31 October 2010

The true meaning of the Temple's destruction

Colonial rule was Godless rule. 
It is not so much that absolute rule corrupts absolutely as it is that absolute rule defies God's rule, and to defy God's rule is an act of hubris that leads to catastrophic collapse because only God's rule promotes the values of the long-term and engenders resiliency and sustainability in the body economic as well as the body politic. 
The advent of imperialism was just the modern day version of the problematic in the ancient world of how to manage the challenges of empire. One of the answers in the ancient world was the existence of the State of Israel and the people of Israel as a template for empire governed by the values of resiliency and sustainability.  
That people in the ancient world did not appreciate that biblical template and the values it embodied, that the people of Israel themselves did not appreciate their own values and their own mission, was one of the great misfortunes of the ancient world. It is the true meaning of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The violent history of the 20th century and the emerging violence of the 21st century testifies to the same problematic plaguing the modern world. The Jews of the modern world were clearly incapable of dealing, in diaspora, with the challenges of modern day empire. The question is will the State of Israel be up for the challenge. 

Whatever resists examination cannot be seen

The Hobbesians posit the default condition for human society is the war of all against all. That claim denies the operation of ecology in human society. It situates scarcity and threat as the only natural state. 
It means bad behavior doesn't require an explanation, and therefore doesn't need to be examined. 
Whatever resists examination cannot be seen. As a result, the overt conduct to promote the values of greed and violence is understood not as the deliberate institutional objective of many malign interests in society but as merely the workings of natural processes. It also means the entire purpose of God's role in human affairs is negated. 

Cultural influences and natural human society

The sacred realm is that artificial activity which has been built deeply into the natural order. It is that artificial part of our existence that has taken on the importance and the character of the natural order. The sacred is where cultural influences embed themselves into natural human society. 

Absent some general restraining power

When we speak about the export of power behind the export of capital as the fundamental innovation of imperialism what we are talking about is the use of that power for the expropriation of natural resources. 
The reason imperialism became irresistible to all the European colonial powers is because it is very lucrative to benefit from the plunder of the natural resources of another's territory. Absent some general restraining power to prohibit such plunder, and given the competitive character of political and military life for the great powers in Europe, none of the colonial powers could afford to resist the possibilities and national advantages imperialism presented. 

Resilient and sustainable political systems

Imperialism transposed a social value that operates in economics (‘more is better’ as it pertains to wealth) to a social value that operates in politics (‘more is better’ as it pertains to power). 
In economics, one could reasonably argue, the end state of the economic system is the consumption of the goods and services the system produces. The production (of wealth) is for the sake of consumption. In politics, the end state of the political system is the sustenance of political bodies. More is not better in politics; longer and more stable is better. The production (of power) is for the sake of resiliency and sustainability, not more power. 
The legitimate objective of the political system is law, which implies the use of power under the rule of self-restraint. As soon as we introduce self-restraint into the equation we disqualify the value of ‘more is better’ as the basic motivator of the system. 
Empire uses power for the sake of building resilient and sustainable political systems; imperialism uses power for the sake of more power. 


Imperialism put the instruments of violence into the hands of middle managers who lacked the mandate to produce sustainable political systems; their only mandate was to extract as much plunder from the native territories as possible, as efficiently as possible. 
The story of the film, Avatar, depicts the error of delivering police and military power into the hands of private interests. Imperialism is the expression of a failed empire. It represents the transfer of state function from the empire's palace to the commercial interests of private shareholders. 

Politics relates to insecurity; economics, to scarcity

Hobbes identifies the delegation of power from the individual to the state as the basis of political life. He thus sees political relationships as an exchange between the delegator and the delegatee for the sake of mutual increase in welfare. Politics is, therefore, tantamount to a market transaction. 
The difference between politics and economics is that politics relates to insecurity whereas economics relates to scarcity. 
Both politics and economics in Hobbes relate to the immature aspects of a human collective. 

Necessity versus gifts

Scarcity and threat motivate out of necessity. 
Necessity is the name we give to exogenous incentives. 
The model of political/economics posits tastes and preferences that describe an inner life but in truth the social application of those tastes and preferences occurs in the context of a cultural system that imposes behavior out of necessity. 
The name we give to endogenous incentives is gifts. 
Oddly enough, the action of gift exchange is not as finely nuanced to the individual's tastes and preferences as is market exchange. Social action that comes not out of necessity but out of gratitude is the more gracious behavior. It defines the motivation of an enlightened elite. 

Gratitude is the other side of vengeance

Gratitude is the other side of vengeance. In a world devoid of desert, a world described only by necessity and fortune, the sentiments of gratitude and of vengeance would be inappropriate. 
When Rawls posits the impossibility of desert he is positting a Hobbesian world of neccesity and fortune, and he is defining justice for precisely such a world: devised out of fairness, where that inner sensibility of what is right or wrong cannot be depended upon. 

Drama versus the novel

Drama depicts a world driven by gratitude and vengeance; the novel depicts one driven by necessity and fortune. 

Honor and shame versus necessity and fortune

Honor and shame in a world of necessity and fortune depend on how well or poorly people are able to compete with each other. Those upon whom fortune has smiled are honored, and those upon whom fortune has frowned are ashamed. 
The honor and shame of competition does not correspond to the exercise of virtue, for there is no virtue in a world of necessity and fortune. 

'More is better' versus self-restraint

Bourgeois values of capital accumulation in the form of private property demands a social system predicated on the unending accumulation of power. 'More is better' with respect to property or with respect to power is inherently unstable. To achieve stablity an individual or a collective must be ready, willing and able to exercise self-restraint.  

Fatuous, if not malign

'More is better' eventually degrades into 'more is mine.' The notion that economic actors, after having developed a culture where self-interest is the only acceptable criterion for action, will suddenly be able to exercise self-restraint regarding their submission to the rules of fair competition once the opportunities for wealth accumulation have become scarce, that notion is fatuous, if not malign. 
"... the whole thing is a delusion. Public life takes on the deceptive aspect of a total of private interests as though these interests could create a new quality through sheer addition. All the so-called liberal concepts of politics (that is, all the pre-imperialist political notions of the bourgeoisie) -- such as unlimited competition regulated by a secret balance which comes mysteriously from the sum total of competing activities, the pursuit of 'enlightened self-interest' as an adequate political virtue, unlimited progress in the mere succession of events -- have this in common: they simply add up private lives and personal behavior patterns and present the sum as laws of history, or economics, or politics. Liberal concepts, however, while they express the bourgeoisie's instinctive distrust of and its innate hostility to public affairs, are only a temporary compromise between the old standards of Western culture and the new class's faith in property as a dynamic, self-moving principle. The old standards give way to the extent that automatically growing wealth actually replaces political action." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 145).

Populist and aristocratic

Africa was a weak continent with weak governments and lots of natural resources just waiting to be plundered. The ancien regime got a couple of generations' new lease on life from the imperialism that fed their moribund hold on power. 
The antisemitism of the late 19th century was a populist thing; the imperialism of the time was an aristocratic thing. The Jews and the Blacks – these were the two targets that presaged the collapse of the ancien regime in Europe. 

Globalization, finacialization, imperialism

"As matters stood, imperialism spirited away all troubles and produced that deceptive feeling of security, so universal in pre-war Europe, which deceived all but the most sensitive minds. Peguy in France and Chesterton in England knew instinctively that they lived in a world of hollow pretense and that its stablity was the greatest pretense of all. Until everything began to crumble, the stablity of obviously outdated political structures was a fact, and their stubborn unconcerned longevity seemed to give the lie to those who felt the ground tremble under their feet. The solution of the riddle was imperialism. The answer to the fateful question: why did the European comity of nations allow this evil to spread until everything was destroyed, the good as well as the bad, is that all governments knew very well that their countries were secretly disintegrating, that the body politic was being destroyed from within, and that they lived on borrowed time." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 147).
Replace 'globalization' or 'finacialization' for 'imperialism' and Arendt could easily have been talking about today.

A cure for advanced metastatic capitalism

At the end of the 19th century it seemed clear to many that free market capitalism would not work: that it was unsustainable; and that in order to make it work, the entire social system would break down in the attempts to paper over capitalist production's  contradictions. They came up with both socialism and fascism as alternatives, and those alternatives elicited a long ideological war that wracked the world for the ensuing century. 
Because the alternatives were wrong, however, did not make capitalism right. Those contradictions of capitalism were and still are operating. The late 19th century diagnoses of the problem are still sound. It's just that we've been judging the accuracy of the diagnosis of the illness on the basis of the effectiveness of the cure, and the world alas still hasn't found a cure for advanced metastatic capitalism. 
In some subtle way, the common sense intuition is correct: to judge the soundness of the diagnosis by the effectiveness of the cure has a deep logic to it. It must be the case that diagnoses which fail to cure are missing something crucial. 
Our conjecture is that the alternatives all mistakenly depend on the workings of government. Our own theory has it that the cure for capitalism could be found in the biblical regime; that a society and a political/economy that was purely secular could not work because a healthy social political economic organization requires sacred institutions to make them work right; and that the location of the sacred institutions needed (1) to temper the power of the rulers, and (2) to support the values of the root of the society's legitimacy, of every society's legitimacy: its civil society.

Covenantal politics manifests as domestic imperialism

Imperialism smashes different cultures into each other. As such it is a rude course of conduct and engages in an often violent process. 
Insofar as empire wrestles with how one (dominant) culture needs to interact with another (subjugated) culture, the story of the Jewish people is also the story of empire. When a people is exiled into the corpus of another people we get the problems of empire inserted into the domestic politics of the host culture. Hosting an exiled people is tantamount to introducing imperial forces into the inner workings of the host culture's politics. 
It is ironic that Israel dealt with imperial politics domestically in the accepting of the covenant. When Israel moves into exile it takes that internal imperial politics and transplants it into the political/economy of the host culture. Israel forces domestic imperialism into every situation in which it finds itself. When Israel is sovereign the imperial ruler is YHWH; when Israel is in exile the imperial ruler is the host culture's state. 
Covenantal politics manifests as domestic imperialism. 

Imperialism came directly out of the Industrial Revolution

Imperialism came directly out of the Industrial Revolution. It resulted from the political philosophy of 'more is better.' 

Mature politics must exercise internal restraint

"Expansion as a permanent and supreme aim of politics is the central political idea of imperialism." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 125). 
Imperialism kept the monster that was capitalism growing for a while. That such permanent growth is unsustainable is a reality which is only now, in the 21st century, making itself felt but the desperate measures the world took to try to sustain this addiction found its earliest expression in the 19th century imperialism which shaped the world's politics for the worse. 
Economics might push for internally unrestrained growth but mature politics must exercise internal restraint, else it directs the nation into collapse. 

A model of imperium

The imperial model that was Rome was well suited for the sort of world-wide expansion the Roman empire achieved. The model of the European nation-state was ill suited for such expansion. The nation-state has a natural limit: the extent of the people who would naturally give their consent to be governed by the particular nation-state. 
Imperialism under the rule of nation-states models the Greek example, where Athens colonized its subjects not subject to their own law but for the sake of expropriating their resources. 
The biblical regime is a model of imperial rule rather than the rule of a nation-state. The biblical regime is a model of imperial rule that does not presume subjugation of other peoples. In the case of Israel, the imperial rule is not for the sake of territorial expansion but rather for the sake of creative depth under the covenantal rule of God. 
The covenantal model is closer to the imperial model than it is to the model of the nation-state. The federation of tribes under a vassalage to YHWH is the minor form of imperial rule to which the Children of Israel subject themselves. 
As a model of imperium Israel's sons are able to relate to their imperial neighbors more directly than if Israel modeled itself as a nation-state. 

Emperor versus imperialist

The difference between empire and imperialism is the degree to which the local potentates are answerable and accountable to the emperor. 
Where the values of the emperor are strong and temper the authority of the colonial governor, there empire rules and serves as a civilizing force throughout the imperial provinces; where the values of the emperor are weak and the provincial potentates tend toward absolute rule, there imperialism rules and serves as a tool of oppression and exploitation throughout the imperial plantations and possessions. Where the local governors have severed themselves from connection with the emperor and taken over the rule of the plantation and possession, there we have South Africa and the evils of apartheit
The question is how much more evil is apartheit than the exploitation and oppression of a local population by its own strongman rulers who have been coopted and turned into proxy potentates for the imperialist interests that reside in the seat of the empire? 
How much does the ethnic identity of the monied interests matter to the political considerations of emperor versus imperialist? 

Rapacious political instantiation

Like the French Revolution and the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution represented a major discontinuity in the history of the modern world. Like those two national revolutions, the Industrial Revolution went beyond economic and technological phenomena. It too was a political eruption that manifested in many ways, not the least of which in the development of the liberal neo-classical political philosophy and its most rapacious political instantiation: imperialism. 

Superfluous money: an unparalleled increase in swindles, financial scandals, and gambling in the stock market

"Imperialist expansion had been touched off by a curious kind of economic crisis, the overproduction of capital and the emergence of 'superfluous' money, the result of oversaving, which could no longer find productive investment within the national borders. For the first time, investment of power did not pave the way for investment of money, but export of power followed meekly in the train of exported money, since uncontrollable investments in distant countries threatened to transform large strata of society into gamblers, to change the whole capitalist economy from a system of production into a system of financial speculation, and to replace the profits of production with the profits of commissions. The decade immediately before the imperialist era, the seventies of the last century, witnessed an unparalleled increase in swindles, financial scandals, and gambling in the stock market." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 135).

The character and the spirit of the entire society

The trouble with liberal political/economy is that what begins as a conviction about some aspect of human nature – that more is better, or that hunger and appetite are powerful incentives and strong motivators – becomes translated into a cultural objective – greed is good, or that the promotion of general frustration ought to be a cultural norm – which then results in a fundamental transformation in the character and the spirit of the entire society. 

The double whammy

Those who don't belong to civil society tend not to be involved in enterprises that are wholesome, that engender productive output, that elicit deservedness. Jews didn't belong to civil society so they were always susceptible in their public relations to being cast as unwholesome, unproductive, and undeserving. The bankers who had accumulated the nation’s superfluous wealth by serving as the government's tax farmers rather than as investors in productive enterprise were also susceptible to being cast in that negative light. 
The Jewish bankers thus had a double whammy. 
Speculative capital falls into a similar category. It's all about where the accumulation of wealth doesn't come from the generation of real value. 
Bottom line? Civil society is the arena of deservedness in the productive as well as in the political realm. 

When imperialism replaced empire

In the late 19th century the government's ability to wield power among the colonies coupled with the advance in the government's ability to organize financial aggregation and financial transaction led to the collaboration of the government with native financiers, to the exclusion of the great Jewish banking houses. When the government got into the imperialism business the local bourgeoisie replaced the Jews as the managers and thus the holders of the nation’s superfluous wealth. 
The Jews had traditionally been the enablers of institutions that did not correspond to the values of civil society. As such, the host cultures were able to use the Jews to get around the values of their civil society while still respecting the special character of their civil society’s values. The host culture could seem, for all intents and purposes, to leave intact their own, native political integrity while enjoying the benefits of a more sophisticated political/economic ideology. 
When the host societies began to incorporate the values of a political philosophy that no longer even pretended to the values of civil society, when imperialism replaced empire so that the values of the colonies' civil society were swept away rather than being honored, the government put itself into a position where it could perpetrate, along with the co-operation of some native bourgeoisie, what had, in the past, been reserved only for the 'untouchable' Jews to do, albeit it allowed the Jews to achieve in the process great wealth and even aristocratic station. 
Imperialism substituted spiritual self-destruction for what, in the past, had been merely hypocrisy.

A noble character

"The first consequence of [imperial] power export was that the state's instruments of violence, the police and the army, which in the framework of the nation existed beside, and were controlled by, other, national institutions, were separated from this body and promoted to the position of national representatives in uncivilized or weak countries. Here, in backward regions without industries and political organization, where violence was given more latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities. The bourgeoisie's empty desire to have money beget money as men beget men had remained an ugly dream so long as money had to go the long way of investment in production; not money had begotten money, but men had made things and money. The secret of the new happy fulfillment was precisely that economic laws no longer stood in the way of the greed of the owning classes. Money could finally beget money because power, with complete disregard for all laws -- economic as well as ethical -- could appropriate wealth. Only when exported money succeeded in stimulating the export of power could it accomplish its owners' designs. Only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the unlimited accumulation of capital." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 136). 
To put it into the terms of the biblical regime, the extension of the power of the nation-state to the unprotected, weak, colonial populations without the concomittant extension to those territories of the rule of God meant the mitigating institutions that gave the exercise of power an interior, a depth, and a noble character were not put into place. 

Covenantal issues

The latent contest between the state and society can be reframed, in the terms of the biblical regime, into the covenant between the ruling authority and civil society. That struggle between the state and society finds its reflection in the covenantal issues between Israel and YHWH. 

The mob liquidated the bourgeoisie

When the bourgeoisie originally took over the nation-state in Europe in the middle of the 19th century it left the state's politics to its traditional rulers. It was only when the bounds of capitalism exceeded the national territory and required imperial designs that the bourgeoisie began to struggle for direct political power. 
Imperialism subjects the interests of the state to the interests of international capital, under the rubric and in the name of free trade and global markets. The shift of the promotion of capital's interests from the national to the international arena derives from capital's insatiable's appetite. It's because 'more is always better' and 'there's no such thing as enough' that the 20th century descended into the catastrophe it suffered. 
"The bourgeoisie had developed within, and together with, the nation-state, which almost by definition ruled over and beyond a class-divided society. Even when the bourgeoisie had already established itself as the ruling class, it had left all political decisions to the state. Only when the nation-state proved unfit to be the framework for the further growth of capitalist economy did the latent figjt between state and society become openly a struggle for power. During the imperialist period neither the state nor the bourgeoisie won a decisive victory. National institutions resisted throughout the brutality and the megalomania of imperialist aspirations, and bourgeois attempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic purposes were only half successful. This changed when the German bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The bourgeoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liquidated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 124).

The battle of legitimacy

By the 19th century "Conquest as well as empire building had fallen into disrepute for very good reasons. They had been carried out successfully only by governments which, like the Roman Republic, were based on law, so that conquest could be followed by integration of the most heterogeneous peoples by imposing upon them a common law. The nation-state, however, based upon a homogeneous population's active consent to its government ... lacked such a unifying principle and would, in the case of conquest, have to assimilate rather than to integrate, to enforce consent rather than justice, that is, to descend into tyranny." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 125). 
Consent is legitimate and cannot be imposed by authoritative edict. The law, on the other hand, is authoritative and depends on consent only in the most basic way for it to operate well in a society. 
The anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox leadership lost the battle of legitimacy and have been trying through the application of authority to compensate for that loss. 
Down that road is the way of tyranny. 

The human condition stripped of hope and purpose

The study of antisemitism, imperialism and authoritarianism is the study of despair. It is the study of the human condition stripped of hope and of purpose. 
It is not only the market economy that has embraced the values of alienation; it is also the entire political/economic super-structure that doesn't know what it feels like to live in a society that can imagine fulfillment, satiation, peace. 
It's hard to know where to fit in. The modern day artist knows this solitude but he doesn't know what to do about it; nor does the cleric know very much about where salvation lies. 
People try to deal with the problem but they just don't have many answers, not really. 

It's an altogether decadent thing

Jews who love the Palestinians are not unlike the late-19th century/early-20th century gentiles who loved the Jews for their exoticism. It's an altogether decadent thing. 

Great capital projects fostered scandal

The late 19th century was the time of great capital projects. Much scandal surrounded these projects. They were corrupt and they fostered swindles. 
The real effects were unassailable; the engineering was monumental and durable, and it changed the face of the developed world. Indeed, the engineering is what made for the development of the developed world. The management and the finance of the projects was another story. Property rights for corporate activity and for corporate shares were novel, and the political/economic system was not yet able to manage the process. As a result, it turns out the economic interests were able to overwhelm the political interests, and, unltimately, to undermine the democratic processes wherever large capital touched the nation-state. 
Large capital is able to suborn both the legislature and the press, not unlike Newscorp today. 

An odd affinity

Insofar as the mob operates outside the ordinary organs of institutional power and is comprised of those who see themselves as disenfranchised, the mob and the Jews have an odd affinity working. 
Because the Jews can be understood to wish to operate as the mob does, it is easy for the mob to invent scenarios where the Jews have succeeded where the mob only aspires – to organize something like a 'secret Judah' that is able to dominate national or world affairs. 
The mob is susceptible to rumor and superstition – the most basic elements of the politics of distraction. 

Delight in doom

20th century mob action was unique in the willingness of the decadent segments of the ruling class to organize the mob, and in the mob's hero worship of those decadent leaders. This institutionalization of mob action, both from above and from below, is the contemporary version of what in the Bible was referred to as avodah zara
"These men, who despised the people and who had themselves but recently emerged from a ruinous and decadent cult of estheticism, saw in the mob a living expression of virile and primitive 'strength.' It was they and their theories which first indentified the mob with the people and converted its leaders into national heros. It was their philosophy of pessimism and their delight in doom that was the first sign of the imminent collapse of the European intelligentsia."  (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 112).

The sole unbreakable bond of union

The fundamental bulwark of civilization is justice. The willingness of the powers that be "to stand, come what may, for justice, the sole unbreakable bond of union between civilized men" (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 112, quoting Clemenceau) is the hallmark of civilized society. 
When Supreme Ruler is defined as the God of vengeance, it means that the sense of justice embodied in that characterization of the divine is the root and the definer of how the society ruled by that God would be organized.  

The rubble of Lehman Brothers and Fox News

As the French Revolution ended in the Dreyfus Affair so is the American Revolution ending in the rubble of Lehman Brothers and Fox News. When the people lose their instinct for desert they become tyrannical, and, as Clemenceau wrote, "With the open consent of the people, they have proclaimed before the world the failure of their 'democracy.' Through them a sovereign people shows itself thrust from its throne of justice, shorn of its infallible majesty. For there is no denying that this evil has befallen us with the full complicity of the people itself. ... The people is not God. Anyone could have foreseen that this new divinity would some day topple to his fall. A collective tyrant, spread over the length and breadth of the land, is no more acceptable than a single tyrant ensconced upon his throne." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 113).

The people's dignity

The difference between the mob and the people is the dignity promoted and defended by a watchful God. That, at least, is the logic of the biblical regime. 
Leaders who cannot distinguish between the mob and the people are leaders who cannot see God in the people's dignity. 

The struggle for justice

"Clemenceau's struggle for justice as the foundation of the state certainly embraced the restoration of equal rights to the Jews. In an age, however, of class struggle on the one hand and rampant jingoism on the other, it would have remained a political abstraction had it not been conceived, at the same time, in actual terms of the oppressed fighting their oppressors. Clemenceau was one of the few true friends of modern Jewry has known just because he recognized and proclaimed before the world that Jews were one of the oppressed peoples of Europe. The antisemite tends to see in the Jewish parvenu an upstart pariah; consequently in every huckster he fears a Rothschild and in every shnorrer a parvenu. But Clemenceau, in his consuming passion for justice, still saw the Rothschilds as members of a downtrodden people. His anguish over the national misfortune of France opened his eyes and his heart even to those 'unfortunates, who pose as leaders of their people and promptly leave them in the lurch,' to those cowed and subdued elements who, in their ignorance, weakness and fear, have been so much bedazzled by admiration of the stronger as to exclude them from partnership in any active struggle and who are able to 'rush to the aid of the winner 'only when the battle has been won." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 118). 
If we replace the word 'justice' with the phrase 'justice as deservedness' we have an apt characterization of the present day struggle in which Israel is engaged as between the pull to exile versus the glory of homeland. 

Taking hostility seriously

Out of the Dreyfus Affair was born the Zionist movement "—the only political answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center of world events." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 120).

The residue of all classes

"The mob is primarily a group in which the residue of all classes are represented. That makes it so easy to mistake the mob for the people, which also comprises all strata of society. While the people in all great revolutions fight for true representation, the mob will always shout for the 'strong man,' the 'great leader.' For the mob hates society from which it is excluded, as well as Parliament where it is not represented." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 107).

The mob wants Jewish blood

Those who yearn for strongman rule tend to be the ones who hate the Jews. That is as true for Jews as for non-Jews. The situation of a people living in exile is always precarious, never more so than when the power of legitimate authority is weak. When that power is especially weak the people turn into a mob, and the mob wants Jewish blood as a way to find their way back to strongman rule. 

A collapse in leadership

Since the end of the 19th century in Europe the world has been suffering from a decided lapse in leadership. So much of what has been happening in the last long century has resulted from the void left by this lapsing in leadership represented by the final collapse of the European aristocracy. Today, as we wend our way into the 21st century, we are facing a collapse in leadership that promises to be even more rapid and more intense. 

Debasing the process of credit and blame

"The antisemites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily of a complete whitewash of one's own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 99). 
Antisemitism thus becomes an instrument in the radical's attempt to conceal the disease in one's own society so as to allow the people to continue to believe that all is basically well except for the minor problems, all of which come from one's political adversaries. 
The conservative impulse encourages a sort of political myopia that allows traditionalists the (self-serving) out of excusing one's own felonies by identifying one's opponents’ minor misdemeanors. 
Culture warfare comes in periods of decline when the politics of desert is suborned in a corruption of the mechanisms of credit and blame. By debasing the process of tokhacha the ruling elite retains its power position because all criticism has now become disqualified.  

The shadier side of power-wielding

The politics of extraction distraction and the politics of the resource curse is the politics of corruption. 
How the Jews factor into a social system that is in decline, what role they play in the violation of the rules of proper governance, is part of the story of their diaspora. The cost of exile is making one's people readily available to the shadier side of power-wielding. 
Jews in Western and Central Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries were cowardly not only with respect to their own; they were cowardly with respect to their host cultures. 

To play the role of the exotic

When Jewishness loses its public personna and becomes a strictly private affair it takes on the character of an obsession. To define oneself in terms of one's Jewishness is to define Jewishness as an essential characteristic of personality. Down that path lies the danger of racism. 
The disease of antisemitism is linked to the absence of a public, ideological definition of what it means to be Jewish and why Jews should be Jews. Jews need to be clear about their mission or they could become subject to the most vicious, violent assaults. To be Jewish should define what one does rather than what one is. With a national mission, it becomes reasonable to tie one's actions to one's ethnic identity in a way that is virtually impossible in the absence of such a mission. 
Arendt's argument comes down to the notion that the assimilated Jews of Western Europe had become identified in their Jewishness rather than in their actions. Because they had already lost their spiritual identity as Jews when they divested themselves of their ritual practice the Jewishness had become a hollowed out husk, leaving little to be done but to play the role of the exotic. 

A large deposit of envy

Leftists who view the political world through the prism of class struggle tend to be enchanted by the foibles of the upper classes. Hiding beneath the anger we can find a large deposit of envy. 
The left has no more a proper sense of what spiritual fulfillment would look like than does the right. 

Trader values in guardian contexts

Corruption could be defined as employing trader values in guardian contexts. 
Brokers who bridge the worlds of traders and guardians need to be especially careful about keeping those value domains separate, else they could be seen as traitors to the guardians' cause and enablers of the corrupt practices. 
These brokers in late 19th century France were almost exclusively Jews. 

Both sides of the struggle

The financial history of late 19th century France was a struggle between haute bankers who worked to influence the rulers of the ancien regime and the monarchists versus the smaller bore, newcomer bankers who worked to influence the rulers of the emerging republic. 
Jews were principals on both sides of the struggle. 

Rabbinic regime designed for when ruling power is strong

The diaspora program of the rabbinic regime made sense so long as the world was ruled by a strong power, like Rome or, even earlier, Egypt or Mesopotamia or Assyria or Babylon or Persia, or, as was the case later, Russia or England or America. 
Where the diasporic rabbinic regime falls apart is when the world is under weak rule. Then the exilic situation of the Jews is susceptible to turning untenable and unsustainable. The collapse of world rule from the beginning of the 20th century until after WWII is what set the conditions for exterminationist Germany to invent and implement the Final Solution. 
It's not that the rabbinic regime was wrong, it's that it was designed under circumstances that, nearly two thousand years later, had altered profoundly and the rabbinic leaders weren't clear enough about what they needed to do to make the necessary adjustments. 

30 October 2010

The power of the general public

The Enlightenment and the Emancipation unleashed the power of the general public. Napoleon tapped the military power of a democratic army. Half a century later the same unleashing of power and national scale began to shape the financial markets. 
The ancien regime could no longer match the great financial scale a general subscription in a nation of middle class wealth and abundance could provide. When gentile general society began more closely to approximate the biblical ideal of a dignified general populace able to finance at a national scale the national projects the Industrial Revolution had made feasible it became more difficult for the Jews to find a comfortable place for themselves. 

Racism negates desert

Racism negates desert. To believe something is due to someone because of the accident of birth is to deny the action of achievement. 
Jewish identity shorn of some sort of national purpose or mission becomes racism. Exile stripped the Jewish people of a sense of their national mission, and so exile reduced Jewish identity to a racist identity. 
The ideological direction of the present day State of Israel threatens the ancient mission of the establishment of that state.

Divine rule is a political matter

"It was this conceit of the 'exception Jews,' who were too 'enlightened' to believe in God and, on the grounds of their exceptional position everywhere, superstitious enough to believe in themselves, that actually tore down the strong bonds of pious hope which had tied Israel to the rest of mankind." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 74). 
Hubris is more of a superstitious posture than is faith in a divine ruler. The principal issue in the biblical regime is not whether or not God exists but whether or not YHWH is the supreme authority. The issue is less faith than it is reverence and humility. The central question is not ontological, it is political. 
This re-framing of the matter of divine rule into political terms is today the key challenge and the main opportunity facing the Jewish people in the Land of Israel; and not only the Jewish people but all the people and peoples of Israel as well. 

Who was the chosen one?

"Secularization, therefore, finally produced that paradox, so decisive for the psychology of modern Jews, by which Jewish assimilation – in its liquidation of national consciousness, its transformation of a national religion into a confessional denomination, and its meeting of the half-hearted and ambiguous demands of the state and society by equally ambiguous devices and psychological tricks – engendered a very real Jewish chauvinism, if by chauvinism we understand the perverted nationalism in which (in the words of Chesterton) 'the individual is himself the thing to be worshipped; the individual is his own ideal and even his own idol.' From now on, the old religious concept of chosenness was no longer the essence of Judaism; it became instead the essence of Jewishness." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 74). 
The Jew was chosen, not the people for the sake of promoting some select values. Here is the manifesto of Jewish idiocy, in the Aristotelian sense of the term, of Jew as isolated individual rather than political member. Here is from where the hard-line Jewish ideologue’s combination of chauvinism and Jew-centricity spring. 

Accumulating and holding secret political power

Antisemitism is the modern day form of superstition. Superstition is the general public's protocol for dealing with lack of information and uncertainty and risk. Superstition is how an unthinking person conjures up a simple explanation for the inexplicable source of some sense of danger. 
When the leadership cannot take responsibility for securing the general public, superstition will start to bleed in as a way for the unled followership to come to terms with that sense of insecurity. God serves as a shield from the source of inexplicable danger. Superstition takes hold when God stops serving as such a shield for the people. 
We are, in general, witness to two inter-connected problems regarding international relations: 
  1. power players tend to behave like a bunch of adolescent boys bordering on juvenile delinquency; 
  2. the more extreme form of such adolescent behavior is to postulate a world of international relations run by hidden conspiracies and secret societies. 
So in the economic sphere the world is in the grip of 'more is better,' and in the political sphere the world is in the grip of 'he took my ball away.' 
The logic of the great Jewish conspiracy theory is based on the history of the Christian oppression of Jews. That historic Christian oppression provides a plausible motive for Jewish retribution and retaliation, and, indeed, for the impulse for the Jews to band together in the first place for the sake of accumulating and holding secret political power. 
The Jewish role in all this is the notion that somehow the world revolves around the Jews, even when the Jews are in exile. The Jews enjoy the publicity and the celebrity, which is unbecoming. It's immodest. 
Immodesty is the exilic version of hubris. 

Hope as a real option

Everywhere in the secular world we find strategies for dealing with the ultimate hopelessness of the human condition. The biblical regime offers a vision that has hope as a real option. The diasporic Jews live in despair but the sovereign Jews can build their nation on the bedrock of hope. That's what we have to offer today's people of Israel in the first place. 
What we need to do is to differentiate our message from the message of hopelessness that is the common theme of virtually all modernist teachings. 

Vice and addiction versus duty and appetite

Vice and addiction defeat character and replace it with duty and appetite run amok. 
Vice and addiction are exogenous causes of behavior, in contradistinction to endogenous conduct that bespeaks the autonomous expression of a self-possessed identity. 
Vice and addiction do not deserve to be punished. They need to be understood and pardoned. 
In a world where crime is transformed into vice and addiction, justice as deservedness yields to justice as fairness, and human dignity is undermined. 

Desert is compassionate

Desert is more compassionate than the ostensible mercy of second chances. Desert maintains a rigor that is lost when transgression is understood sentimentally. 
Inevitably, the sentimental view leads to more cruelty than the rigorous one. 

The boredom of a hollow life

"In both cases, society was far from being prompted by a revision of prejudices. They did not doubt that homosexuals were 'criminals' or that Jews were 'traitors'; they only revised their attitude toward crime and treason. The trouble with their broadmindedness was not that they were no longer horrified by inverts but that they were no longer horrified by crime. They did not in the least doubt the conventional judgment. The best-hidden disease of the nineteenth century, its terrible boredom and general weariness, had burst like an abscess. The outcasts and the pariahs upon whom society called in its predicament were, whatever else they might have been, at least not plagued by ennui and, if we are to trust Proust's judgment, were the only ones in fin-de-siecle society who were still capable of passion." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1991; page 81). 
The shift away from wholesome judgments to the extolling of perversion, the move from crime to vice and its concommitant neglect of desert, comes from a response and a reaction to the spiritual emptiness that secular society offers a disenchanted world. It is, it seems, all that a secular society is able to muster, spiritually. 
When the middle class moves from the right to the left it signals a disaffection with disenchantment and a wish to remedy the boredom of that hollow life, which is spiritually all a disenchanted world has to offer. 

The fount of creativity

When a group within a society comes to be understood as exceptional and as favored by special treatment it is easy for that group to come to be resented by the society at large and for the society to develop an image of the group as being unproductive leeches on the body politic. 
Being cut off from civil society almost by necessity cuts a people off from productive opportunities. To be cut off is to be excluded from the possibilities of creativity. For the Jewish people, exile meant karet from the host culture. An entire people suffered the burdens of excommunication. They were put in herem by their host populations all over the world. 
That ChZL failed to understand karet as exclusion from productive and creative enterprise testifies to ChZL's failure to comprehend the character of the biblical regime as being about the civil society, which is the fountain of creativity. To fail to see the bibilical regime as being about civil society is to believe the biblical regime is about the politics of authority rather than about the politics of legitimacy. 

29 October 2010

The other side of the coin of the resource curse

Anti-Semitism is the other side of the coin of the resource curse. 
YHWH founded Israel as an antidote to the resource curse. When Israel was thrown into exile (to become the Jewish people) their survival came to be tied up with their ability, as court Jews, to co-opt the ruling elites. Why? Because the Jewish people preserved their sense of civil society and family identities, which sense was the bulwark against the resource curse. That sense, however, also served to keep the Jewish people from being able to connect with the civil societies of their host societies. The Jewish people never could assimilate into the host populations so they had to preserve their political prerogatives by joining with the host societies' ruling elites. A people unconnected to the general population and collaborating with the ruling elites are a natural target for the propaganda engine that came to be the objective of extraction distraction. When Jew aversion became an instrument of extraction distraction it became anti-Semitism. The irony of Jews in exile serving the purposes of extraction distraction, in diametric opposition to the role of Israel's sons in their sovereign home, is narratively almost too perfect to believe. 
Anti-Semitism was the more important ideology of the 20th century because extraction distraction was the most general objective of the 20th century ruling elites. 

28 October 2010

Acceptance and renunciation

Jews achieve acceptance in gentile society by renouncing their Jewishness, by declaring themselves to be Jewish exceptions, not like the 'other' Jews. That acceptance and that renunciation are especially true for the Jewish leadership. In exile, Jewish leadership is structurally disconnected from the Jewish followership. In exile, Jewish leadership must, in some sense, betray its own people. 
Hadassah called herself Esther, and Mordechai also changed his name to an exilic version in order the gain acceptance in the Persian court. 

Power moves away from clergy

Inside the homeland, the leadership needs to depend on the followership while the rabbinate reduces back to a ministry. Inside the homeland political power moves away from the clergy. 

Who replaced the traditional Jewish leaders?

When we speak of the advance of secular values among the Jewish people with the advent of the Enlightenment and the Emancipation we recognize the Jewish people's traditional leadership’s concomitant loss of power. 
   Question: Which leaders replaced the traditional leadership of rabbis and stadlanim
   Answer:   The Jewish bankers. 
The bankers embodied the international flavor of the Jewish people in Europe, and they achieved, through the House of Rothschild, the status of banker to the great powers. 
The Jewish banker came to represent, in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the disaffected, secular Jew, the quintessence of the Jewish people of 19th century Europe. 

Middle class connects upper class with lower class

The middle class does more than occupy the middle income and middle wealth range in a society's economic distribution. The middle class connects the upper class with the lower class. At best, the middle class performs a linking function in the political structure of the society. 
It might be it was the middle class that the Bible had in mind when speaking about Israel as a stiff-necked people: that the neck, which was hard and which did not convey the upper class' and the lower class' issues to each other, was the self-indulgent middle class. 

Class preferences

Family is important to the upper classes; the individual is important to the middle classes; God is important to the lower classes. When the Children of Israel shift the definition of the basic social unit from the biological family to the political unit of the lamb-consuming household, they are shifting from upper class styles to lower class styles. 

Exploiting misery

Bankers come across as undeserving. They make their profit not from productive work but by what looks like the exploitation of the misery of others. Bankers feel like gougers who wait for moments of misfortune in order to take advantage of them. Rather than joining in and helping others in times of need, the banker turns another’s distress into an opportunity for a market transaction. 
Rather than engaging in the equity of the matter, the banker engages in debt. 

The European street

Anti-Semitism activated the European street for the rapidly degenerating European aristocracy. 

Should the state promote values or remain neutral?

The Jews enabled the European nation-state to adopt a neutrality it could otherwise only achieve through a high degree of abstraction. That neutrality was as opposed to the parties of the anti-Semites who insisted the government of the nation-state ought to promote firm values that expressed content in the conduct of government. The Jews thus represented a secular move in the role of government in the life of the nation while the anti-Semites represented a religious move in government's role, albeit an extremely denatured manifestation of religion in the shape of the government. 
The anti-Semites had public relations on their side. That the anti-Semitic parties who promoted core values in the society came to dominate the non-anti-Semitic parties who likewise promoted core values in the society demonstrates how important a role public relations plays in the conduct of modern national and international politics. 

Riding above

Anti-Semitism, as a political movement, saw itself domestically as riding above all parties and in foreign relations as riding above all nations. By adopting anti-Semitism the parties were able at once to fashion themselves as superior to the institutional constraints of the status quo while at the same time they could organize themselves around the practical matters of politics and not just ideological punditry. 
For nascent, still-building, revolutionary political movements such a catalytic, central organizing principle was a God-send. 

To delimit the reach or to intensify it

Saudi Arabia has almost no civil society. There is hardly any vital civic life between the government and the mosque. In the biblical regime the function of sanctity is to delimit the reach of commerce and government. In the Arab world the function of sanctity is to intensify the reach of commerce and government. In the one case, civil society flourishes; in the other case, civil society is squelched. 

Politicizing the non-political, and vice versa

The gentile's impulse to anti-Semitism comes from the same place as the Jew's impulse to believe all gentiles are anti-Semites. In the one case, it politicizes what would otherwise be a non-political concern; in the other case, it de-politicizes what would otherwise be a decidedly political concern. 


Anti-Semitism is the exemplar of ideologies that are disreputable. Whether a society has an appetite for respectable ideological discourse or not is a measure of its character. How decent a society is depends in no small part on how well such disreputable ideological discourse fares there, or how poorly

An embarrassment

The Orthodox leadership is not only a chilul haShem; it is also a bizayon haShem. The loss of integrity has so much undermined Torah scholarship that listening to someone defending an halakhic position nowadays is an insult to one’s intelligence, and an embarrassment. 

Anti-Semitic propaganda versus anti-Semitic actions

Because anti-Semitism was, for much of its early life, largely an instrument of propaganda and not used for policy, Jews were able to persuade themselves that public relations did not have real world consequences. After Hitler and Stalin changed all that, the Jews went to the other extreme and deemed all propaganda as a real world assault. The Jews have yet to understand the subtle interplay between anti-Semitic propaganda and anti-Semitic actions. 

German racism and Jewish racism

German racism defined national socialism in Austria and Germany after the fall of the house of Hapsburg. The Germanic peoples saw themselves as being destined to rule Central Europe and to dominate Eastern Europe. The racism that promised that dominance coagulated around a virulent anti-Semitism. 
The irony is that this very racism, which associated national and global ambitions to a particular race of people rather than to an ideology or to a geographic/territorial understanding of a national destiny, has come to define the self-understanding of the Jewish people in their own homeland. 

Jews in class riven Europe

Emancipation of the servile class in Europe with the rise of the nation-state under the advance of the Enlightenment resulted in equality before the law but not in equality of condition. Equality of condition was achieved only in America, where the Constitutional order created what amounted to a classless society. 
That class system in Europe translated for the Jews into a pro forma legal equality but served up an actual situation that maintained the Jews as a distinct segment of the social order, with some Jews retaining their priveleged status in the courts of power. 
Europeans in the 19th and early 20th centuries defined themselves in terms of their class membership more than by their national identity or by their citizenship in the nation-state. The European ruling class and its wealthy class replaced the European aristocracy of the ancien regime but the class division in Europe remained intact until after the First World War. Only the Jews remained identified with the apparatus of the state rather than with that of a class. 
The Jews' special status in Europe meant they could never blend into membership of any European class; they could hitch their wagon only to the privileges of state-craft. Class divisions were part of the social order in Europe; and Jews, notwithstanding their achievement of legal equality, could not gain entry in the social mechanisms that defined the functions of class membership. 

The disease of social hatred

Israel has been contaminated by the European disease of social hatred in a way that is more pronounced than anything that transpires in America. We have been met in Israel in the space of several months with more blind prejudice and with more of what in Europe would amount to class hatred than we ever experienced in a lifetime of quite open and explicit Jewish identity in the United States. 
Israel needs some sort of national ideological mechanism that would work to eradicate this European disease. The biblical regime is sensitive to these problems in a way that a secular political system is not, which is why secular Israel is missing the boat on this score. 


Because the Jews in Europe could not belong to any class they were, in some sense, socially invisible. They belonged to the state but not to the nation. Had they been able to belong to the nation, they would have become assimilated and would quickly have lost their Jewish identity, which would have been the point of becoming part of the nation. 
We typically think of ethnic identity as founded in religion. In the case of the European Jews it was founded in an exclusion from any of the European social and economic classes. 

Their own civil society

When Diaspora Jews are prohibited from assimilating into the host society or when they prohibit themselves from assimilating with the host society what is really going on is the Jews are electing not to become part of the host society's civil society. The Jews are either outcasts or they're court Jews but they're never ordinary citizens. 
What becomes unleashed when the Jewish people establish a sovereign homeland is that the Jewish population can cultivate their own civil society. The Jews need sovereignty over their own homeland for the sake of being able to cultivate and nurture a Jewish civil society whose values will be safeguarded by the prevailing political culture.