31 January 2011

The way KKR pioneered it

The first meaning of Shabbos is to know when to desist from the creative process. 
In the political realm, not knowing when to desist in the creative process manifests as a collapse of the covenantal respect for the other. It shows up as a violation of the other's property. It chooses to continue growing and making by plundering what is not given up voluntarily. 
It's mergers and acquisitions the way KKR pioneered it, through hostile takeover. 

A release of power

Like the establishment of artificial rhythms in the political realm, one that imposes a release of power, an interim period during which time a shemittat yad of power allows for narrative assaults on the power-wielders the likes of which would otherwise be considered treasonous, and like the extolling of free market competition and the business cycle which allows for the shemittat yad of economic power at the micro-economic scale, so the embrace of the sabbatical year establishes an artificial rhythm in the economic realm, one that imposes a release of power, an interim period during which time a shemittat yad of power allows for institutional assaults on the power-wielders the likes of which would otherwise be considered robbery. 
Regular elections puts an upper limit on how much concentration of political power is acceptable in a politically autonomous (democratic) society. The sabbatical system puts an upper limit on how much concentration of economic power is acceptable in an economically autonomous (covenantally egalitarian) society. 
The question is how does the bi-annual and quadra-annual cycle of elections interact with the seven year cycle of sabbatical years. 

How do we disable the extractives?

The strategic question is how do we disable the extractives from gaining relative advantage in a world moderated by the distribution of allottments under a sabbatical year system. 
What do we do with the wingnut radicals on the right? 

Upward pressure

When a country has lots of oil to export, its trading partners need their currency to make their oil purchases, which puts upward pressure on their exchange rates.  

The virtue of temperance

Contentment needs to be earned by exercising self-restraint. It is not merely a question of reaching the satiation point. Contentment is the result of what happens after enough is enough. 
If more is always better, then contentment is never possible. What makes contentment possible is the positive feeling one gets for having made something of value. That's not what happens when you have things, that's what happens when you take what you have and you decide how much of it you do need and how much you can use to give to others and to the world to make for themselves. 
Abundance is not about having more, it's about having enough so you can (a) do more; and then (b) help others to do more. When you cross over into the world of doing, it stops you from a concern with the having of more and pre-occupies you with the challenge of the making of more. Appetites arising from hunger put you into the frame of mind of wanting more and more; appreciation of what's been given to you, which arises from abundance, puts you in the frame of mind of wanting to give back. That process of giving back needs to happen by transforming the liquid into the illiquid, from the alienable to the inalienable, from consuming into producing. 
In order to appreciate you have to recognize the other and respect what's his that he gave to you. Contentment comes of learning self-restraint, and knowing when to stop trying to sate oneself and instead to start to redeem the excess one has acquired. The transformation of material abundance into the institutional strength and the character strength that fortifies a civilization requires a bleeding through of that character strength into the appetites that drive the acquisition of material bounty. 
The simplest expression of that bleeding through is the exercise of self-restraint in the pursuit of abundance, better known as the virtue of temperance. All the virtues have the same properties of requiring a measure of self-restraint as well as of the transformation of the material into the characterological. 
Contentment is the outcome of virtue, not of satiation. Virtue is the training of one's tastes and preferences to the purposes of caring and contentment. That training begins with the recognition of abundance and the appreciation of the other's role in achieving that abundance. Autonomy is what comes of having enough so that you can go make something of yourself. Autonomy is the ability to achieve contentment. The duty of legitimate authority is to harness social surplus to the broadest cultivation of autonomy possible in the society. 
The proper mechanism of an economic system is to create that quantity of surplus which could underwrite the political system's creation of the most autonomy possible at any given moment in a nation's history. 
The deepening of a people's character is reflected in the heightening of their values. 

Blitzkrieg is a tactic

Under threat of predation it becomes rational for decision-makers to mortgage the future in favor of the present. Extremely high interest rates are correspondingly the equivalents of wartime. 
High interest rates are the measure of a high discounting of the other relative to oneself, which is to say they are the measure in the society of the collective uncaring. 
The irony of predation is that war is typically a marathon rather than a sprint. The strategic victor is the one who exhausts his adversary rather than simply defeating him. 
Blitzkrieg is a tactic; containment is a strategy. 

Sovereignty & autonomy

Sovereignty differs from autonomy in that autonomy is a measure of power over one's own creative gifts while sovereignty is a measure of power over the collective's creative gifts. That's why sovereignty tends to be defined in terms of the disposition of the land whereas autonomy tends to be exercised in terms of the manner and degree of income taxation. 
Land is a gift of God's grace while income tends to be experienced as a gift of personal or local creativity. 

The persons of the parties to a transaction

For the limiting of behavior, market systems depend on discipline imposed by the external market while gift exchange systems depend on discipline imposed by an internal system of virtue. 
When the behavior is limited internally we call it ‘conduct.’ 
Alienability and inalienability are measures of externality versus internality. The more alienable, the more externally determined is the behavior; the more inalienable, the more internally determined is the behavior. 
A thing is alienated when it is removed from the person of its owner. Alienation in a market exchange therefore entails the voluntary stripping away of the persons of the parties to a transaction. Gift exchange, in contrast, nourishes the persons of the parties to a transaction. At the same time, however, gift exchange invites predation, which has the effect of involuntarily stripping away the persons of the parties to a transaction. 

30 January 2011

The autonomy of a people

Societies, like land, must be plowed up so that they can receive seeds and rain and sun to grow. Seeds and rain scattered onto unplowed earth will mostly sit on top of the hard crust and germinate only haphazard fruit.   
The building of a society's institutional infra-structure is comparable to the plowing up of the land. Absent that institutional infra-structure the people’s bestowing of gifts of grace one to the other will not bear seed. The plenty that can come from the silver and gold or oil will flow in and then slough right out of the country.
The autonomy of a people is its greatest catchbasin and storehouse of value. 

To covet

The principal vice associated with extraction is coveting. 
To covet is to want to take what is inalienable to your fellow and to make it inalienable to yourself. Coveting violates the covenantal bond that is the essence of the inalienable. Coveting your neighbor's wife is therefore the exemplification of covenantal desecration because the marital bond is the premier artificially rather than naturally arrived at covenantal bond. 
To covet another's wife is wrong but natural; to covet another's children is not so much wrong as it is unnatural. Because it is pathological it is not enumerated among the prohibitions of coveting. 
The entire Decalogue refers to covenanting. The first five comprehend vertical covenants while the last five, horizontal covenants. Killing, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, coveting are all about violations of honor more than of law. 

Away from the income statement/P&L

Commodities is another name for extractive resources. 
Goods and services that require institutional infra-structure base their economics on the theory of the firm in a way the suppliers of commodities do not. Commodity suppliers don't need to create a culture of productivity to ensure good harvests and proper supply conditions. They depend more on the management of risk. Theirs is an asset-based economics and so their welfare depends more on the rise and fall of the value of their assets – their wealth – than it does on the maintenance of their income. 
In late 20th century America the managers of the nation's industrial base transformed its productive culture from one focused on income to one focused on wealth. As such, they linked themselves up with the farmers and the resource extractors and combined them all with the financiers so as to re-engineer and re-structure the American economy away from the income statement/P&L and toward the unsustainable balance sheet leading to the inevitable meltdown. 
Post-meltdown, the task of the economic planners needs to be to re-engineer and re-structure the American economy to introduce institutional infra-structure into the extraction and exploitation of commodities. That process is organizing itself under the banner of the green movement. 
The teaching of the Bible is that the values of stewardship are the values of institutional infra-structure coupled to a respect for property and covenantal relationship. 

Weaving and tempering and arousing and then releasing

The essence of narrative is the folding out of crucial information through time. This narrative-like character finds its expression in the policy realm by building institutions that function in and through time, that alter their structure from season to season, where one strand operates for a while and then another strand takes over, and where the resultant is greater than any of the elements. 
Institutional design, especially for society, must be nuanced and more sophisticated, and more rhythmic, than what passes for the state-of-the-art these days. The Biblical design represents such a sophisticated conception, a conception that is misunderstood because of the impoverishment of people's conceptions of what's possible in the design of institutions. 
When one is managing a project with a fixed objective it might well not be necessary to get too sophistictaed in the institutional design but when managing an on-going society one can't lay it all out and expect it to play through without there being an internal, dynamic tension. The American founders created such an inner tension by building in a balance of power into the government. The Bible achieves that inner tension through rhythm and through the alternation of power-wielding over time. 
The reason art is important for society is because the artist understands the rules of rhythm better than any of the other practitioners in the social order; and rhythm is how history moves forward. Hegel and Marx tried to capture that spirit of rhythm in the notion of the dialectic but it's not only about synthesis, it's also about the temperance that comes of two or three or multiple strands weaving and tempering and arousing and then releasing each other. 

A proper deservedness

The survival of the fittest is understood to imply the survival of the most deserving, but how do we know survival implies deservedness? Survival could also come to the most ruthless, to those most willing to mortgage away their survival in the long term in favor of their survival in the short term so that those who are superior in long term survival never get there because they cannot make it through the short term. 
Marginal revenue equal marginal cost signifies deservedness but how well, in fact, do the revenues and costs reflect a proper deservedness in the system?

How proud of yourself you are

The difference between satisfaction and contentment is the difference between how comfortable or sated you are versus how proud of yourself you are. 
Pride does not come from your needs being cared for by others, it comes from what you do by yourself for yourself and for others; and it hardly makes any difference if you or others benefit from your work – the pride is the same. 

Unwarranted stricture

The biblical regime deals with the challenges of avodah zarah while the rabbinic regime does not. 
When the Jewish people were confronted with the aggressive threat of the Nazi ‘evil as policy’ the Jewish leadership failed to recognize avodah zarah when they saw it. Instead, they read the familiar into the strange and judged the Nazi threat to be merely a variant of the old despotisms – something the people could weather successfully. 
Here is why it is dangerous to add stricture (chumrah) where it is not warranted. Because too many benign practices had, over the centuries, been designated as avodah zarah, by the time the Jewish leadership came up against real avodah zarah face-to-face they didn't understand what they were seeing, and they were lulled into a false sense of security. 

Sequestration from the general public

The totalitarian regime must separate the insane world of its ideology from coming into ordinary contact with the normal, functioning world. 
The organization of totalitarian institutions requires sequestration from the general public, not unlike the ghetto attitudes of the Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox. 

The rebbe & the rosh yeshiva

In the absence of political leadership the Chassidic rebbe became the center of the Jewish social order. 
The Chassidic rebbe shifted the vector of leadership among the Jewish people from the civic and geographical to the ideological and charismatic. When the Chassidic rebbe model passed over to the rosh yeshiva two things were lost: 
  1. the connection between the leader and the people was replaced by a connection between the leader and the teachings; and 
  2. the right hemisphere vision of the rebbe was replaced by the left hemisphere rigor of the masmid
The rebbe took care of his chassidim; the rosh yeshiva had to be taken care of by his talmidim. The rosh yeshiva is guided not by common sense but by the purity of his theoretical (and often fictive) conception of how things in principle ought to run. He resembles the ideological extremism of the totalitarian leader sitting at the center of his institutional spider's web of evil as policy. 

So hollowed out

What was the mentality like of the mid-20th century Middle European citizen who found meaning for his life, and purpose, in the ecstasy of mass meetings and in the incessant blarings of propaganda? 
How had his spiritual world been so hollowed out that he could be satisfied with such meager moral gruel? 
And what was the mentality like of the mid-20th century Jew who could end up persecuted and, in the end, nearly exterminated by so meager a moral actor? 

In the combination of German and Worker

The national socialists combined the (German) nationalism of the right with the internationalism of the (socialist) left. 
The national socialists thus represented themselves as a unity movement that spoke for the solidarity of the nation. In that solidarity could be found the basis of identity for the individual Nazi party member. In the combination of German and Worker the middle European found a national identity and a feeling of solidarity that had not been there since the height of the imperial times decades prior. 
Membership in a people affords an identity that serves as the ground for an individual's dignity and sense of self-possession. The totalitarians play on those needs and proffer easy paths to a sense of solidarity and identity when the liberals ignore those needs and even denigrate them.  

When ethnic values overwhelm political values

When ethnic values overwhelm political values the state ceases to matter because with ethnic values only the people are at issue. In the case of Germany it was the Aryan race, in the case of Russia it was the proletarian class; in both cases the state had no independent value except insofar as it served the interests of the race or the class in question. 
The structure of the political decision-making was a matter of trivial significance. 

Holding themselves to be superior

As the Nazi party members held themselves to be superior to the rest of the German people, and as the Communist party members held themselves to be superior (more equal than others) to the rest of the Soviet peoples, so the members of the ultra-Orthodox hold themselves to be superior to the rest of the Jewish people. 
In each case, this distinction between party member and ordinary citizen is the first step in mistreating the members of one's own people. 

The roaring mediocrity of rabbinic leadership

Nazi propaganda promoted the concept of Volksgemeinschaft, the equality of all Germans not in rights but in nature, and the superiority of all Germans over all the other peoples. 
Volksgemeinschaft has an eerie resemblance to how the Jewish people in Israel see themselves as defined by their membership in their homeland. Here is a failure of imagination on the part of those in authority who seem incapable of envisioning a national purpose that goes beyond the simple expressions of camaraderie. Volksgemeinschaft is national identity as school yard club. 
The Jewish people's spiritual leaders are not only silly and superficial in their application of their ancient teachings, they are oblivious to the crucial matters facing the people in their homeland and they systematically misdirect the people away from dealing with the pressing challenges the establishment of a homeland is presenting to the people. 
If the Jewish people would become great, they will have to unbuckle themselves from the roaring mediocrity of their rabbinic leadership. 

It is always about the organization

The 'living organization' of the movement rather than the dead party bureaucracy of the ruling elites is what totalitarian propaganda is meant to foster. 
The reality of the institutional organizations of the movements, organizations and institutions predicated on the simplistic lies of the totalitarian regimes, becomes the primary vehicle of persuasion for the totalitarian ruler, not the attempts at shaping public opinion through the media. 
The public relations objectives of totalitarian regimes is to mask the actions of the totalitarian rulers. It was Stalin's policy "always to say the opposite of what he did, and to do the opposite of what he said." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; quoting Souvarine, footnote 57, page 362). Public relations is never about the ideology, it is always about the organization in its relation to the people it rules. 

The reality of reshaping movements

The decay of the ruling elites in the 19th century and the decay of the authority those ruling elites represented eventually found expression, in the 20th century, in the decay of the subject populations and in the decay of the legitimacy those subject populations embodied. 
The totalitarian regimes fed off of the corruption of civil society. Totalitarianism takes hold when the practice rather than just the theory incorporate the reality of the reshaping movements, which movements are dedicated to reshaping the identity of its adherents. 
Totalitarianism is a social and a political and a spiritual malady that infects the very deepest strata of a healthy human society. Seen thus, it is easy to recognize the evil in totalitarianism and the need for healthy societies to root that avodah zarah out, down to the man, woman, child and livestock. 

The creation of a new reality

Totalitarian regimes govern by instituting organizations along the lines of the ideological reality they are trying to create. 
The creation of that reality is, in fact, a profoundly creative impulse. It seeks to answer a deeply atavistic call in both the totalitarian program’s leadership and followership. 
To try to create a brand new reality is to try to imitate God in His creative guise. When the totalitarian leader is ready to govern he does so not by the use of terror and propaganda but by the institution of organizations that have as their essential mandate the realization of the leader's totalitarian vision. 
"Organization and propaganda (rather than terror and propaganda) are two sides of the same coin." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 364). 

Impulses floating around Eastern Europe

The will of the leader becomes the dictate of the movement. 
It is important that the will remain slightly ambiguous and arbitrary so that it can be experienced by the followership as absolute. Along with the absolute will of the leader comes the fact of its being external to the will of the follower. The will of the leader need not make sense, indeed, his will must be followed whether or not it makes sense because to follow nonsense demonstrates an absolute loyalty and dedication to the leader's direction. 
Daat Torah leans in this same direction. Jews ought to stop resenting this totalitarian inclination in Jewish teachings and recognize it for what it is – a totalitarian-like response to the general totalitarian impulses that were floating around Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. Daat Torah is a toothless Jewish version of what in the goyim manifested as Nazism and Communism. 

The sympathizers

The party membership must stay small while the penumbra of sympathizers can be as large as possible, comprehending even the entire nation. 
The ultra-Orthodox must remain small in number so they can function as the zealous avant garde of the Jewish totalitarian movement. 
  • The larger population of sympathizers affords the movement a legitimacy that makes it acceptable to the general society. 
  • The sympathizers give the movement ideological cover. 
  • The sympathizers are the real problem, for they are the ones who disable the society from seeing the totalitarian movement for the insanity that it is. 
  • The sympathizers form a phalanx that insulates and supports the fanaticism of the party members and of the true believers. 
  • To combat such a movement requires an assault not on the radicals of the movement but rather the disqualification of their sympathizers. 
  • The sympathizers are the living bark and sap that protect and feed the trunk of the sturdy tree. 
  • The sympathizers keep the radicals from recognizing the degree to which they are out of touch with the normal world. 
This gradation of insulation and nourishment goes all the way to the inner circle and even to the pinnacle of the movement. 

Extremism is in its nature demonic

The logic of extremism has a system of its own. 
Extremism forms a pathological process of organization to suit its unique needs. The biblical regime attempts to signify that extremism as pathological rather than as merely normal but of a different stripe. Pathology needs to be treated as an extreme threat that deserves and indeed requires eradication, not competitive co-existence. 
The logic of extremism is designed to preserve the extremist character of the organization. The establishment one after another of militant sub-groups within the movement's hierarchy is a feature of the preservation of that extremism. 
The ostensible ideological program ceases to govern the decision-making of the movement. Instead, the movement is taken over by the lust for the raw extremism that results in a kind of satanic descent. No matter where ideologically the logic of extremism begins, it ends in the collapse of all interests before the absolutist, 'totalist' demands of utter hubris. 
Extremism is in its nature demonic. 

The sheer stupidity

It is not the evil of the Nazi or Communist regime that ought respectively to embarrass the Germans and the Russians; it is the sheer stupidity of their totalitarian regimes where so many were killed on such preposterous pretexts. 

The leader usurps all society's human affect

The leader usurps all the human affect in the society, draws it away from the ordinary citizen and toward himself. 
Whereas civil society depends on personal sentiments of affection and gratitude to operate properly, the totalitarian regime transforms that personal, sentimental character into the personal extolling of the leader's person. 

A juvenile universe

Totalitarian regimes construct themselves like secret societies that have been voided of their secrets. They operate with rituals and initiation ceremonies aimed at separating the inner core from the rest of the profane public. They conjure fictitious enemies who are themselves secret societies that wield (again, in the totalitarian fantasy world) inordinate power. They create a juvenile universe where the young imagination is just discovering the vastness of the world's processes and is overwhelmed by its complexities. 
In the economic sphere immaturity comes in the form of interminable growth; in the political sphere immaturity comes in the form of the predominance of fantasy over the facts of reality. 

Absence of factions

"Secret societies in general, and the conspiratory apparatus of revolutionary parties in particular, have always been characterized by absence of factions, suppression of dissident opinions, and absolute centralization of command." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 379). 

Yes content versus no content

The modern day political challenges are not between right and left but between those systems of thought that contain some sort of content versus those that are devoid of any content. 

An ideologically fictitious world

Totalitarianism is a total system that replaces the general public's experience of the world with an ideologically created fiction. 
The reason people are willing to submit themselves in servility to that ideologically fictitious world is because the real world comes across to the general public as being in severe moral and material decline. 
Totalitarianism is a symptom of spiritual despair on a mass scale. The reason a totalitarian regime can function with such severity and such cruelty and still preserve the consent of the masses is because the 'external' world is perceived by those servile masses as being a place that is even more degenerate and more cruel. 
Totalitarianism affords the spiritual comfort of a ghetto that serves as a safe haven from the corruptions of the world outside. 

Make, own, shepherd, steward

Divine beings make things and they own things; mundane beings shepherd things and they steward things. Divine beings are gods because they make and own; mundane beings are men because they shepherd and steward. 
The divine realm meets the mundane realm in the sacred realm. In the sacred realm, the makers and owners come into contact with the shepherds and stewards. The sacred realm is the god/man interface. 
We cannot be proud of our productivity without paying deference to the divine source of all creative power.

28 January 2011

The breakdown of the bourgeois class itself

"The philistine's retirement into private life, his single-minded devotion to matters of family and career was the last, and already degenerated, product of the bourgeoisie's belief in the primacy of private interest. The philistine is the bourgeois isolated from his own class, the atomized individual who is produced by the breakdown of the bourgeois class itself. The mass man whom Himmler organized for the greatest mass crimes ever committed in history bore the features of the philistine rather than of the mob man, and was the bourgeois in the midst of the ruins of his world worried about nothing so much as private security, was ready to sacrifice everything – belief, honor, dignity – on the slightest provocation. Nothing proved easier to destroy than the privacy and private morality of people who thought of nothing bust safeguarding their private lives. After a few years of power and systematic co-ordination, the Nazis could rightly announce: 'The only person who is still a private individual in Germany is somebody who is asleep.'" (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 338). 

The violations of hubris and of xenophobia

The insanity that was the ruthless exercise of absolute, raw power by the Nazis or the Soviets developed from the careful and thoughtful energies of groups of revolutionary thinkers and actors who were trying to resolve the issues of their day. 
It was not merely that Hitler or Stalin were some insane geniuses who misled an unsuspecting population mass; it was rather the slow, systematic evolution of a ferocious ideology that was willing to violate some of the most well known and time honored strictures of the human polity – the violations of hubris and of xenophobia. 
The logic that propelled these 'evils as policy' resembled the logic of their less extremist cousins – fascism and socialism – and, at bottom, afforded gentle sentiments of caring and concern to the forgotten and the downtrodden in modern, enlightened, Western European societies whose ruling elites had become effete and degenerate. 

Crackpots and fools

"The consistent persecution of every higher form of intellectual activity by the new mass leaders springs from more than their natural resentment against everything they cannot understand. Total domination does not allow for free initiative in any field of life, for any activity that is not entirely predictable. Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 339). 
It is eerie to consider how well this desription applies to the current state of the Torah world and its leadership, given that it was written more than four decades ago to explain the basic values propelling the disciples of Hitler and Stalin. 

Worship is appeasement

"... the fact that not only political propaganda but the whole of modern mass publicity contains an element of threat" (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 341, footnote 1). 
The refusal of those seeking harmony in the social order to engage in counter-threats is the source of much that comes across as weak-willed and appeasing. 
Worship is appeasement; and it implies the employment of threats in those settings where worship is not appropriate. The refusal to threaten is tantamount to a refusal to worship. 

What happened to the vision of beneficence?

"Totalitarian movements use socialism and racism by emptying them of their utilitarian content, the interests of the class or the nation. The form of infallible prediction in which these concepts were presented has become more important than their content. The chief qualification of a mass leader has become his unending infaillibility; he can never admit an error. The assumption of infallibility, moreover, is based not so much on superior intelligence as on the correct interpretation of the essentially reliable forces in history or nature, forces which neither defeat nor ruin can prove wrong because they are bound to assert themselves in the long run." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 348). 
That the Genocide did not manage to disqualify the rabbinic regime is a clear example of this emptying of content the cult leaders are able to accomplish. 
How do we defeat the indoctrination of legitimacy? By introducing meaning into historical events. What happens has to matter. 
The collapse of scholarship in the Torah world results from the need of the now newly political heads of the ministerial leadership to achieve infallibility, and the only way to prove one's infallibility is for evidence not to matter. 
The problem with Torah scholarship is that it is hermetic to the meaning of the text and utterly indifferent to the meaning of occurences. Torah scholarship has no experimental process or method, ostensibly because the abstract world can reflect the spiritual world in a way that the material, experimental, evidence-based world cannot. Because evidence cannot matter, the material reality of the people and their interests and contentment likewise cannot matter. 
Thus does the spiritual leadership of a gentle people become cruel and self-serving. Why isn't the gentleness of the people offended by the cruelty and self-serving mendacity of their leadership? What happened to the vision of beneficence? When God is experienced as abusive it is not much of a leap to embrace his ministers as likewise abusive. 
So long as the people deserve God's punishment, the Torah leaders will be able to get away with their nonsense. The people have got to come to deserve God's forgiveness. The Dati leUmi conception of the undeservedness of the redemption is designed to preserve the leadership position of the rabbinic regime. 

Consistency & coincidence

The omnipotence of the enemy or of the ruler for which modern day masses hunger and in which they yearn to believe is a contemporary version of the ancient world's wish to believe in an omnipotent god. This impulse toward omnipotent rule is a way for people to eliminate the need for accepting accidents. In a teleological world everything has to have a reason because everything has to have a purpose. Omnipotence assigns the possibility of purpose to the occurence of all events. 
Behind the need for every event to have a purpose is the conviction that every purpose reflects the working out of some sort of cosmic deservedness. That deservedness is what Arendt calls consistency. Accident – the lack of purpose and of deservedness – is what Arendt calls coincidence
"Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction, from coincidence into consistency." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 352). 

A substitute for autonomy

Atomization and alienation engender in the person an appetite for consistency because consistency offers the atomized person meaning he cannot otherwise achieve since the atomized person cannot cultivate relationships, and relationships are the ground of knowing desert, and meaning is what desert helps us to achieve. 
The atomized person cannot make sense of his world at the individual level because when he is isolated he doesn't know what is deserved and what is not, so his entire world feels mildly arbitrary, accidental and lacking in purpose. Along comes the totalitarian ruler and offers a consistency that seems to take away the arbitrary and accidental character of life and replaces it with what comes across as some glorious purpose. 
Avodah zarah is a substitute for the autonomy that would focus the lives of those who are well trained in desert.

Blaming an innocent minority

When a society approaches collapse the ruling elite becomes irresponsible and self-serving. The leadership uses the decadence of the social order for its own ends. Demagoguery begins to replace moderate and sagacious leadership. The political atmosphere turns intemperate. 
In such a social and political climate it becomes too easy and thus too tempting to blame a foreign minority for the unpleasant realities of the society. Especially when the minority has a history of collaborating with the decadent past leadership it becomes almost irresistible not to cast the foreign minority as a whipping boy for the explanation of the impending disaster. 
A society that has been trained in desert, in contrast, would have a more difficult time wrongly blaming an innocent minority for the situation of collapse that was of their own doing. 

A single, amorphous mass

The Nazis preached the end of the state’s structuring of national power; they preferred instead the structure of the leader’s (fuehrer) being in direct relation with the people. 
According to the Nazis, the state will die out when the race becomes manifest as the instrument of authority in the society. The Soviets preached the same direct relationship between the leader and the people, where the state would die out when the proletariat becomes the instrument of authority in society because the class struggle will have come to an end. 
Totalitarianism is a social pathology wherein the institutions of authority and the institutions of legitimacy become fused into a single, amorphous mass. The will of the ruler and the will of people become one – indistinct from each other. 

It is about identity

"Nazi propaganda was ingenious enough to transform antisemitism into a principle of self-definition, and thus eliminate it from the fluctuations of mere opinion. The used the persuasion of mass demagogy only as a preparatory step and never overestimated its lasting influence, whether in oratory or in print. This gave the masses of atomized, undefinable, unstable and futile individuals a means of self-definition and identification which not only restored some of the self-respect they had formerly derived from their function in society, but also created a kind of spurious stablity which made them better candidates for an organization." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 356). 
Public relations, at least insofar as it addresses one's own people as audience, is not really about persuasion or even about narrative, it is about identity. So long as a value stays on the surface and doesn't enter into the definition of the person's identity, the public relations objectives will not be achieved. 

27 January 2011

Some concocted fiction

Avodah zarah defines a servile existence. People who have lost touch with their common sense can be shaped to want to believe anything. 
The outrage of avodah zarah is in the violation of a people's sense of reality and its systematic replacement with some concocted fiction that conforms to an invented ideology that simplifies and makes more neat the complexities of real life. 

Polishing away the rough edges

People need legends and myths. When the world becomes too rational it loses its sensuality, which makes it more difficult for people to gain a purchase on the world and so they lose their grip on a reality that includes them as participants in the world's affairs. 
When we efface the Old One we risk polishing away all the rough edges that give us traction in getting a grip on our place in the world. 

The rabbinic regime's responsibility and accountability

Even if we could convince one or two Torah scholars with integrity about the rightness of our teachings, it wouldn’t be enough. The tide will not begin to turn in the Torah world until we can convince and convert a group of such rabbis. 
Rabbis under the present day rabbinic regime could not accept our teachings as individuals. They would be decimated by the preservative forces of the diaspora teachings. Rabbis with integrity must have safety in numbers. Its not going to be a deal, it's going to be a wheel. 
The first thing they will need to do will be to ratify a history of the Jewish people in the modern era which tells the story of power and powerlessness, and which reveals the responsibility and accountability of the rabbinic leadership for the calamity that befell the Jewish people. 
The narrative of the modern day Jewish people must be liberated from the rage against Amaleq so they can account for their own actions. 

With manifestos something has to be manifest

The orthodox rabbinic regime has in the modern era been a catastrophe for the Jewish people. It is crucial for Jews to recognize that regime’s failure because to recognize the failure of a regime is to highlight the importance of events in the Jewish people's history. 
Events in the modern era determine the Jewish people’s fate and destiny. If Torah has to explain historical events, then Torah can begin to be understood as a political manifesto. 
Before Torah teachings can serve as a manifesto something has to be able to be manifest, and it needs to be manifest meaningfully. 

They see no narrative

When authority indoctrinates it does so after seizing power; when legitimacy indocrinates it does so after losing power. 
The indocrination of the Jewish people comes out of its sense of powerlessness. The Jews will deserve forgiveness, and thus redemption, when they begin to exercise some power collectively to implement God's will in the world. Until then the Torah world will endeavor to explain all events as undeserved and thus as the result of some magical, mysterious forces in the spiritual cosmos. 
The Dati leUmi world is wrestling with making ahistorical the most profoundly historical events in the story of the Jewish people. The Dati leUmi world is struggling to efface the story of national redemption because that story centers on the secular portion of the Jewish people rather than on the traditional portion; and so, from the traditional perspective the events do not constitute a story. They see no narrative. All they see are random, incontrovertible facts. 

Some mysterious logic of the cult

  • Regimes that try to deal with scarcity and threat tend to be utilitarian – they make their decisions on the basis of interests; 
  • regimes that try to deal with abundance and security tend to be ethical – they make their decisions on the basis of stewardship; and 
  • then there are the regimes that try to deal with raw power tend and to be ideological – they  make their decisions on the basis of some mysterious logic of the cult. 
It is ironic that the regimes that slavishly served some ideological mission are the ones that ignore the concerns of the people and end up obsessed only with wielding the power that enables them to fulfill some self-appointed mission. They ignore the concerns of the people because the mechanisms for serving the people have broken down under the pressure of societal collapse. 
The regimes that service the ideology of the cult come to the fore as the incumbent institutions of the social order begin to come apart. The ruling elite cannot see the people because the institutional mechanisms for transmission between the body politic and the ruling heads has siezed up. The nation has become hard-necked. A hard-necked people has lost its natural base of institutional intermediation. 
The remedy for hard-neckedness is the mitigating institution of the temple ministry. The cult of the temple ministry replaces and thereby mitigates the impulse of the cult of the ruling regime.