Mind Games: the Interregnum

by A. Jay Adler on December 30, 2009
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Soon after posting Mind Games 1 and promising anon a climactic II (yes, treasured readers, I felt your pent up need), I came to think that the period commonly referred to as “the holidays” might actually be suggestive of something. Rather than continue in my increasing detachment from those recurring, totemic calendar events around which we all dance, it occurred that I might actually, myself – how do you say? – holiday. I had been posting at lengthy, fevered pitch, and all at once some attention to real life, and the application of the writing gene to something that might possibly make a buck, seemed to be in timely order. So I’ve scaled it back these xmasy, new-yearsy days.

You had noticed, yes?

Shall I weep?

I’ve put up some small posty delights just to say – it is that time of year – I love you, and will continue to do so until I return in full fighting trim the first week of the new year. Somehow, though, the world, and my compulsion to comment upon it, has not withered on the fir.

Somehow, in addition to the wretched wealthy of the earth attempting to cure their loneliness by igniting their undies (and you and me with them) the subject of Israel and the Jew has remained, millennially, current.

Of course, it might be what I read.

My goyisha Jewel has asked on more than one occasion why it is that Jews talk so much about their – not to put too fine a point on it – Jewishness. Ah, sweet naïf.

One would like to say that the answer is that, quite obviously,

  1. because they’re Jews – and that really, when you think about it, should be all of the answer right there.

But it is an answer that would basically please Jews and nobody else.

A partial and more serious answer is that very distinctive minority populations, in order both to protect and preserve identity, are forced to, and then actively themselves, embrace their otherness. That is why, for instance, African-Americans – even as they struggled so long to be fully enfranchised as, simply, Americans – so relish and assert their cultural distinction. And they can, and do, you know, play their own version of Jew-Not a Jew.

In the midst, then, of all the good holiday cheer, we have the “Gaza freedom march,” fit exemplar for Mind Games II, but, oh, no, I will not be tricked into doing any real writing (heaven forefend thinking) on my holiday. This is in the manner of a very casual essay. Don’t get slick with me.

Yaacov Lozowick – he of the Ruminations – has, with his usual droll sobriety, been pointing out the idiocy of this abortive effort at fun house mirror, human rights righteousness, while I await the Sudan, Congo, Chechnya, Turkish Kurd, and Burmese “freedom marches,” should you want, in that last instance, the case of a true national concentration camp. Or the Egyptian freedom march, hell, as long as they’re there.

Yaacov’s focus on the march of the misguided has been largely through his occasional appraisals of Mondoweiss, that hate fest masquerading as handmaiden to the coming of one philip_weiss_150love, one world. Yaacov has a stronger stomach than I, and, I must say, more compassion than do I for the blog’s Weiss, Phillip, it’s dull, tortured fool for utopia. When I descended into the depths of the self-debasing turmoil of Weiss’s consuming anti-Semitism long enough to produce The Malice of Mondoweiss, it was, for me, a culminating event. I turned away, bathed and dressed, and set off into the daylight.

Yaacov, however, has it as his mission to monitor the web and other activities of Israel’s foes: he reads regularly the Guardian’s virulently anti-Semitic Comment Is Free, of which Mondoweiss might be judged the customary Jewish corollary. Discomfort with Jews, let alone Jewish empowerment, lacks a certain frisson if there aren’t some Jews themselves to actually share it.

One of Yaacov’s recent posts focused on a Mondoweiss dispatch from Emily Ratner, a romantically charged paean to Gazan nobility in the face of Israeli wickedness:

We remember the more than 1,400 that were murdered. We remember the hundreds more who have died as a result of this horrific siege. We remember the tens of thousands who are still homeless, one full year later. And we remember our sisters and brothers on the other side of the Rafah border who have breathed life into this historic march every day for months, who have guided our feet to Cairo, and who light the shadowy path to Gaza. Most of all we remember that they will still be caged in Israel’s massive open-air prison long after we’ve safely returned home.

You can see Ratner to the right, wearing her Palestinian scarf no doubt as merely a simple gesture of solidarity with the oppressed, which Israeli Jews ceased to be somewhere aroundemily ratner the fourth time they managed to beat back the surrounding Arab democrats and human rights advocates who sought – and in many cases still seek – to annihilate them. It is to be understood that one does not reason with the empathic otherness-romance of a Ratner, the embrace of her own aspirant holy self in the victimized form of world-historical oppression: a baby and the bomb. What madness! she cries.

Something, instead, like deprogramming. Or the grace of a richer life, more broadly visioned. Or moving on to the next person.

If I seem awfully hard on Weiss and these other well-meaning souls (and perhaps I don’t – you may be tougher and meaner than I), it is only, really, because they deserve it. You can ask Mrs. Conroy, my third grade teacher: I was a nice boy.

It is, simply, that of all the bad actors in the world, middle-aged men of conflicted ethnic identity who seek to alter the course of world events, to delegitimize nations and thwart the millennial-long aspirations of whole peoples, whose actions effectively promote war rather than the peace for which they cry out like a tic, and who do so because they have frequently and prominently discussed issues with their mother are a very bad thing. Better sit down and negotiate with a tyrant who knows what he wants than a man whose political pathology is openly steeped in mother-anger, because the former’s demands conceivably can be satisfied.

But I regress.

What I newly note about the Mondoweiss site is that it prominently displays the declaration that it is “A Project of The Nation Institute.”

The Nation is many other topics for many other days, but as any effort might continue that is aimed at preserving a liberalism of ideological balance and sanity, it is worth recalling the left’s many unconscionable affiliations and rationalizations of yore and today. The magazine offers many stingingly accurate and worthwhile critiques of the right, but its current-era shamefulness extends to its weak-willed and morally flabby response to 9/11. Now it underwrites a blog enterprise that credits only one side in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, deeming Israel a racist, criminal, war-mongering state and explicitly espousing a one-state solution, i.e. that calls for an end to the state of Israel, and concerns itself with the nature of Jewish power and influence in the U.S.

If these are not the positions and concerns of The Nation and The Nation Institute, what are they doing with Mondoweiss as a “project”? If they are, then the stain of irredeemable extremism is there to be seen.

But more on all such in 2010. Now I prepare to be drunk.

AJA


2 comments

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Yuras Karpau December 31, 2009 at 3:37 am

“Better sit down and negotiate with a tyrant
who knows what he wants
than a man whose political pathology
is openly steeped in mother-anger,
because the former’s demands
conceivably can be satisfied” –

мне не совсем понятно, в чем тут разница.
Я против де-идеологизированного “прагматичного” подхода.
Это значит, что лучше искать “базовые” состояния согласия,
на основе которых поддерживать дальнейшие отношения.
/
I do not quite clear what the difference is.
I am against de-ideologized “pragmatic” approach.
This means that it is better to seek “basic” state of consent,
on the basis of which further support the relationship.

Reply

A. Jay Adler December 31, 2009 at 10:36 am

Yuras

I suspect you might think a little differently if the ideology were not one you favor. My point was to contrast rational actors (even if viewed as malevolent) with pathological ones. One can negotiate to lasting purpose with a Brezhnev or Deng Xiaoping, not with Stalin or Hitler. I do not favor the concept of “ideology,” which I think inherently dogmatic. We have ways of thinking. We have ideals. We should pursue those ideals. But in the real world we must balance our ideals with pragmatism. Extremes in either direction produce destructive consequences.

Here is for a Happy Belarusian New Year.

Reply

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