YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 28, 2013

Hatred and sanity

Nazi ad for Der ewige Jude

Nazi ad for Der ewige Jude

Despite the fact that Psalms 97:10 adjures the faithful “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Tanakh), I’m writing this blog because a dispute broke out on a friend’s FB page, regarding whether the emotion of “hate” was always to be detested and repressed, or whether it was the sane response to a world spinning out of control: authoritarian, death-obsessed, and failing. I was the “hater” who was stigmatized. So I’m writing this blog to defend not only myself but Philip Roth’s character “Mickey Sabbath” in his 1995 novel SABBATH’S THEATER, a righteous hater if there ever was one. Call Mickey crazy if you prefer: I call him and his creator genius artists, with out-of-bounds imaginations that are unsurpassed.

I laid out the longstanding antagonism between “Christian” love and “Jewish” hate here: https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/. I will quote the most relevant paragraph now to illustrate the “binary opposite” that any historian should recognize; the subject was journalist Andrew Sharf’s characterization of “the Eternal Jew” as neutral, not derogatory:

No European myth is benign or even neutral with regard to Jews or to the liberal values that Andrew Sharf wants to defend, nor can it be otherwise. All Jews, including the “eternal” ones, are “bad”; the antithesis of Christian and Jew corresponds to the antipodes of Christian [organic] conservatism* and Jewish [classical] liberalism: (heartfelt) mysticism and (heartless) science, trust and withering skepticism, loyalty and betrayal, community and mob, busy bee and parasite, garden and wasteland. “Good Jews” like Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, Cumberland’s Sheva, Walker’s Schechem, and Dickens’ Riah who appeared in the humanitarian literature of the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century were good only because they were more Christian than the bourgeois Christians who were behaving like Shylock and Fagin; capitalism purged of its Judas red-beards would presumably lose its heartless and exploitative character. Christian landlords would never evict a tenant, Christian bankers would never foreclose a mortgage: this demented idea is fundamental to the völkisch revolution of Nazism,[2] but was not their invention. Nazi anti-Semitism, then, was only partly about the considerable material advantages in expropriating Jewish property and expelling Jewish rivals: Nazis, to maintain their credibility as redeemers and protectors, would have to plunge a stake in the heart of the “demon Thought” (to use Byron’s expression). For the antifascist critical mind is not found in a guilt-ridden Adam shrinking from conflict with illegitimate authority or from the perception of other irreconcilable conflicts. Instead, the anti-Semitic/ anti-intellectual mind anxiously mystifies class and gender antagonisms by positing (an unattainable) harmony as “normal.” Brandishing images of solidarity, the fascist bonds people only to “romance” in a false utopia necessarily maintained through deceit, terror and catharsis.

I was born into a non-observant Jewish family: all my grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Most of my childhood was spent following my adored father-the-doctor around the US as he ran various pathology laboratories for the U.S. Army in which he served as a captain (after the war, he told me resentfully about the antisemitism he encountered). I was usually the only Jewish kid in my eight public schools in Texas, Missouri, California, then in Coney Island and Elmhurst Queens. Nothwithstanding the lack of intellectuality in my immediate family, I was never indoctrinated one way or another to either hate being “Jewish” or to hate the invariably white Christians in my immediate environs. Not long before she died, my mother Betty Spark asked me, were I to do it over again, would I choose being Jewish. (This from another secular Jew.) I said of course, and thought to myself today, “I only wish I had learned Yiddish for its spectacular vocabulary of derision,” a language my mother spoke and understood, but had not bothered to teach me.

My family ca. 1942

My family ca. 1942

I’ll say this about my sort of Jewish Mother: she advised me never to carry a grudge; i.e., never to become a hater. As the daughter of a doctor, I have diagnosed many “haters” whose anger was turned against themselves, leading to ulcers and worse. I take after Betty in this respect, and cling to those qualities in myself that make me a better warrior and a wiser mother and grandmother. Some think of me as cold, detached, and male-identified.

When I, as a citizen and a historian, see politicians, lackey journalists, schoolteachers, professors, former lefty friends, Pacifica radio, and millions of quacks, abuse their powers by mis-educating other people, I believe that a form of “hatred” is the only rational response. That does not mean that I am impervious to the power of old attachments: I remain fond of many who no longer speak to me. It also does not mean that I have succumbed to Christian forgiveness. I don’t believe in forgiveness in all cases, though I do not oppose those who are more “charitable” than I. I prefer repentance, self-understanding, and reparations. (My observant son-in-law tells me that Jews are required to ask for forgiveness for humiliating slights three times. If the victim refuses to forgive, then the Jew may hold on to his anger. If thievery or violence are involved, then one goes to the law.)

Put me in a box with Captain Ahab, a character who is almost always wildly misread for ideological reasons (see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/12/preface-to-second-edition-of-hunting-captain-ahab/). We are connoisseurs of revenge. We are warriors against all forms of evil, especially arbitrary, duplicitous authority that diminishes the creativity of individuals. If that makes me a jerk with both a ramaging Id and a Hebraic puritan superego,  and, hence, a bit mad, so be it. I stand with Herman Melville, Philip Roth, and bless his crazy heart, “Mickey Sabbath,” a Jew I can understand.

[For earlier blogs on the problem of evil, see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/12/hate-hard-liberty-quick-fixes/, or https://clarespark.com/2011/05/20/the-mentalist-melville-blake-and-israel/.]

[Note on the Nazi poster advertising the “show” that 1. this is unmistakably the Wandering Jew of medieval myth, then resuscitated during the Reformation; and 2. Nazi ideology held Jews responsible for bringing communism to Germany. Anticommunism was the chief factor that bound Hitler to the German people. The Wandering Jew myth had nothing to do with communism, which did not exist when the myth was invented, though some trace it to the New Testament.]

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7 Comments »

  1. “Put me in a box with Captain Ahab […]”
    I hope there’s room in the box for one more.

    Comment by Ioannis — November 16, 2013 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog and commented:

    Distinguishing between “hating” and resisting evil. In European thought, the contrast was often made between “Christian love” and “Jewish Hate.”

    Comment by clarelspark — August 4, 2013 @ 5:54 am | Reply

  3. “Hate” is one of those slippery words that changes meaning depending on who is saying it and whatever the context. In most circles you can “hate” a hypothetical Nazi, but not an oppressed (but murderous and quite real) Muslim.

    Hate’s nearest connotative neutral equivalent expression is “strong emotional aversion”, or “opposed to the presence of what one considers evil.” But that is really not the point. A “hater” is always someone who is “hated” by the enlightened Marxist and fellow traveller who understands the true nature of oppression.

    This view presupposes that people are “all basically the same” [equal in character] and that differences between people are merely points of cultural misunderstanding [there are no disagreements]. A “hater” is one who fails to see the basic goodness of all people, regardless of race or culture. “Hate” is seen as an artificial sentiment used as a powerful political tool [by white people — or Jews] to whip up sentiments against others [people of color, working class] to protect a system of exploitation [capitalism and imperialism]. Because of their intolerance, because of the ease with which they foment hatred among the otherwise peace-loving others, the “haters” must be cast out of society, killed if necessary, like a virus that threatens the body, to protect peace and prosperity.

    So, anyone who expresses outrage at gross acts of violence committed by oppressed peoples either fails to grasp their motives and message — that *we* are the true aggressors, not those committing the violence — or is an open advocate of intolerance, of class and racial warfare against the oppressed. Either way, you are a fool or tool.

    The gross contractions in this rationale should be obvious, but as I have come to accept, you should not waste good reason on those who have adopted irrational and reactive premises. There is evil, it lives in the minds of people with names and faces, and we should start to deal with the reality that there they want to kill and maim us, not for what we have done, but merely because we exist.

    Comment by Scott Gregory Lloyd — April 29, 2013 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

  4. “those who love God hate evil” Psalm 97:10
    I certainly recommend reading this on hatred from a Jewish perspective:
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/05/the-virtue-of-hate-26

    Comment by HaDaR — April 29, 2013 @ 1:47 am | Reply

    • From the Tanakh: Psalm 97:10: “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!”

      Comment by clarespark — April 29, 2013 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. Sharing personal history is always a courageous act.

    My issue with the word “hate” is that it doesn’t distinguish between irrational sentiments, such as racial prejudice, and rational ones, such as outrage about drones murdering children. I prefer to say that I morally disapprove of acts which are evil and people who commit evil acts. If you seek stronger verbs, there are plenty of synonyms which aren’t as controversial – detest, loathe, abhor, etc. Better yet, focus on why something is evil and not how you respond to the evil: This group’s conduct has been grossly unethical; this individual is a mass murderer and a tyrant; to do such-and-such would result in an unspeakably horrific abuse of human rights, etc.

    Not many people have the courage to say “I morally disapprove of _____.” It indicates a number of assumptions whose validity have been questioned in our post-modern mystical culture – morals are absolute, morality is cognitively accessible to humans, and individuals have the ability to independently reach and pronounce absolute moral judgments. I find it infinitely more powerful to say than “I hate”.

    Comment by tiffany267 — April 28, 2013 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

    • To Tiffany, Given the qualified definition of my use of “hate” I will stick to my guns. But thanks for your offer of synonyms that are more precise for you. You might also refer to the blog I linked: “Hate, Hard Liberty, and quick fixes.”

      Comment by clarespark — April 28, 2013 @ 10:04 pm | Reply


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