Saturday, June 02, 2012

Diversity and the International Community

Ellis Island
Spring Fundraiser 2012, Day Five

DAY FIVE?? Oh my gosh. This one is flying fast! The Baron has already sent me my first few bunches of thank you notes from previous days and I’ll be continuing with them soon.

Not to bore you (at least not as much as it bores me), but my latest malady is a new one for me, and I’m hoping the distributed intelligence of our readers will have some experience with this, and especially will have a few tricks they’ve learned to cope with it. At my last checkup I mentioned to the doctor that I experienced brief dizziness at times when I got up too quickly from a lying position. She gave me a handout for an exercise to use. The paper said to do this every day until the dizziness went away.

Being a (mostly) compliant patient, I did the exercise — easy peasy.

You sit on the bed with your head turned to the right at 45 degrees (or so). Then you lie back with a pillow already in place to support your shoulders but placed in such a position that your slightly turned head is flat. If I remember this correctly (the page is in the other room), you then turn your head to the left, ninety degrees. When the room stops rotating, you turn your whole body onto your left side, wait for the vertigo to pass again, and then get up. The last step wasn’t on that page but here’s how it goes… [vomit into nearby bowl]. The unscripted part [in brackets] is what followed the final step — “get up” — or at least it did for me. This “Epley maneuver” is extremely unpleasant and I don’t plan to try it again.

Yes, of course I googled it. The best description I could get was benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Anyone have suggestions beyond not moving my head that way?? And, yes, I will make another appointment to see if I have to go through the test routine.

Now, back to our regular programming — i.e., the fundraiser. Y’all are being generous and I’m being very grateful. Which you will hear personally… it just takes longer for me to do them than either of us might like.

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The subject of Diversity/diversity is huge. It’s also hugely contentious since the political fault line in our culture goes right through the middle of this subject and the definitions vary wildly. Socialists, statists, progressives, etc., mostly line up with Diversity, though not all of them, especially when it comes to immigration. And on the side of diversity-from-the-bottom-up — the growing, changing dynamic version — are the conservatives, some libertarians (those who aren’t pro-immigration, at least) and the “moderates”. I haven’t ever met one of that last category, but I see the word used enough that I doubt they belong with the first group.

Tip jarOne of the most disingenuous notions floating around in the minds and hearts of today’s socialists is the idea that there could/should be an “international community”. In some ways this utopian hope, as reductionist and simplistic as is, speaks to their optimism, if not to their understanding of basic human nature. Despite the fact that the term is an oxymoron and could never work (except as a totalitarian scheme) it still speaks to the ancient hope we all nourish for tranquil times, for the days when the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Conservatives are realists. We know the lion would need a lobotomy to be able to do that with any regularity. But the hard fact that tranquil times arrive only after the human spirit departs is difficult for perfectionists to accept. For them, the “good enough” is deplorable, and we must continue to strive for perfection despite the dismal record of such attempts in the past.

Ever since 9/11 the real conservative view has hardened into a demand for border security. It is a demand that is all too often ignored, but that doesn’t mean we won’t stop making it — and paying the price for our vigilance. That price includes shunning by those who think they know better how to arrange the world.

Jerry Gordon’s new book, The West Speaks, is a collection of his interviews with some of “the watchers on the ramparts of the West”, brave individuals who have stepped forward since 9/11 to counter the particularly specious form of global “community” as laid out by Islam in its tenets on the Ummah. An Islamic international “community” would be the death knell for any form of authentic, vibrant community as Western civilization understands that term. One has only to look at all the polities in which Islamic Law dominates to know they are but the Ummah writ small: murderous, tyrannical, and without that spontaneous creativity which is the hallmark of any genuine community. For the most part Islamic countries, except those awash in petrol wealth, are backward, poverty-stricken hellholes. Even the wealthy ones aren’t places a person who values free speech would want to live in. Turkey could be considered on exception at the moment, although as it moves back and peels away from its Western veneer, it too will sink further into persecution of minority groups within its borders, more widespread poverty, creeping superstitions, and growing numbers of illiterate women. When women can’t read or write, the family founders.

It is not just Islam which is pushing for this fantasy global community. Fashioned from the leftovers of Marxism, political elites in the EU and camp-followers in American academia and media have their own half-baked pie-in-the-sky fantasies about immigration and outmoded economic policies as the solutions to our problems of endemic debt, economic “unfairness”, and mind-numbing poverty. For these intractable issues, the answer offered by the politically naïve is often a sickly sea, a universal solvent which would erase those ugly nation-state borders.

This free lunch comes at a terrible cost to civilization. One of the “observers” Jerry Gordon interviewed has lived long enough to see why a nation’s sovereignty is foundational to its continued existence.

Richard Rubenstein grew up in the then-German enclave in New York City. In the 1930s he saw the Nazi flags flying from the windows. And he discovered that he was indelibly Jewish. His family were secular Jews. As a boy Dr. Rubenstein thought this was a fungible thing, that he could become something else instead. He ended up in the Unitarian Church and was considering the ministry, having come to feel that religion was important. And then it happened: he ran into the wall:

One day, I got a letter from somebody I had met whose father was the executive secretary of the American Unitarian Association. He said, “You are going to make a fine minister, but you need to change your name from Rubenstein to one that is less Jewish, more Anglo-Saxon.” That sort of hit me like a lightning bolt. I went home and thought about it and said to myself, “I’m not going to do this, change my name.” First of all, I would have spent the rest of my life worrying about being found out. Secondly, all of a sudden, I began to worry about ancestry and I thought, “I can’t rat on my background.”

That must’ve been a painful realization back then, but he’s had many decades to absorb it since, so his story sounds matter-of-fact. I doubt that it was so at the time.

Gordon leads Dr. Rubenstein through the retelling of the steps that led him to Judaism — he says he’s a Conservative rabbi but a Reform Jew at heart. Eventually, Dr. Rubenstein got his Master’s Degree in Christian Theology from Harvard and went on to receive his Doctorate in the History of Religion from Harvard’s graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The thesis he wrote became Religious Imagination: Study in Psychoanalysis and Jewish Theology (Brown classics in Judaica), which was translated into French and won an Italian literature prize in 1977.

I chose Dr. Rubenstein’s interview because his political philosophy partially reflects my own. He derides the idea of an “international community”. So do I.

When Jerry Gordon asked him about his political philosophy, Rubenstein said:

In the world of politics, I’m a Hobbesian.

Thomas Hobbes believed that originally men lived in a state of nature in which there were no rules. Inevitably, the very strongest prevailed and the weakest served them or fell by the wayside. Finally, in order to protect themselves, men agreed to delegate whatever powers they had to one sovereign who would protect them and who would prevent them from behaving towards each other as if they were in a state of nature.

For example, if my neighbor and I have a dispute over where my property line ends and his begins, we don’t take out guns and settle it that way. We believe that, through the sovereign state, there are impartial institutions which will decide whether my claim or his is right. However, Hobbes also says something else. He says, “Sovereigns always live in a state of nature with regard to each other.” That is, between nations, there are no permanent, fixed rules. Nations may agree on rules, because it is within their interest to do so, but the same nation that makes a rule can break a rule. There is no such thing as an international community. There are only states with different interests which sometimes conflict…

That is not a traditionally Jewish view. At least not a liberal American Jewish view. But Rubenstein blames that blindness on the long history of the powerlessness of Jews in Europe. They had no living experience of sovereignty.

When Gordon asks him about his own “core Jewish values”, he counters with this:

I think the idea of Jewish values can be a trap because for 2,000 years Jews had no experience being the masters of their own destiny and had no experience with what that meant, what its responsibilities were. As Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren said in an Azure article, “They had no experience with sovereignty.” If you have an army, if you have enemies you know are out to destroy you, then having abstract values that are unrelated to the actual context of danger in which you live does yourself a disservice and one which is potentially suicidal.

Well, there you have one person’s opinion about the phenomenon Americans have learned to call “the suicidal Jew”. They vote for policies which endanger their safety because they’re stuck with those ageless, abstract values.

Rubenstein continues:

Now, I believe that Jews should practice justice, but what I mean by justice is to give each man and each group its proper due. This is fundamental.

That means that if you have an enemy who is out to kill you, you don’t necessarily have to kill him, but you have to do whatever is necessary to defang his power so that he cannot kill you.

Nevertheless, I do not believe, for example, in doing more than you have to against an enemy. I don’t believe in gratuitous killing or torture.

In that same article, Oren describes how David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, sat by himself on Israel’s first Independence Day, wondering whether the people understood what they were getting themselves into, whether they understood what sovereignty meant. He was afraid that they didn’t. He knew that neither Martin Buber nor the German-Jewish professors at the Hebrew University understood sovereignty. Sovereignty means that you possess an army and, as the German sociologist Max Weber put it, “The sovereign state is that human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Ben Gurion understood that insight when he forcibly disarmed the Irgun militia at the start of the new State of Israel in 1948. Ultimately, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is over the question of who possesses a sovereign monopoly of the use of force. Such a monopoly cannot be shared. [my emphasis — D]

To me, the most basic Jewish value is to survive with dignity as an individual and as part of a people. However, learning from tradition can be a trap…

Make no mistake about it. I have enormous respect for Jews who exercised restraint under conditions of powerlessness. They had no other choice then. The way I used to put it to my students in class was, “If a person comes along and says, ‘You dirty Jew boy,’ I’m going to go after him, but if five people come and surround me and say that, I’m going to have to learn to hold my temper.” That was the situation of Jews for almost 2000 years.

What he is describing here I have heard some people term “underdogma” — the almost knee-jerk response to root for the underdogs. Anyone who has stuck with the New York Mets through thick and thin has experienced this phenomenon, underdogma.

You can see it, too, in the cultures which penalize individuals for standing out too much, for striving. In Scandinavian countries it’s a kind of mindset, janteloven:

Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Scandinavia, the term refers to a mentality which de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. The Cultural Theory of Risk defines egalitarianism, prevalent in Scandinavia, as a mindset aversive towards rules but benign towards group unity.

No wonder we have such communication problems. That mindset is the antithesis of Americans’ most obvious characteristic, being “ornery”. The Gadsden flag, “Don’t Tread on Me” is an early symbol of this attitude. You see it displayed often at Tea Party rallies. Come to think of it, I wonder if the Tea Party has a Jewish division yet? I doubt it: there’s not an Irish division, either.

As Jerry Gordon leaves Dr. Rubenstein, he asks about the latter’s legacy. At the age of 86 (in 2010), he wasn’t willing to settle for a legacy, saying he was too busy to consider it. Like many of us, he worries about Islam’s supremacist ideology.

It is good to meet someone whose ideas on sovereignty are based on the vivid experience of its absence. It is those who have been threatened with losing it who most value what many socialists would throw away in the name of a failed ideology.

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Yesterday’s ornery donations came in from:

Stateside: California, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington

Near Abroad: Canada

Far Abroad: Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Israel, Norway, and the UK

My deepest thanks go out to you. May your orneriness continue to serve you well.

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RonaldB said...

This is a wonderful article. It goes a long way towards explaining my own amazement at the organs of Reform Judaism, which consistently support Islamist organizations, the fiction that Islam is like any other religion, and the claims of Islamists that Muslims are systematically persecuted in the US for simply being different.

I agree completely with Richard Rubinstein: you do what you need to in order to defang your enemy, but no more. Of course, you make sure your enemy is not able to regroup and threaten you in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the basis of your ethical actions are to protect yourself, rather than persecute or punish your enemy.

The Reform Jews have not yet accepted the responsibility of actual sovereignty. The basis of their focus is to co-opt the government into protecting them as much as possible, and to form alliances with their enemies in the hopes of relatively benevolent treatment.

This is the website for the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish organization in the US and possibly the world. Search for "Islam" on their website. The truth of what I say will be obvious simply by looking at the titles of the articles.

Anonymous said...

to RonaldB’s thought-provoking comment on Dymphnaa’s thought-provoking essay:

I have and have had Jewish colleagues and friends with whom I can discuss harmless and/or local topics effortlessly, but find myself being unusually gentle--for me--in talking about Israel and the Arab world in which it is enclosed, My old dissertation adviser once told me, I trust accurately, a parable of sorts from Rabbi Hillel:

Two men are stranded in the desert. One of them has a canteen. They know how far they are from help or a source of water, and it is clear that there is enough water in the one man’s canteen for one of them to make it that far. If they share, neither will make it. What is the obligation of the one man with the canteen--share, refuse to share, give it all to the other man? My initial reaction was to recognize option 3 for the romanticized Christian solution and nonetheless (or therefore) to reject it out of hand. As one of Somerset Maugham’s tales implied God might say: “I told you to be moral, not stupid.”

I had trouble with the first option, because--being young, idealistic, American and other impractical things, I liked to believe in the deus ex machina--someone or something appearing to save them both. But it wasn’t couched in those terms--no fair assuming extraordinary forces.

So I was left with: someone ought to survive. Why should it not be the one with the canteen?

I gather that RonaldB feels that Israel itself has learned this lesson, but diasporic Jews, not so much. I agree, and this is one reason I find it tricky to argue my feelings about Israel.

But I also have a problem with the thesis that defanging the enemy will suffice. This particular enemy is ALL FANG. Truly neutralizing it will mean ultimately, if ever, cleaning out Wahhabi and Salafist teachers and organizations. Is that even possible?

In my ignorance of Jewish traditional thought and in the long-since absence of my adviser, I have to wonder what Rabbi Hillel would say about dealing with this particular serpent.


Anonymous said...

I find it odd that one would use the words of a man whose movement vehemently opposes and demonizes any sort of border security and openly supports the continued advance of Muslims in the West, even those who are openly hostile to both Jews and Western civilization.

Pam Geller labels these Jews as Jewicidals. They aren't our friends, but allies of the enemy.

No different than your typical Western Leftist IMO.

No, I'll take the words of Buchanan or Horowitz any day over Rubenstein. At least they can recognize a mortal enemy in our midst unlike the Reform people who would welcome a group that would love to finish what Hitler started.

Dymphna said...

At anon above-

I'm not sure what your aim is here? Do you mean that because the Unification Church suppports the college in Bridgeport to which Dr. Rubenstein has retired that this makes him suspect?

Well, the Unification Church also underwrites the Washington Times and they're a far better media outlet than the much more powerful and leftist Washington Post.

I didn't excerpt the last part of Dr. Rubenstein's interview, but he says the rest of his life's work is to push back against the dangers of Islam, which he finds to be hostile to the religion he practices and taught for so many years.

I agree with his stated political views on the absolute necessity for national sovereignty and the rule of law.

A suicidal Jew? Hardly. He has dedicated his life to just the opposite. And in the remainging time he has left, he will be fighting islam.

I suggest you read his own words.

Dymphna said...

@jlh -

Dr. Rubenstein would probably go with your tough choice, I think. I would tend to share and hope for the deus ex machina? Why not? He's showed up more than once in my life. Wisdom, according to Christ was to have the innocence of a dove and the cunning of a serpent.

At any rate, I truly do believe in a theory of abundance - the less we share, the less we have. But it has to be a wise steward who understands the pitfalls of sharing, no?

You're right about the all-fang enemies they face - So maybe remove the fangs and build a RILLY, RILLY big wall?

Israel's security system for their airlines is a good example of how to be thorough and tough - and keep ppl alive.

LAW Wells said...

Despite the fact that the term is an oxymoron and could never work (except as a totalitarian scheme) it still speaks to the ancient hope we all nourish for tranquil times, for the days when the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Conservatives are realists. We know the lion would need a lobotomy to be able to do that with any regularity.

I recall reading Chesterton ponder whether the lion lying with the lamb was a result of the lion ceasing to be a lion by nature. He posed the thought that the lion was still a lion, but had its needs satisfied.

And doesn't that thought just make the image pop? Isaiah knew what he was saying, eh?

RonaldB said...

Hello Dymphna and jlh:

Thanks for your very thoughtful post. I don't get into a lot of actual verbal discussions, due to the fact that most of my contacts are at work, and I consciously avoid long discussions at work because of my obligation to actually deliver value for my salary.

To the anon poster:
"I find it odd that one would use the words of a man whose movement vehemently opposes and demonizes any sort of border security and openly supports the continued advance of Muslims in the West, even those who are openly hostile to both Jews and Western civilization."

I believe you're referring to the Reform Jewish organizations. The Unification Church, in fact, opposes unrestricted immigration. Richard Rubenstein appears to have no formal ties to the Union for Reform Judaism. A search of their website reveals no references to him, and in fact, he was ordained a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which is Conservative Jewish.