Hebrew letter, Alef - א.  (Please see #1 above).

12.  Passover – the role model of liberty – interacts with Shavou’ot/Pentecost – the role model of morality.  Liberty and morality are mutually-inclusive.  The liberty/morality interdependence distinguishes Western democracies from rogue regimes.

13.  The Exodus took place around 1,400 BC, establishing the Jewish People in the forefront in the Clash of Civilizations between democracies and rogue regimes.  Passover is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan ניסן – the first month of the Biblical Jewish year and the introduction of natural and national spring (Nitzan is the Babylonian word for spring and the Hebrew word for bud).  Nissan (Ness - נס is miracle in Hebrew) is the month of miracles, such as the Exodus, the Parting of the Sea, Jacob wrestling the Angel, Deborah’s victory over Sisera, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, etc.

14.  The 15th day of any Jewish month features a full moon, which stands for optimism – the secret Jewish weapon – in defiance of darkness.  It is consistent with the 15 parts of the Hagaddah (the Passover saga); the 15 generations between Abraham’s message of monotheism and Solomon’s construction of the first Temple; the 15 words of the ancient blessing by the Priests and the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, Arbor Day – the “Exodus” of vegetation.  The Hebrew value of 15 corresponds to two Hebrew letters which are the acronym of God – י  and ה.

15.  Passover has four names:  The holiday of Pesach (“Passed-over” and “sacrifice” in Hebrew), the holiday of liberty, the holiday of Matzah and the holiday of spring.  The number 4 features in the Passover Saga, representing the four women who shaped the life of Moses (Batyah – Pharaoh’s daughter, his savior, Yocheved – his mother, Miriam – his sister and Ziporah – Jethro’s daughter, his wife); Joseph’s four enslavements- twice to the Midianties, once to the Ishmaelites and once in Egypt; the 4 times that the word “cup” was mentioned by Pharaoh’s jailed wine-butler when recounting his dream to Joseph; the 4 Sons (human characters) of the Haggadah; the 4 glasses of wine drunk on the eve of Passover; the 4 Questions asked on the eve of Passover and the 4 stages of the divine deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The 4th Hebrew letter (ד) is an acronym of God.

16.  Passover is celebrated in the spring, the bud of nature.  Spring, Aviv in Hebrew (אביב) consists of two Hebrew words: Father – אב - of 12 – יב – months/tribes.  The word spring is mentioned three times in the Torah, all in reference to the Exodus.  Passover – which commemorates the creation of the Jewish nation – lasts for 7 days, just like the creation of the universe.  Passover is the first of three Jewish pilgrimages, succeeded by Shavou’ot/Pentecost, which commemorates the receipt of the Ten Commandments, andSukkot/Tabernacles, named after Sukkota – the first stop in the Exodus.

“Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem”

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Madmen and Crowds

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

There was a temporary interval in American life when a shooting spree by a madman would have been viewed as the crime of one man. The dead would have been mourned. The killer, if he had been taken alive, would have been punished, and while the memorial might have been accompanied by some leading sermons, the country would have been spared the media exploitation and blame-a-thon that invariably follows such events.

The trouble is that there are no more individuals. Or rather the individual is no longer recognized as having any standing. “All private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger,” Roosevelt declared in 1940 to the Democratic National Convention.  And the repeal never seems to have been repealed. Instead all private plans and private lives are being constantly repealed by a turmoil of overriding public dangers, most of them sociological in nature.

A shooting takes place and the media urges that millions of firearms be confiscated. Every crisis requires that more freedoms be sacrificed for that overriding public danger that the talking heads are screaming about this week over news feeds from every corner of the globe. There are no more private lives. Only public ones. Everyone will sooner or later pass before the camera and be judged by millions of strangers in a narrative that will transform him or her into a hero or villain in the great social struggle against the public danger of the day.

Calling Adam Lanza a madman has little meaning now. The madman retreats to a private world of his own making. But the collective culture does not recognize madness as a detachment from the crowd. Instead it views it as yet another social malady to be solved. Re-open the asylums. Provide more mental health funding. Open hotlines for anyone with suicidal thoughts. Social solutions for a social society coping with the anti-social.

But even our madmen are public figures now. Cut off from the collective culture by their minds, they still strive to connect to its most fundamental value. Fame.

America’s spree killers don’t drive pickup trucks with gun racks. They aren’t NRA members and have never opened a bible. They are young, mentally ill and famous. They are exactly like the real and fake celebrities who crowd magazine covers, television screens and paparazzi-choked premieres. But they can’t sing or dance, and have no unique way to embarrass themselves into staged fame. Instead they kill their way to being famous.

As schizophrenic as our shooters were, as unable to connect to the groupthink of the larger culture, they understood the one thing that we valued. And they got it in a brute force way. They became what every girl with dyed blonde hair waiting on line to impress the judges of television’s dueling singing competitions, every waiter with sunglasses waiting to become a movie star on Rodeo Drive, every “internet personality” leaning precariously over a webcam on YouTube, every kid trying out rhymes on his friends and building a fake biography of all the people he shot in drug deals gone bad, want to be. Famous.

In mass culture, fame is the only oxygen of the individual. It is the only thing that distinguishes the vanishing individual from the herd. The celebrity is to 21st Century America as the general, the writer, the poet, the politician and the genius were to former eras. All these things and many more have been distilled down to the simple status of celebrity. You are either famous or you aren’t. You either have a private life that everyone knows about or your private life has already been repealed by the overriding public dangers of cow farts, racism and large sodas. You are either a slave to the public or just a public slave.

A culture of crowds makes crazy people even crazier. There’s nothing for paranoia like a major city and these days we all live in the major city of a culture that is crowded in even its most rural areas. Crowd culture expects everyone to follow the leader, to join the meme, to move with the flow, but that is something that crazy people cannot do. The madman is always out of step and out of sync, the paranoid schizophrenic occasionally makes a compelling leader, but he is unable to be a follower.

Madness can at its simplest be viewed as the gap between his thinking and our own. Like cultural differences, it often explodes into violence, but unlike cultural differences it cannot be bridged because there is no common language. The madman is a member of a unique culture of one. He is a citizen of himself. He has his own laws, his own values and even his own mental language. And it is one that no sane person will ever understand.

The madman is the ultimate individual dying in his own private rebellions that mean nothing to anyone else. A sane society may lock him up, it may crudely tinker with his brain chemistry or even carve up his gray matter, but it will never truly make him one with the group. And our society, addled by nearly as many drugs as your average madman, is a long way from sane. It flirts with madness in its aimless attempts at reestablishing the place of the individual in a collectivist culture, and it veers recklessly from sympathizing with violence to pretending not to understand where violence comes from. It’s the feigned innocence of those who are just jaded enough not to want to know how jaded they have truly become.

If the madman has lost the ability to speak to the crowd, the crowd has equally lost the ability to speak to the individual. The madman suffers from a defective mental vocabulary and the mad society has lost the ability to formulate concepts relating to individual behavior.

In our society the individual is always seen as putting on a public performance of accepting or rejecting group values. All private lives become a public competition to see who recycles the most, is the least racist, the most giving and the best example of what a cog in the great social machine should be. Every individual act is a commentary, not ultimately on the individual, but on the social machine. Crime is no longer a private act, but a public one, that emerges out of social factors such as the poverty rate, race relations, the availability of firearms, cold medication in pharmacies and the amount of funding for midnight basketball, outpatient mental health therapy and a thousand others.

All private plans are a public danger. All individual acts are really collective acts. There is no “I” in individual. There is only the crowd, its avatars who live out their fantasies and entertain them, and the masses shuffling off toward their daily labors until they are released from the grind and allowed a few hours to entertain themselves watching their avatars live a public show of private life.

How does one speak of individual responsibility to such people and how can they be expected to distinguish individualism from madness? The ant hive cannot be expected to think of the ant. It cannot understand anthood apart from the hive.

The Blame-a-Thon continues. Blaming Adam Lanza for his own actions is insufficient. Even blaming his dead mother is insufficient. Individuals do not matter. Only groups do. Corporations. The NRA. The Tea Party. Private tragedy becomes a political event complete with campaign speeches and fundraising letters. Organizations converge. New offices are opened and phone lines are installed. Press conferences are given. “This is a wake up call. A call for action. It’s time we did something.”

Within an hour, the responsibility is transferred from a killer to the society at large and then to the groups that do not share the values of the new collectivist society. War is declared. Press releases are faxed. Letters are sent out. “We need your help, Michael.” “Stand with us, Susan.” The dead are buried and their bodies are used to make the mulch of a new wave of political repression and profiteering. The dead, like singing competition contestants, are ultimately disposable, as are their killers. It is the producers and the judges who endure.

Each call to action is signed with the promise, “So that this will never have happen again.” That is the sociological siren song of the crowd. The promise of a powerful government safety net that will keep every terrible thing from ever happening a second time. But there is no net that madmen cannot slip through when they choose to. It is possible to repeal the private lives and private plans of all gun owners, but not the private lives and plans of madmen who are not peninsulas, but islands in the stream, who do not care about laws, regulations and expectations. Broken men looking to break.

There is more danger than safety in the crowd. Not only can the crowd not deter a madman, for the same reason that Kitty Genovese bled to death lay dying for an hour, but the crowd is also mad. It is a madness that is harder to detect because it is the madness of a crowd. The individual irrationality of a madman is detectable by outsiders, because of its conflict with the group reality, and even to the person of the madman by that same conflict, which fuels his paranoia toward the outside world, but the group cannot detect its own irrationality and is too large and pervasive for its irrationality to be recognized on the outside.

Our crowd is not yet as collectively insane as Adam Lanza, but it’s getting there. And it will not be pretty when it does. The madness of crowds is not a pretty thing. It can be seen in the hysterical crowds that greeted Hitler or the equally hysterical crowds swooning at the sight of a celebrity. Individual madness is flawed chemistry, but crowd madness is a will to madness, a raving desire to be one with the collective view, to be famous or almost famous, to exchange reason for sensation and individuality for the group immortality of the group.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

How to Win the Demographic and Culture Wars

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

There is no better outcome that the Democrats could have hoped for than the demographic despair that has overtaken some sections of the conservative movement. While the Republican establishment prepares to accept Obama as the new FDR, the grass roots feels alienated and willing to write off the whole country.

Demographics is a serious issue, but it’s not a done deal either. Countries are not static. America was created because a large number of Europeans moved to a place that had formerly been populated by the descendants of Siberian refugees crossing over the Bering Strait. I have often said that demographics kind is destiny, but it’s a mathematical destiny. Change the numbers and you change the destiny.

Taking back America demographically is a matter of having enough children within a cultural structure that passes down the values of adults to the children, while focusing on limiting immigration as much as possible. This isn’t an impossible task.

The Amish population doubles every 20 years and they retain the majority of their children within their communities despite the obvious appeals of the outside world. There are 250,000 Amish in the United States and Canada now. By 2040 there will be over a million of them.

Utah has the highest fertility rate in the country and 9 out of 10 children are born to married couples. The Mormon Church is slowing down its expansion, and is having some retention and birth rate issues, perhaps due to its liberalization and growing investment in overseas missionary work, but its numbers are still a reminder of what is possible.

Demographics can be deceptive, because what we are really talking about are the economic and cultural factors that dissuade large family sizes and that alienate children from the values of their ancestors. What we are really talking about is a clash between progressives and traditionalists.

As an Orthodox Jew, I represent a group that is at the front lines of the clash. In the last century and a half, Jewish progressives have done everything possible to destroy Jewish religion, values and even nationhood. For half that time they were enormously successful, wreaking havoc across entire communities, using state power to force parents into their own schools, and building a literary and cultural infrastructure aimed at ridiculing and destroying traditional values.

They are still at it today, and their tactics and propaganda are as bad as they ever were, but they also losing. While the progressives embrace the culture of abortion and gay rights, the traditionalists have children. Within a decade, a majority of New York Jews will be traditionalist and the impact of that is already being felt in elections. The progressives have ramped up their usual hate campaigns against Orthodox Jews, which is why you see so many negative stories in the media, but the demographics of their progressive culture doom them to extinction.

This same outcome would have taken place nationally in the clash between American traditionalists and progressives, if not for the ace in the hole of immigration. And yet immigration is only half the picture. The bigger half of the picture is culture.

Would the Amish be who they are if in between plow breaks they were watching Reality TV and getting lessons on liberal values? Instead the Amish segregated themselves from the culture and have thrived because of it. And that can be done without completely abandoning technology as a whole.

Orthodox Jews built a cultural infrastructure to convey their values to our children while cutting them off, as much as possible, from the cultural programming of progressives. The largest expense of Orthodox Jewish parents and the community as a whole is on the infrastructure of private schools that teach traditional values to their children. An Orthodox Jewish community is defined by its schools and its best and brightest go into Chinuch or Education.

But schools aren’t enough. Orthodox Jews raise their children on their own books and their own music. Everything that children are exposed to from the youngest ages is supposed to come from within their own culture to such an extent that when Oprah visited a Chassidic family they had no idea who she was, or who Mickey Mouse and Beyonce were. Obviously this isn’t universal and the degree of exposure varies, but retention rates and birth rates are highest among those with the lowest levels of progressive cultural exposure.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/how-to-win-the-demographic-and-culture-wars/2012/12/13/

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