Wednesday, June 02, 2010
An Old Comment Made New
Not my arm. Or Billy's.
FOLLOW-ON. After a post on anti-semitism, the world falls silent. That's not an editorial remark, just a fact. So I went back to an earlier IP post and discovered a comment that seems curiously relevant today. Billy Oblivion objected to my provocative assertion that we are "all bigots." I meant it, of course, in a satrirical sense, but Billy's reaction and explanation is worth reading again right now.
Billy Oblivion 2009-08-29 05:47:00
To recognize a difference, and to have tastes (as opposed to Taste) is not bigoted.
I don't care for football. In fact almost all professional sports bore me. Partially this is because I don't care for participating in the amateur version of them. Partially it is because the lessons they have to teach I'm either deaf to, or learned long ago. Those who like Football, or fast cars, or vacation cruises are not "other", they are merely people with divergent tastes. For that the term is not bigot but rather snob.
If you wish to call me a snob of sorts, I cannot argue. Drink, Music, food, I've got my preferences and some I'll defend on philosophical grounds (after all, aesthetics is a branch of Philosophy, even if we don't recognize it any more) others are indefensible (there are times I prefer a mass market blended bourbon to a single cask, or even a good scotch. I know, but we all have our foibles).
However bigotry has an implication of superiority. I no longer consider myself superior to others *merely* because they would babble about baseball or hotrods, while *I* prefer to discourse on the relative merits of this firearm or that motorcycle. Some prefer fine German Pilsners, some Red Wine. Others prefer a coca-cola. There's no accounting for taste. Or budget. There was a time, but it's long gone.
Another implication of bigotry is that it is merely the otherness of the person that causes the divide. That the skin color or mode of dress of the Muhammadan, or the name he gives God is the cause of the separation.
I realize this is difficult for those of you on the coasts to realize, but we DO have rather heterogeneous communities out there in Fly Over Country. There were Jews and moslems in my town, even in my classes (though not many of the latter). We had a couple temples, and a mosque--though being raised a Catholic (rather poorly as this was post-Vatican II) I never saw the inside of them.
I am not bigoted against Southern Baptists [responding to an earlier comment], I am ill disposed to *idiot* Southern Baptists. One of my best friends is an utterly brilliant man who is also a fundamentalist southern baptist of one sort or another. He is kinder and more open hearted than almost any man I've ever met.
But he is not an idiot.
If you wish to accuse me of being bigoted towards idiots, then we have a semantic argument on our hands which may take a while.
As to "knowing Jews". I knew kids of Jewish parents. Most were more liberal--aka "non-orthodox" jews. One of the people I keep most constant contact with these days--a good friend of mine, and a Philadelphian is of Jewish decent, though he does not practice the faith (this is the case with many Jews I've met).
To say one "knows" Jews is to say one "knows" Christians--which is to say nothing at all because the faithless son of a west-coast Jewish Mother, neither of which have been to synagogue in a decade is very different from knowing the kind of Jew who would shut down is web E-Commerce site from Friday evening to Saturday evening Personally I have a HUGE amount of respect for someone who executes their religious convictions with that level of detail.
Do I know every detail of the various and sundry Jewish tribes? The difference between orthodox, reform and the rest didn't stick. No, my mind is more like a hurricane fence than a fine mesh. Lots of stuff blows through before the detritus builds to a sufficient thickness to hold details, and consequently much I could have learn is lost like the c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate.
But the same is true of just about everything I know, think I know, think I don't know, or don't know I don't know. I'm sort of a poly-arithmetic.
I have my prejudices, I'm not claiming otherwise. I have my preferences, opinions and causes. But it's not the color of a mans skin, the tongue of his mother or the name of his god that gives me pause, it IS the content of his character, his relationship with the world and it's diverse peoples that matter.
Which brings us to "why NYLs [New York Liberals] now think it's okay to hate the Jews".
Understand first that I draw the distinction between a Liberal, who would never hate the Jews, and a Progressive, who has never not [hated the Jews].
I think to the degree that one can conflate hating Israel as a state actor with hating Jews the answer is a long propaganda effort by the progressives. Israel has been put in an impossible position and they are responding just like the last few fighters in Mila 18 did (did I mention that I loved that book?) They have their backs to the sea and are fighting as vicious a fight as their morals will let them. This bothers modern Liberals who really are good hearted souls who believe that there ARE essentially no differences between people (which is clearly untrue).
So more clearly maybe, I don't think that a NYL *does* hate The Jews. I think that if you're talking to a self-described Liberal who hates Jews you ought to ask them which takes primacy, the State or the Individual.
Then you have your answer. For the one thing that the Progressive CANNOT ABIDE is someone who puts something else ahead of the general state (they may not put it thus, they may talk of class unity (communists) or purity of culture (old-school Nazis) or "the community" (communitards) or whatever, but the idea of an allegiance other than to some sort of corporate entity (not like a business corporation, but a group) is bad, but even worse is the allegiance to a group that is NOT theirs. Jews have been a whipping boy for Western Culture (along with Gypsies etc.) for a long time, and they're a useful one since unlike the Gypsies they have CLEARLY uh...damn I hate it when a word won't come. They've profited and grown over the years, largely through their OWN industry, thrift and cleverness proving that one DOES NOT need the state. One CAN take care of oneself, ones family and ones community members w/out the theiving hand of the state.
Either that, or some people are just assholes.
The Mormons will eventually get the same treatment. But unlike the orthodox Jews, they wear the funny clothes on the inside.
Bigotry and prejudice are different things. So are preferences.
I don't know the truth. I suspect it, but people who were demonstrably a LOT smarter than me have argued all sides of various questions, so while I'm absolutely certain that some things--slavery, child abuse, wanton cruelty and body paint and foam fingers at professional sports events are wrong on a deep moral level, other things merely make running a society difficult.
It is the lack of questioning that stagnates cultures. It is the questioning of ideas, especially the profane questioning in the areas of science and philosophy that push our society foward, that have given us what to our Greek or Roman forefathers would seem to be closer to a heaven on earth than they could have imagined. We *have* to tolerate the other because THEY MAY BE RIGHT. We don't know. We think we know, but as Feynman once observed "Nature doesn't care how smart you are. You can still be wrong."