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.]

Advertisements

September 9, 2009

Preventive Medicine and Preventive Politics

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Tonight the President will say something about health care reform, hoping to rescue the Great Overhaul  from what he and his supporters take to be the lies and growls of selfish individualists– the militaristic menagerie of what is called “the Right” by right-on lefties and left-liberals. I don’t know how this fight will be ended, if ever, but today’s blog will comment on the dangers to health of 1. Excessive alienation ; and 2. Polarization and hatred of the other side.  Consider this brief statement to be a contribution to preventive medicine, specifically the reduction of cortisol excretions from the adrenal glands that, if secreted too often, lead to lowered immunity from infectious diseases and a multitude of dangerous inflammations.

As I showed in a prior blog, “Preventive Politics and Socially Responsible Capitalists, 1930s-1940s,” (READ IT:https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/.) the social psychologists, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists centered at Harvard University, faced with the challenge of attractive and dynamic ideologies of either fascism or communism, were not concerned with optimum mental health, understood today to be the capacity for rational political participation, love, work, and empathy. No, they were chiropractors of the psyche, bent on achieving “social cohesion” or “equilibrium” by subtly disciplining bright students who might become radicalized, and then go on to become an internal Fifth Column as these best and brightest would undoubtedly rise to the top of every American institution. That such a discipline devoted to “adjustment” (not innovation) might curb the creative contributions of their students and of other Americans treated similarly was not their problem.

One of their colleagues, Harold Lasswell (of the U. of Chicago), political advisor to the newly formed Committee For Economic Development (founded in 1942 and adopting Keynesian economics; thank you spirit of Hyman Minsky for telling me about them), actually favored the formation of a national board that would assess would-be leaders, using Henry A. Murray’s Thematic  Apperception Test, a test that was presented deceptively to its client users. Lasswell’s biographer credited him with the invention of “preventive politics,” a concept meant to be attached to the beneficent strategy of “preventive medicine.”

Preventive medicine is extolled in HR 3200, but not defined, and the only Obama reference to it that I heard was a mention that diabetics should lose weight to avoid amputations of their feet (and he linked this point to a larger argument that doctors were avoiding such advice in order to enhance their income through profitable amputations). [In tonight’s speech, he gave the example of mammograms and colonoscopies, i.e., screening. C.S. 7:30pm PT.]  Neither he nor any other politican has dwelled upon a broader approach to preventive medicine as a cost-saving approach to health care, and I count on my friends and other readers to tell me whether or not the media punditry has explained what they take preventive medicine to mean. [Think of smoking, obesity, and alcohol as the three chief causes of preventible death: all linked to depression.]

The Over-alienated and under-educated.    It should be obvious that the intense polarization of the “culture wars” and the deterioration of civility as many opponents confront their “enemies” cannot be good for stress-reduction. As I have argued here before, there is a broad consensus regarding the need for both a private and a public sector: reasonable people can argue about the efficacy of tasks better undertaken by market competition or state regulation and investment. Those on the “progressive” or “communitarian” side who see “the Right” as a monolith of buccaneering laissez-faire capitalists, protofascist or fascist and irrational, are necessarily mobilized for combat 24/7. While those on the Right who see all programs of public health as proto-fascistic, statist infringement of personal liberty and local control, produced by the secret machinations of mad scientists in cahoots with Wall Street, are similarly over-agitated, to their own detriment. For this reason, I have emphasized here the study of history,* mathematics, political theory, economics, and all the sciences in the schools, for such subjects, properly taught (that is, without indoctrination), can enable citizens not only to read legislation and analyze specific policies with greater competence:  An informed electorate, truth-seekers all, should be able to empathize with those who in reality share many, if not every single social and personal goal. And empathy reduces hatred and keeps the fight-and-flight mechanism working to preserve a good life. Question for the Left: do you really want everybody to be poor, backward, and under the thumb of bureaucrats?

*History is not a science, but a set of competing theories about the past. Anyone who teaches it as uncontroversial and settled is miseducating the students and setting them up for a lifetime of distorted perceptions. One way to sublimate rage (for instance in response to Obama’s speech) is to identify his misrepresentations, convenient ambiguities, and downright errors, then publicize them. I suppose that is why I blog.

Added after Obama speech to joint session of Congress, 9-10-09. Upon reflection, it was an appalling performance, filled with switches. But the well-meaning liberal may not see what I did. Briefly, Obama, taking the tone of the impassioned black preacher in pure revivalist mode, placed himself on the side of the angels and the beloved community. That is, he would not be partisan but would embody the civility (i.e. Christian charity) I mentioned above, with utopia just around the corner. Not long after that he condemned his Republican opponents as liars irresponsibly disseminating erroneous claims about the legislation. First he took credit for rescuing Americans from economic disaster, then came on as a compassionate centrist, who would have to give up a single-payer plan (or anything else that the far left-wing of his party was demanding?).  With no tentativeness, he promised that his plan would be paid for through eliminating fraud and waste in Medicare, though the cost would be 900 billion dollars. On tort reform, he began by hinting that it would now be included in the next draft of legislation (gaining applause: would he be dissing the trial lawyers?), but then handed it off to a cabinet secretary for experimental study in selected states, as if the data were not already clear enough. Finally, after annexing the sentimental feelings about the death of Edward Kennedy, he ended with an apocalyptic view of failure should his legislation not pass. Throughout he took the tone of the good father who had been tested beyond all endurance by the evil cable and radio commentators, the town-hall meetings, and any other opposition. He was generally vehement and accusatory to my ears.  I find it personally very dispiriting that the authoritarian posture and rhetoric are not seen by my friends who are left-liberals and who will agree with Harry Reid that the speech was “a game-changer.”

Let me now merge yesterday’s blog on “taking responsibility” for one’s education and the implications of his speech and its silence on the prerequisites for good health (what I have been calling preventive medicine). The limited view he has displayed so far on this question is worrisome and even bizarre. How can we “take responsibility” for our health if we don’t have clean air, clean water, and clean food? How can we “take responsibility” for our health if children are not taught from early childhood on such basic questions as enhancing their body’s resistance to disease, eating correctly,  and avoiding unnecessary stress to bones and muscles (add your own preventive measures here), while strengthening  bodies and brains with appropriate activities, such as dance, low-impact athletics, and the arts in general? In other words, the study of human physiology and the preservation of the body (along with the enlargement of the imagination and of inter-personal skills) must begin as soon as the child can process the instruction. Whether the federal government or schools and parents (armed with good science) alone should be overseeing such enhanced education is a matter for public debate: my own preference lies with market competition, although I am also in favor of state investment in science, medical research, and education, for state sponsorship does not necessarily entail state control of laboratories or schoolrooms.  But then I may be among the last of the puritans, or maybe the Greeks: a sound mind in a sound body. Or, faced with the ambiguous  statism of this administration, are we hovering on the brink of a new majority? If that majority is anti-science, then our country will face stagnation and terminal decline.

Blog at WordPress.com.