Towards a Qualitative View of Oppression and Harm

Towards a Qualitative View of Pain and Oppression.

The Left has lost some of its debates because of the way in which people have looked at oppression and harm. This may seem a bit vague so I’ll try to get more specific really fast.  I believe that a crude quantitative analysis of oppression – Group A suffered more, ergo we should expect A to be further behind in terms of income, advancement and assimilation – as opposed to a more refined, qualitative analysis of oppression – Group A suffered particular affronts which impeded the ability to make money – has undermined the Left.  First I will examine this phenomenon in the context of race; then I will explore this process in mental illness.  I invite readers to try to find other areas of life in which common quantitative metrics may have harmed the Left.

At the end of the 1960’s, as the Nation’s interest in progressive change seemed to flag and whites grew leery of the continued demands of the civil rights movement, those with a more conservative bent began to compare the travails of blacks with those of Jews, Irish, Italians and other “white ethnics.”   They noted that many of these white ethnic groups had suffered poverty and that the Jews and the Irish had suffered intense political persecution as well – the Irish at the hands of the British and the Jews during the Holocaust, and before that in the pogroms and persecutions of Tzarist Russia, and so on.

Conservatives made this argument smugly and aggressively:  The Irish made it.  The Italians got out of Little Italy, and the Jews are storming through the professions.  If the white ethnics can make it, the blacks should be able to make it.  And if the blacks can’t make it, then they are not as deserving a minority group, or lack the initiative or intelligence to succeed and compete in a literate, urban world.  The comparisons were made most starkly and bitterly with regard to blacks and Jews.  (The people who made these facile comparisons between blacks and Jews constituted the first wave of neo-conservatives.  The second wave of neo conservatives made their claim to fame by urging us to go to war in Iraq.  Interestingly enough, these second wave neo-conservatives were not only the ideological children of the first wave of neo-conservatives; they were also the actual biological children of the first wave of neo-conservatives, and I have often thought that John Podhoretz is published only because his Daddy was Norman Podhoretz. I could discuss the lineage of other mediocre neo-conservatives, but I don’t want this to degenerate into something smacking of gossip.)

In any event, as the energy and elan of the Left began to decline at the close of the Sixties, Jews and Blacks, who had once been strong allies on the Left, were at times at each other’s throats.  All too often they seemed to be competing with each other for the title as the most victimized group in history.   Both groups had a lot going for them in this very sad contest:  Blacks could cite hundreds of years of slavery.  Jews could cite the Holocaust.   (As a Jew, I always thought that the physical eradication of  a people took all comers)  And so we fought, and while we were divided, Richard Nixon and the right won.

It is my belief that Jews and Blacks were arguing about the wrong thing.  The important question was not quantitative, how much they had suffered, but rather qualitative:  What were the ways in which they had suffered and how did different forms of suffering create different behavioral patterns which could either thwart or invigorate one’s will to overcome.

For example, blacks were often ridiculed and taunted with the adjective stupid.  Blacks were said to be ape-like, less than fully human, and possessing of meager intellects.  Jews, in the course of being hated and castigated, heard something very different: They were told that they were conniving, clever and bright at business and poised to make a mint.  One of the strongest defense mechanisms, according to Freud, is our tendency to identify with our oppressor, and to adopt the oppressor’s point of view, e.g.,  Women will believe that they are inferior when men tell them so.  Supposedly, we ease the pain of being oppressed when we make our oppressor’s beliefs our own.

Now apply the dynamic of identification with the aggressor to blacks and Jews.  The black hears that he is stupid, he identifies with his aggressor, and when school time rolls around he approaches the material with a sheepish, defeatist air, the confidence knocked-out of him before he has even started.  When the Jew hears that he is clever and swift, he will tend to believe what the gentiles have told him and this will buttress his esteem and confidence and may serve as an impetus to commercial and academic gains.

Similarly contrast the ways Jews lived in Tzarist Russia (After Poland had been partitioned by the Prussian, Austrian and Russian Empires, at the close of the Eighteenth century,  the  bulk of Europe’s Jewry were subjects of the Tzar.) with how blacks lived in the Old South.  In Tzarist Russia, discrimination against Jews was clear and explicit and had been this way at least as far back as the 16th Century, when the Domostroi, a book which took upon itself the ambitious task of instructing Russians on the proper way to be good Russians and members of the Orthodox faith, was written.  The Domostroi flatly said that one should have little to do with Jews, and be leery of them, for killing Jesus Christ.  Jewish children were confiscated from their homes and forced to fight in the Tzar’s armies.  And Jews had no political or civil rights to speak of – then again, almost no one had any rights in Tzarist Russia; the serfs were not freed until the 1860’s.

In any event, the Jews, in the course of being hated, were fully segregated from gentiles. They were more segregated than blacks had ever been in the Old South, and, ironically, this had a salubrious effect on Jews.

For example, if two Jews had a dispute, the conflict would be resolved by a Jewish Court.  Jews of course had their own system of education, paid for by Jews.  When the State was desirous of garnering tax revenues, the task of tax collection was delegated to Jewish officials.  (Of course, some of this self-government was often corrupt and even monstrous.  For example, in the Nazi era, the Germans established Judenrats, or Jewish Governments, to organize the oppression of the Jewish people and sometimes the leaders of the Judenrats tried to save their own skins by handing over a heavy bounty of Jews to the killers.)  But Jewish self- government in Europe was only at times destructive and it did teach the Jews a worthwhile lesson:  In the course of organizing their own schools, courts and charities, Jews gained the confidence to manage their own lives.

In this country, there were no such things as black courts or black policemen to handle intra-black quarrels.  Blacks went before the Nation’s and States’ criminal and civil courts, unschooled in the proceedings, on their own and very much at sea.  None of this buttressed black self-confidence.   (Because Jews benefited from total segregation, I have often sympathized with SNCC, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, and other black radical groups which argued for a certain measure of segregation, such as when SNCC, in 1966, ousted its white members.  I think it is fair to see this not as an instance of black racism toward whites but rather as a protective measure necessary to prevent the total evisceration of black self-esteem.   For example, if a black child has no relatives who are educated, and he comes to school and finds that all his teachers are white, his prospects for academic attainment are, I think, decisively minimized.)

In the Courts, blacks were beaten down and cheated and this facilitated the growing pauperization of black America.  I say growing because contrary to the common assertion that life has been getting better for blacks over time, in large stretches of our history the status of blacks declined.  For example the acreage owned by blacks steadily dropped from its reconstruction peak to at least the end of the Great Depression.  Also, the law did more than oppress blacks; it also rewarded blacks, in very concrete ways, if they lived up to white stereotypes.  For example, in many of the states of the old confederacy, and for many years after Lee surrendered, a white person could not assert contributory negligence if a black person sued him for personal injury.

Let me explain.  A black pedestrian sues a white car driver for hitting him on the road.  The white car driver will want to assert contributory negligence against the Pedestrian.  He will want to say that the pedestrian did something stupid to contribute to the negligence which resulted in the accident.  For example, a car driver might want to say that the pedestrian ran into the car or wore all black clothing in the middle of the night and was, accordingly, contributorily negligent.  However, in much of Dixie this argument could not be made. The Southern Courts held that blacks were too stupid to walk across the streets with any sense and therefore it would be unfair to penalize them, with a finding of contributory negligence, if they walked into a speeding car. This is akin, perhaps, to what Freud called the secondary benefits of a neurosis, i.e., sometimes a patient will not overcome his neurosis because people “cut him some slack” for being disturbed.

Also, the conditions in Eastern Europe never made Jews doubt themselves, and their worth, the way in which conditions in the South knocked down the pride and resilience of blacks.   First, Jews had their own religion.   Blacks got the religion of their slave-masters and this, in and of itself, can have many psychopathogenic results.  If our slave master gave us a religion that we in fact love, then that slave master might, in some ways, know what is good for us and may be a benevolent man because he wants us to be saved.  And as soon as black men credited white people with wishing them well and praying for their salvation, they must have been tortured by ambivalent feelings toward the white man.  However, if the black man were to succeed, he could not be saddled and confused with these ambiguous sentiments.  A certain clarity of outlook must prevail if one is to succeed and I would go so far as to say that one must fully despise the white man’s system if one wants to bring down his slave society; so long as a part of one feels affection for the dominant caste, one’s battles will be ill-fated.

In addition, we must consider the value placed on intelligence.  I do not mean to say, as so many people have said, that Jews revered intellectual pursuits.  That is known and it’s been said with such frequency that the assertion can prompt an attack of narcolepsy.   Jews did more than value intelligence; Jews defined intelligence differently.  Whereas in most civilizations going to school is a matter of students passively taking instruction, having their head crammed with facts the importance of which is rarely explained, Jewish education seeks to teach the child to ask questions and to adopt a curious, explorative outlook on life.  The Jews were not merely the people of the book; they were the people of lots of books in addition to the Old Testament and many of these books interpreted the Old Testament in a multiplicity of ways.   Jewish thought will take a proposition enunciated in a long drawl in five bold, unnuanced sentences and affix myriad interpretations to the words.  Judaism is, in a sense, the anti-fundamentalist faith not because we don’t believe in the Bible but because we have so much respect for language and how the most definite-sounding words are incomplete and subject to interpretation.  Very simply, Jews had a culture that readied them for academic competition.  As I understand it, blacks, by contrast, had a religious training which brooked little dissent and debate and was given to hearty and loud affirmations in the form of resounding Amens.  This mental posture may make one pitifully vulnerable in a secular school.  (This fundamentalism might also help to explain what I have often perceived as the intellectual torpor of the entire South, white and black, where the only two respected academic majors appear to be football and cheerleading.)

In any event, allow me to summarize:  The left has lost a lot of energy and credibility because people have said that since many white people were oppressed as much as blacks, black problems cannot be ascribed to white oppression.  However, the relevant question is not how much a person has been hurt but rather if he has suffered the sort of harms that prevent recovery.

Mental Illness:

In the 1960’s, the most respected doctors, and the doctors who had appeared to have history on their side, posited an environmental etiology, or cause, for mental illness.   Freud held that many emotional disorders had their origin in intra-familial conflicts, and after the atrocities of World War Two, we had a healthy skepticism of the notion that behavioral traits were inborn.  To hold that behavioral traits are innate is quite congruent with the notion that race is destiny, and World War Two mad us realize just how deadly racism is.

Whereas Freud often found that neurotic conflicts had their origins in the anal and Oedipal stages of development, in the post war era some doctors said that psychosis, as well as neurosis, had an environmental cause and that the cause dated back to the twilight of life, to the oral stage and to pre-verbal stages of development.  R D Laing, who was a hero to many schizophrenics, said that schizophrenics were the scapegoats of their families.  Laing, in my view, was the avatar of the left wing view of mental illness.  He saw the mentally ill as oppressed people and he hit the nail right on the head:  Every time a stupid sitcom or other item of our debased popular culture makes fun of the mentally ill – the only group it is still considered appropriate to bash and denigrate – it is saying see how funny it is to see someone who is miserable.  And miserable people usually are just very lonely people.  And so laughing at someone for being mentally ill is really laughing at someone for being lonely and, when you get right down to it, is akin to laughing at someone for having lost a limb to cancer.

However, in the 1970’s we seemed to tire of the argument that mental illness can be explained by social factors or the familial constellation.  First, a multiplicity of scientific discoveries allegedly buttressed the proposition that mental illness was biochemically determined.  (We tend to exaggerate the extent to which these discoveries actually proved that certain genetic quirks caused certain mental aberrations.  For example, one cannot say that because a certain physical finding correlates with schizophrenia, the physical aberration causes psychosis.   It is quite possible that the psychosis caused the physical aberration and that the psychosis came about because of environmental factors.  For example, when we see a man with large pectoral muscles we do not ordinarily infer that the man possesses the gene for large pectoral muscles.  Rather, we assume that something in his environment – such as lots of bench-pressing coupled with adequate nutrition – gave him large pectorals.  So what came first, the chicken or the egg,  the mental aberration or the physical deviation which correlates with the mental deviation.)

Second, in the 1970’s, when liberal and avant guarde thought fell out of favor in broad segments of the populace, when Spiro Agnew railed against a left whom he said was composed of “effete, intellectual snobs,” some people clamored for “common sense,” and in the field of mental illness, this meant the application of a crude quantitative analysis.

They argued like this:  Mr. A grew up in Darfur, and watched his family be annihilated and Mr. B grew up in a concentration camp, and now they are both successful business man in America. By contrast Mr. D has only suffered from the sort of quotidian conflicts one can sustain in suburban America, but Mr. D is psychotic.  Applying their crude metrics, apostles of a biochemical theory of mental illness said that since D suffered so much less, and became so much sicker, this proves that D’s sickness was inborn.  If his sickness was inborn, his oppressors, whether they be family members or the surrounding community, can be exculpated of guilt.  His sickness is the product of his defective genes.  This is akin to blaming the victim and is the right-wing view of mental illness.  (Some people might argue that there is no right wing and no left wing view of mental illness and that there should only be science, and I would agree about the importance of science — but I would combine science with compassion.  Also, the primacy of science does not exclude politics, which insinuates itself into everything.)

We would do well to apply a more refined, qualitative view of suffering.   If one was the victim of horrendous brutality in Darfur or a concentration camp, the experience of course burns and stuns and singes the mind forever.  However, it can also give the victim what I call a unifying rage:  A furious desire, which summons up and unifies his energies, to get back at his persecutors by being successful and even, on occasion, happy.

And what of Mr. D, the individual who grew up in suburban tranquility and is now psychotic.  The crude quantifiers would say that the relative benignity of his background – let us assume that he was never beaten or starved – coupled with his grim diagnosis means he was genetically destined to be mad.  But, again, they are missing the point.  They would never, ever for an instant realize that in certain situations it is better to be hated, and reviled, in one’s childhood than to be loved.  It goes like this:

Suppose one’s parents were extremely pathogenic but at the same time loving and kind.  Because his parents loved him it will be harder for that person to expunge the pathological aspects of his background.  If his parents loved him, it will be harder for that person to reject all of the unwise and delusional counsel they gave him.  If, however, one’s parents were both pathogenic and abusive, it will be easier for the child to “vomit-up” the pathology instilled in childhood.  And so in this instance we can clearly see that a quantitative analysis is not the least bit helpful.

And the question isn’t really whether you were hated by the Germans who tortured you, or harmed by your parents who merely chastised you, but rather if you hate yourself.  If your injuries made you hate yourself, your injuries, no matter how seemingly slight, will be exceedingly malignant.

Some people, in the course of trying to quantify harm, might bring up the issue of  psychotherapy.  They might argue that since D (The person who grew up in suburban tranquility and became psychotic), had psychotherapy, the psychotherapy should have negated all of the harmful effects of his bad childhood rearing and that D’s continued maladjustment establishes his genetic inferiority.  In doing so, they are accrediting psychotherapy with powers and abilities it has never been shown to have.
For example, a study showed that neurotics (That terms betrays that this was an old study.  The current diagnostic manual doesn’t use the word neurotic.  The study I am speaking of was executed by Eysenck and its findings were published in 1954) who went to classical psychoanalysis had a 44 percent rate of recovery whereas neurotics who received no therapy at all had a two thirds rate of recovery.  This study plainly proved that psychoanalysis serious impairs the possibility of improvement.

The study’s findings are not at all surprising considering the speculative nature of so much of psychoanalytic thought. Whereas in physical ailments there is something palpable and corporeal and thoroughly real that you can get your hands on, whether it be an appendix or a cyst or lymph node, there is something exasperatingly elusive of so much analytic thought.  For example, can we really believe that a little boy in Vienna, named Hans, thought his Father wanted to castrate him – when in fact Little Hans never said any such thing and this was simply Freud’s presumptuous interpretation — and that because little Hans harbored this fear every little boy in the whole world has the same fear.  And if a system of treatment is an edifice built on foundations like this, why should we be surprised if analysis has such a lousy record of healing.

In any event, I do not mean to abjure the worthwhile goal of trying to assuage emotional pain; I merely aim to stress that psychiatry is still in its infancy and has a long way to go.

In any event, in mental illness, as in disputes about white ethnics and blacks, quantitative means of evaluating pain have proved to be a great disservice, and  tiresome, ancient arguments over who suffered the most pain deflect us from the goal of overcoming pain and oppression.
Copyright, David Gottfried, 2013


America Is Afflicted With Neurotic Displacement

America Suffers From Neurotic Displacement

 

Our political discourse is afflicted with a disease that generally effects people.  The disease has been called neurotic displacement, displaced pain and sometimes just plain displacement.   Before I can explain how this country has succumbed to this malady, I think it makes sense to first describe this ailment in individuals. .

The disease is present in both medicine and psychiatry.  In bodily disease, this condition manifests itself when Organ A will hurt even though Organ B is really the organ suffering from organic disease. In psychopathology, a patient may complain about his inability to score over 95 in Spanish when in fact he really is plagued by the trauma of a loved one’s recent death.   The rationale for this condition seems to be that since it would be too painful for the diseased organ to feel the full brunt of the pain, the pain is shifted or displaced to another organ.  Sometimes it is described as something that arises because a person simply could not bear to face the truth of what is bothering him and so establishes fictions to distract him from realities he cannot endure.

 

Certain cases of appendicitis offer a dramatic example of this process.     Although the appendix is in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, sometimes a patient’s pain is displaced to regions of the abdomen far from the appendix.  Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from appendicitis that was mistakenly brushed–off as gastritis.  (The moral of the story:  When a patient suffers acute abdominal pain, the abdomen must be palpated.)  In psychiatry, the condition presents itself in truly remarkable ways.  In hysterical blindness (The patient genuinely cannot see but we can detect no defects in the eye or optic nerve), the patient expresses only scant concern for her failure to see and will profess to be very much upset about relatively picayune affairs.

 

This phenomenon is very much evident in the nation’s political discourse, particularly as it exists on television.  The titans of the television news media, CBS, NBC,  ABC, CNN, spend a truly inordinate amount of time talking about things that are, relative to what is really important, infantile drivel.  We hear about all sorts of stupid, silly stars getting into stupid silly scrapes over drugs, significant others and the police.  This nation decided it would have a national nervous breakdown when a young intern with a loud and brazen beret had oral sex with the President.  When a boy named Elian Gonzalez was brought to the country, and his Cuban Father wanted him returned to Cuba, large portions of the country seemed ready to go through the cold war all over again.  Very recently, a ferry collided against a pier in Lower Manhattan.  No one was killed.   I have been told that for the next five hours, New York One (which broadcasts television news in New York City) and CNN spent in excess of ninety percent of their coverage on the ferry accident.

 

Of course, such inane news programming might make sense if we lived in some Eden-like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood where nasty things are a rare occurrence.  But that is not where we live.  Sometimes I think a Hades on earth is more like it.

 

Now there is no mathematical formula that one can devise to guide us in allotting news time to various subjects.  This is all terribly subjective, and a host of factors, other than the importance of the story, will dictate what the news will consist of.  But the bottom line is undeniable:  The most important stories are hardly given more than a passing glance.

 

I can think of so many sheer and utter scandals, large and small, that are hardly touched upon.  The American War in Afghanistan is now in its 12th year, and most of the American people are blithely and happily oblivious to the carnage —  it is no wonder when the media is busily attending to such earth-shattering matters as Paris Hilton’s petty, narcissitic heart (I must concede that I know nothing about that woman)  In the United States, banks have evicted millions of people from their homes through fraud and chicanery while the media concentrates on the lovely homes inhabited by the mental midgets on Real Housewives from Atlanta.

 

Medicine is one of my obssesions, and the media’s coverage of medicine is truly horrendous.  Consider this story which, to my knowledge, got no attention on the evening news:  In America, two of the most promising drugs for non hodgkin’s lymphoma, Zevalon and Bexxar, were not being used because of insufficient demand. (The New York Times, July 14, 2007.)  Of course there were plenty of dying people who needed these drugs, but the evils (I don’t think that’s too primitive or strong a word) of the marketplace condemned them to disuse. Why?  These drugs were radioactive and could only be administered in hospitals.  However, most doctors don’t have their offices in hospitals and so cannot dispense these drugs.  However, doctors love to administer drugs in their offices because they are reimbursed at a fantastic rate when their nurses stick a needle in a patient in the doctor’s office  (About five hundred dollar for a three-hour infusion.) According to the New York Times, most patients were getting inferior drugs which could be administered in a doctor’s private office to boost a doctor’s earnings – and while the doctors got richer, the patients often died. (Of course, according to the intellectual bimbos on Fox, the only bad thing about medicine is what the government might do to it, and the rapaciousness of some doctors, and the death ensuing from their greed, does not exist.)

 

So what does the news media talk about when it opts to discuss medicine.  First, they concentrate on the immaterial audio-visuals: The TV screen shows film footage of long lines at clinics and babies crying when they get a shot. (ooh, how cute, the stupid Edith Bunkers coo) And then the narrator relates his grave and gripping news story:  We are in flu season, and it is rough.

 

I live in New York City, which imagines that it is the utter apogee of journalistic excellence.  In New York, millions of people are spending upwards of half of their income on rent, and are living in rat-infested and dilapidated conditions, and the local television news is telling us about the aforesaid ferry accident which resulted in no deaths, a bake sale at a parochial school, and, if they are in a particularly moronic mood, a lead story will consist of a lot of moaning and groaning because a storm had the temerity to deposit a mere two inches of snow on the ground.

 

Obviously, this pathological coverage means that important stories are ignored.  However there is another way in which we suffer because of the dearth of coverage of important stories. When the television news concentrates on dog shows and other such nonsense, people assume that little is really wrong with society or that if there are problems they are not the result of malfeasance or negligence on the part of big business or government.  Surely, if bad things were happening, they would be reported upon, ordinary folk assume.  For example I remember an allegedly bright woman (she was an attorney) telling me, in 1988, that AIDS “was no longer a problem.”  I asked her what made her come to this conclusion, and she responded, in her inimitably stupid way, by saying, “Well, they talked about it a lot on TV, back in 1985, what with Rock Hudson and all, and I don’t hear that much about it anymore.”  Of course, things were much worse in 1988 than they were in 1985.  (The infection rate was going up like a parabola on a Cartesian plane.  There were 1000 cases in 1982, 10,000 cases in 1984 and by 1988 about 1,000,000 people in this country were infected – and in those days our medicinal arsenal was virtually empty)  That woman’s views had nothing to do with reality and were nothing other than the neutered version of reality she had imbibed from her tame and lame television – of course, television, we are told, is better than ever because it is “high definition” television; the caliber and intellectual content of the programming is of no moment.

 

This problem has always been with us but now it is only getting worse.  Yes, in 1964 the government fabricated a crisis in the Gulf of Tonkin to broaden our involvement in Vietnam, and the media was sold on the lie, but the media did not smile too much.  Walter Cronkite reported the news in his gravelly voice, did not behave as a mouthpiece for government propaganda, and showed us the villages we torched as part of our Orwellian “pacification” program.  But today the media behaves like fawning fools of the government, and when Bush declared — all dressed up in military drag — in 2004 that his mission In Iraq was accomplished, the television announcers ran their brushes through their blow-dried hair and smiled wide and told us that the President was a very virile man.  And so  we have our bread and  circuses, our Lay’s potato chips to give us type two diabetes and our network and cable news to lead us inexorably towards senile dementia.

 

Copyright, David Gottfried, 2013


A Comedic Essay on AIDS Care

TOWARDS A POST MODERNIST, IDENTITY POLITICS, CRITICAL LEGAL THEORY’S CONCEPTION OF HIV AND ITS TREATMENT

by

David Gottfried

 

The predominant medical models used to treat AIDS starkly reflect power, politics and persecutorial social dynamics.  In every aspect of diagnosis, evaluation and treatment, racist impulses are cleverly and contumaciously transformed, sanitized and domesticated into ideas which, by virtue of logic and reason – and other such Cartesian categories which degrade the feminine, fluid and feeling-friendly aspects of the mind — supposedly provides answers to questions.  Ideas are, of course, in and of themselves inimical to life forces because of their tendency to rigidly structure propositions into syllogisms.  Syllogisms are the ruthless shining stars of ideation, the Prussian germ(an)s of logic which, like maniacal war lords, process major propositions, and minor propositions, and arrive at conclusions.  It is all very logical.  It is all very masculine.  It reeks with the stench of warfare.

 

This warfare pervades every aspect of AIDS treatment and care, a discipline replete with every  manifestation of class, race and sex biases.  For example, at a recent visit to a facility in North Umbrage, in the Council of Brittle Sticks, I found that physicians paid  tremendous attention to the number of T 4 cells in their patients’ blood.  T 4 cells are, of course, a rather esoteric phenomenon.  Although I was graduated from Harvard College, and received Phds from that august institution in no less than three fields — including Sodomy studies, progressive pornography, and interstitial idiosyncratic imbeciles on the Internet —  I don’t know what T 4 cells are so I feel quite content to say, with a regal, haughty swirl of my opera cape, that if I don’t know what they are, they cannot be too important.   They are nothing more than those little scraps of strange and perverse minutiae that scientific automatons must dredge up from the corporeal world to stunt and stymie and sidetrack a proper political critique of our perfidious society.

 

However, on further analysis, I found why the T 4 cells so engaged the ruling class physicians.  The T 4 cells were a species of white blood cells.  The physicians were alarmed by the decline in T 4 cells.  To cut to the chase:  The doctors were upset because white blood cells, read white people, were on the run.

 

And so AIDS treatment seems designed to foster white regimes, white hegemony and white rule by buttressing and augmenting the numbers of white blood cells which may, for all we know, be involved in slavery.  Indeed, I have heard that huge conglomerations of white blood cells routinely congregate in places such as lymph nodes.  What, prey tell, are they doing there.  Perhaps, they are enslaving blacks cells and forcing them to  weave the cottony web of  neurons, blood vessels and complex organs which transverse an entire human being.  Obviously, a tremendous quantum of work was employed in constructing human beings. Perhaps, this work was performed because white cells coerced unempowered forces to build the human being.   Instead of augmenting the power of white cells, we should instead deconstruct the human being, i.e., tear him apart, because the human being’s very identity is based on the subjugation of powerless peoples, such as black cells.  This is the sort of stuff wrought by white cell imperialism.

 

This of course would not be out of character for the white blood cells.  They are, by nature, an especially hostile  and aggressive force which actually takes it upon itself to lash-out and attack microbes, innocent little microbes, who have had the poor luck to swim inside a human’s cavernous and formidable body.

 

And so we see that white blood cells are in all respects like the white race which they emulate, or which emulates them.  White blood cells actually are considered the chief component of something known as the body’s immune system, a feature of the body designed to protect the body from illness and infection and, if need be, to attack organisms which may invade the body.

 

The immune system is the quintessence of unreconstructed macho and, therefore, merits utter obliteration.  It is all on a par with Donald Rumsfeld;  it is our internal pentagon.  It is a war machine ruthlessly eating beef and milk and killing innocent infections that only want to invade us in the manor of phalluses invading orifices.  However, physicians – whose fealty to the white Order is so pronounced that they even wear white – who treat AIDS patients deem it imperative to buttress and defend the retrograde, patriarchal, immune system, replete with its legions of T 4 cells, and minions of other related white blood cells, that course through the vessels of a body with all the imperial haughtiness of the British Navy at the end of the Nineteenth Century.

 

Needless to say, peaceful coexistence with pathogens makes more sense.  In a politically just ecology, the immune system would wither away, and we would permit all manor of organisms to feast upon our bodies.  Yes, we might ooze with purulent pus and all manner of odiferous discharges, and various scabs might form encampments on our skin, and the entire process might make us so debilitated that we would not be up to doing anything other than smoking some marijuana, but in the general decay, the grand Byronesque Tubercular decadence of illness and disease, we would achieve a greater mystical oneness with the world.  Perhaps, the spherical streptococci bacteria will round-out the edges of our inhuman logical world.  Maybe, the curvaceous ambling of spiral-shaped treponema pallidum, the organism that causes syphilis, will put the vim and nuance of flirtatious sexuality into our barren worlds.  Instead of killing microorganisms, we should, in accord with our multi-culturalist faith, embrace them, usher them into our tent, and let them burrow deep within our lungs and gut.

 

But such farsighted attitudes have not begun to make a dent in most treatment facilities.  Just the other day, for example, I made a sojourn to the Cultured Capon Infirmary and Hospital in the Town of Barrenness Dowager Choate, and I encountered the most primitive, macho conceptions of medical practice.  In this institution, the medical people were all terribly keen on labeling, categorizing, and identifying the various infections their AIDS patients had succumbed to as a consequence of their compromised immunity.  As I reviewed the lists of infections that periodically visited the AIDS patients, I noticed that most of them had Latinate names.

 

Indeed, the nomenclature positively reeked of the Mediterranean.  The sounds and rhythms and cadences could have been gleaned from an Old Latin Mass.  This of course demonstrates another bias enfeebling AIDS care:  Our prejudice against Southern Europeans, in particular those Swarthy Italians.  The great preponderance of microorganisms are of Italian extraction, and our Northern European antipathy to all things Italian and Catholic have poisoned us with patent prejudice against microbes.

 

These microbes have other characteristics that arouse the bigotry of the medical community.  Microbes, it appears, cause elevated temperatures.  The medical community, marching in lock step, evincing all the regimentation of gray-suited Mc Carthyite inquisitors, have an abiding hatred of fever.  Indeed, I have not met a single doctor who thinks that  a high fever might be a nice, exciting thing.

 

Obviously, this hostility to fever is derivative of their hostility toward Italian and Latin culture.  The icy Protestant and Jewish patriarchs of our medical establishment fear all aspects of the Latin microbial world, and this includes a fear of their passion, their sexuality, and their zest for living.  Elevated temperatures are a feature of elevated passion, and this has merited the scorn and derision of the dour Medical community.

 

Along with elevated temperatures, many infections are associated with rashes.  Medicine’s histrionic reactions to rashes present a recapitulation of all the foregoing concepts.  First, the white bias is plainly in force.  When a rash mars a white face, it is detracting from that person’s whiteness, and if the scab is red, as so many of them are, it may be imparting a touch of the wild, red man, or the native American.  This instills terrors in the wards.  And the creeping, spreading nature of a rash, the way in which red blisters or sores pop-up and spread across the canvass of a face, represents the spread of red communism, and each red vesicle signifies another town, another besieged Berlin, under the sway of the red menace.  Alternatively, rashes are hated because they represent Latins.  This seems indisputable because rashes paint charming pizzas on peoples’ faces.  But the medical community, instead of surrendering to the delightful riot of nature, endeavors to live in world of logic and lines and order, and so it makes every effort to ban the rashes.

 

But medicine’s imperialistic bias does not stop with its assault on Communistic red rashes.  Diarrhea is a common symptom of AIDS, and medicine has unleashed its predictable fury on this venerable and inoffensive condition.  Really, what is so wrong with diarhea.  Because it smells?  The hostility to its odors evinces a hostility to the third world, where one’s nostrils are often greeted by a glorious cacophony of pungent fumes.  Unfortunately, medicine fails to see the anarchic and primal beauty of reeking feces erupting from withered bodies and wants only to instill order and sameness.  And in the course of furthering this regime of uniformity,  medicine does not even pay lip service to our liberal creed.  It blatantly values such things as sterility, claiming that many environments should be free of various microorganisms.  Medicine frankly admits that it is flatly opposed to microbial diversity.  But the multicultural richness connoted by the glorious mosaic of richly varied bowel movements is not the only thing animating the hostility to diarrhea.  It is also a function of plain old Anal retentiveness.

 

(I must beg the indulgence of the reader in using a term such as “anal retentiveness.”  I know that that was a concept coined by Freud, and hence usually verboten because Freud advocated patriarchal power.  I know one should only use his terms sparingly and with the greatest trepidation.  Unfortunately, I do find that the term “anal retentive” is apt even though Freud was a vile, reactionary, misogynist, Zionist pig in league with forces of reaction all over the globe.   Please, bitch feminist dominatrix amazon pseudo intellectual,   do not hang me by my balls from the ivied towers of Harvard College.)

 

Anal retentiveness is, of course, the tendency to hold one’s feces in, which, of course, is only a hop, skip and a paranoid leap of the imagination away from the tendency not to spend money and to be thrifty.  Very simply, anal retentive people hold their bowels in, and tend to be constipated, and this, obviously, facilitates their tendency to hold their money in their bank accounts.  Now diarrhea, by contrast, is nothing other that a jubilant, volcanic eruption against anal retentiveness.  One with  lose bowels explodes copious amounts of feces in toilets – and to, better express one’s deviation from bourgeois convention, one may also have bowel accidents in one’s pants, in one’s bed, etc. —  and spends large amounts of money for items great and small.

 

This tendency to spend large amounts of money is — must I spell it out — plainly liberal, or practically socialistic.  And so it is really very simple and conjoined by impeccable logic:  The medical establishment is against free-wheeling, free-spirited diarrhea because the tendency to move one’s bowels with great frequency is suggestive of the tendency to empty one’s wallets with great frequency and this, of course, makes one a tax and spend liberal or even a socialist.

 

But I can imagine another place.  A place where diarrhea might be celebrated.  A place free of the shackles of patriarchal, bourgeois medicine.  That beckoning beret on a hill must of course be Paris.

 

Copyright, David Gottfried, 2002


Five Reasons Why Jews Tend to Gravitate to the Left

 

Five Reasons Why Jews Tend to Gravitate to the Left

This document started-out as a letter to my Uncle which aimed to explain why many Jews identify with the Left.  As I started to write it, it dawned on me that I had a few penetrating concepts that, perhaps, should be heard by more than my uncle’s ears and that these ideas should be promulgated to the world at large.  (Yes, I know I sound nauseatingly full of myself.  But read-on and you shall be edified.)

 

Dear Uncle,

 

The other day you said to me that you wondered why so many Jews were situated on the left end of the political spectrum.  I think I’ve heard you speculate along those lines before.  (Sometimes, I think that when you mention the alleged misdeeds of Leftist Jews, you are, in a roundabout way, taking a snipe at me.)  In any event, you are not alone.  Lots of people have been annoyed by their perception that many Jews are radicals or socialists.  Many people have found Jewish sympathy for the left illogical and stupid.  They reason that since much of the left can been seen as anti-Semitic (latter day communists who were anti-Zionist, anti-colonialist Arabists, and advocates of affirmative action, a program that can only harm Jewish representation in higher education and the upper echelons of life since Jews tend to “outscore” all groups on standardized tests save, perhaps, Asians), Jews should not have much to do with the left.  Also, although Jewish income levels in the United States approximate those of Anglicans, Jews, it has been said, tend to vote like Roman Catholic Puerto Ricans.  And so people wonder:  Why are so many Jews so ardently left-of-center.  In this note, I will try to tell you why:

 

1)     We are idol smashers.

 

To a large extent, this has to do with what it means to be a Jew.  Being a Jew means being an idol-smasher.  The first Jew was Abraham.  His father’s profession was that of idol-maker.  Abraham looked at the assortment of idols that suffused his primitive world, and he ridiculed the BS.  He realized that inanimate heaps of wood and stone cannot govern the universe.  Abraham, very simply, asked questions, doubted and disparaged blind acceptance of tradition and authority.  Accordingly, the sort of person who is very Jewish is the sort of person who will shun reflexive deference toward conventional wisdom and will constantly venture-out, on his own, to find that which is really true.

 

Because Jews tend to ask questions and to doubt, they will ask questions of authority.  The Jewish proclivity for questioning those in power tends to make Jews more receptive to left of center thought.

 

Ironically enough, the most Jewish of the Jews will often find themselves alienated from their fellow Jews.  Because they decry herd-like acceptance of hoary customs and laws, they will continually find themselves at odds with their faith.

 

Consider the issue concretely, in the development of a Jew’s mind:  In good Jewish schools, a teacher will tell a group of five year olds, on the first day of class, a story of some sort.  Then he will ask his students to find the “Kasha,” or inconsistency, in this story.  This inculcates the development of a challenging, probing intellect.   And the legacy of this sort of education is the very radicalism that you despise.

 

The most Jewish of the Jews have always chafed at the boundaries of existent knowledge and belief, have always deviated from most Jews and from most other humans, have always been on the outskirts of what was deemed permissible or legal or prudent, and the most Jewish of the Jews have been traitors to their people and leaders of the world:  Jesus, Freud, Marx, Spinoza.

 

2)    The Multi-Thousand Year Dialectical Conflict Between Judaism’s Legal and Prophetic Traditions

 

I can just imagine your response to my use of the word Dialectical.  I can veritably visualize Diarrhea’s (My uncle’s wife is named Rhea; I find it pleasing to call her Diarrhea) eyes glaring with Queenly disdain:  David is using a Five Dollar Word because he is a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual asshole  (Of course, in certain precincts anyone who dares to think who isn’t worth more than a million dollars is automatically tagged with the term pseudo intellectual).  I use the word dialectical because a dialectic, as Hegal described it, is exactly what we have here.  A dialectic is this:  A phenomenon has within it the seeds of its own antithesis.  Example:  A) We feel love, B) We get really sick of loving that selfish bastard who hasn’t given squat in return and C) we finally feel hate towards that person whom we had loved.  In other words, love created its opposite, hate.  (Marx of course applied Hegelian dialectics toward material matters:  Rich people create their opposite, poor people, i.e., they become rich by making other people poor.)  Hegel also said that after the thesis, or original point of view, had created its opposite, or antithetical point of view, a synthesis would emerge.

 

In Judaism, long before the destruction of the second temple, there had been a civil war between the legal tradition and the prophetic tradition.  More specifically, the exacting, almost intellectually sadistic and punitive legal tradition had given birth to its antithesis:  The full-throated prophetic tradition calling-out for justice and helping the poor.  Occasionally, Jacobean strains in the prophetic tradition (Abbie Hoffman) incite a revitalized and furious right:  Think of Norman Podhoretz, writing the same thing for thirty years:  “I used to be a radical, and people like Norman Mailer and Lillian Hellman were once my friends, but I have finally become a grown-up Jewish burgher with respectably dreary and bourgeois points of view.”  Then, after having endured the sneering, smugness of the neo conservative years when Jews thought Bernie Madoff was G-d because he was rich (Hell, those rich bastards DESERVED to lose their money), many Jews voted for Obama (And he was a grand mistake, but we probably disagree as to why he was a mistake).  In any event, this is how the dialectic played itself out in Judaism between the legal and prophetic traditions.

 

A big part of Judaism is the Law.

 

(People often say that the Jewish contribution to civilization has been the law, but, being a lawyer, I don’t understand why the world should love us for having given it the law.  To me the Law is a means of using obfuscation, mental machinations and tricky language to shroud the truth and further injustice.  I could give you so many examples of the law being used to further injustice that I wouldn’t really know where to begin.  Just for the hell of it, I’ll tell you about the negative pregnant, a rule of law in Anglo-American jurisprudence that has, over the centuries, probably thrust millions of people into servitude and poverty.  This is an example of the negative pregnant:

 

A alleges:   B owes me one hundred dollars

B answers:  I don’t owe A one hundred dollars

Result:  B must pay A 99 dollars and 99 cents.

Reasoning:  The allegation, by B, that he did not owe 100 dollars was “Pregnant” with the admission that he owed all lessor sums of money.

 

The negative pregnant is, to my knowledge, no longer in force in any jurisdictions of the United States; the last hold-out for this ancient tenet was the deep South.  It is, incidentally, one of the reasons why lawyers often write documents with an obsessive-compulsive streak, forever wary and forever verbose.)

 

The law is, largely, all about the governance of commercial relations.  By contrast, Christianity sometimes is infused with a longing to transcend petty commercial squabbles and rise to a more spiritual plane.

 

(Of course, I am not saying that Christians are more honest than Jews.  After all, no one can beat the Vatican when it comes to playing the capitalist game.  In the era immediately preceding the Reformation, suckers all over Europe gave the Church oodles of gold because the Church had a racket known as the sale of indulgences.  Very simply, for X amount of Gold the priest could assure you entry to heaven, for 2X amount of money he could give you a package deal and get you, your wife, your mistress and your first born into heaven.  Shortly before the Reformation, one very rich Bishop gave a dinner party in which the silverware and plates were all composed of gold and silver. At the end of the party, the Bishop, to broadcast his wealth, threw all the gold and silver cutlery and dishes into the sea to make it known that he had plenty more of that stuff)

 

Judaism is suffused with all things commercial.  The Talmud, I have been told, seems at times like nothing but an arid treatise on contract law, replete with detailed and comprehensive analyses of every facet and permutation of a case in which a cow, costing x amount of money, fails to deliver milk.   Judaism, therefore, in many ways has little to do with the things that we normally think of when we think of religion.  It is, supposedly, not much interested in the metaphysical; it is deeply pragmatic and seeks to govern and define all of our day to day affairs, many of which are commercial.

 

Some of us get a little ill when religious study seems just like Law school.  Actually, I first started to think about this and related issues when I heard a man, on line at a bank, say that Law school is liar school.

 

(This reminds me of my reaction formation theory of the professions.  A reaction formation is a state of affairs in which one tries to conceal one’s socially unacceptable tendencies by purporting to believe in, or aspire to, the reverse of that tendency, e.g., one tries to conceal one’s desire to be a drag queen by purporting to be like John Wayne.  In the professions, reaction formations play out as follows:  a) If you want to make people feel stupid, you conceal this unsavory desire by purporting to want to educate people, and you become a teacher, where the high point of your day is screaming at a student and telling him he is stupid, b) if you want to drive people crazy, you become a psychiatrist (Results from the Eyesenck study:  Two-thirds of neurotics who don’t go to therapy get better over time, but only 44 percent of those neurotics who go to analysts get better), c) if you want to hurt people physically, you become a doctor: e.g., i. the first class of anti-neoplastic drugs were derived from the mustard gas of World War One; ii) Electro Convulsive Shock Treatment was introduced to Bellevue straight from Mussolini’s Italy; iii, 100,000 Americans die every year from infections contracted in the hospital; iv) a doctor from the Mayo Clinic Warns that this country will have 25,000 additional cancer deaths per year because of CT scans, which emit 400 to 500 times as much radiation as a chest x ray.  Finally, if you want to lie and deceive, you become a lawyer and the best lawyers are those who lie with greatest ease and avidity, e.g., the OJ Simpson defense team.)

 

Some of us think that not only the Law, but also that which it tries to protect and manage, namely commercial activity, is also all about lying.  After all, what is the essence of the capitalistic act:  Taking a piece of dreck worth 10 dollars and convincing a poor shnook that it is really worth 50 dollars.

 

In any event, the legal tradition of Judaism inspired the prophetic tradition:  Damn your legal equivocations and distortions.  Take from the rich and give to the poor.  The Jewish drive to the left is inspired by the Prophetic strain of Jewish life.  Judaism, I have often thought, has some of the biggest and most successful capitalists, and this has birthed our tendency to have the biggest communists, e.g.,Leon Trotsky.

 

3)    The Legacy of Pesach  (Passover)

 

One of our cardinal holidays is Pesach, when we commemorate our freedom from slavery.  Is it really that very hard to understand why Judaism sparks an identification with, or at the very least sympathy for, people who are persecuted.  Perhaps this is hard to understand for those whose Judaism is what Kahane called “mere gastro intestinal Judaism” (a Judaism that revolves around Eastern European cooking);

 

[Incidentally, from what I have read, I sense that gastrointestinal Judaism might help explain why Jewish women are so often so adept at dominating Jewish men.  Before the enlightenment, many, many Jewish people were extremely pious, and truly believed in G-d, and worshipped with real authenticity.  Science could not do that much (There was no electricity, no cars, no penicillin) There were no implements to help us determine that the earth was billions of years old.  There was only the beastly Tzar, and our sustaining faith.

 

Judaism was also something that was largely dominated by men.  Only men could become Rabbis, only men prayed – women cooked instead of going to shul. When Jews came to America, many very quickly chucked their Judaism because through assimilation and deracination they could make a mint.  Almost overnight, our religion declined in importance.  Since our religion was a male thing, the decline of the faith prompted the decline of men’s self-esteem.  Consider Passover Sedars:  In the past, the Sedar meal was enjoyed, but it was accompanied by something more important than the ingestion of brisket:  The recitation of the Haggadah, or story of our bondage and liberation from Egypt.  There were roles for both sexes:  Women cooked a sumptuous meal[1], and men told the Passover story.  After Jews became Americanized, and lost their faith, the prayers were forgotten, although most families still had a child ask the Four Questions.  But the Father who answered the four questions was now mute. In this modern and vacuous appreciation of Pesach, men were sort of useless and had no role, while the mothers and Grandmothers were lauded for the simple feat of wadding food with a whole lot of cholesterol and calories.]

 

In any event, Passover induces sympathy for the oppressed, downtrodden and poor.  When I hear some people say that Jewish leftism makes no sense, I tend to think that these people, even if they are observant Jews, have serious deficits of Jewish knowledge.

 

 

4)    From the French Revolution until the 1950’s, an era once satirized by the phrase, “Allen Dulles, Henry Luce, GOP hypotenuse”

 

 

From the time of the French Revolution until, perhaps, the Sinai crisis of 1956, when the Soviet Union assumed an unequivocally hostile stance toward aggression against Egypt, the left and the Jews were on the same side in almost all European conflicts.

 

The Church was of course anti-Semitic and the Church was the prime defender of the ancien regime.  Through doctrines like the divine right of kings, which held that the King is the King because that is what G-d wants, Christianity buttressed autocracy and repression.   Those who sought to demolish aristocratic privilege tended to despise Christianity because it aided the aristocracy and this engendered a natural sympathy, for the Jews, among revolutionary factions.  Consider Marx’s ode to the Paris Commune:  “Compare these Parisians, storming Heaven, with the slaves to Heaven of the German, Prussian, Holy Roman Empire, with their posthumous masquerades, reeking of the Church, of the barracks, of cabbage Junkerdom, and above all, the philistine.”  The revolution will not wait for Heaven; the revolution seeks justice now whereas reactionary German Christians will bow down to their masters and believe that their salvation will be had in some heaven that none of us have ever glimpsed.

This alignment between the Left and Jewry continued during the early days of the Bolshevik revolution:   An inordinate proportion of Communist agitators were Jews, most of Hungary’s leading Bolsheviks (Bella Kuhn and company) during the post WWI communist insurrection were Jews, Germany’s post WW1 Bolshevik revolution was run by the Jewish Pole Rosa Luxembourg and in the 1930s and 1940’s the Jewish affinity for the left made all the sense in the world because the Left was at war with Fascism and Nazism.  For example, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, there were two Polish undergrounds – one for communists and one which was backed by London.  The Polish Home Guard, which took London’s lead, for the most part handed Jews, in hiding, over to the Nazis and did nothing to help the Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. By contrast, the Polish Peoples Guard, which was associated with Moscow, sent radiograms to Moscow regarding the uprising and the Red Army bombarded German Positions which were harassing the Ghetto.(I don’t know how this was done because during April of 1943 no Soviet troops were anywhere near Warsaw.)

[Incidentally, some people who say that Jews should not be on the left allege that Soviet armies were inert while the Nazis destroyed the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto.  This is LIBEL.  The Jewish Ghetto was destroyed in 1943, and the Soviets rendered some aid.  In 1944, the Soviet army idled on the East bank of the Vistula River while Christian Warsaw (essentially reactionary Catholics who hated the Soviets and the Jews), which had done nothing to help the Jews of the Ghetto, was destroyed by the Nazis.]

After world war two, London was opposed to the creation of the Jewish state and actively aided the Jordanian and Egyptian armies in attempting to strangle the nascent Jewish state in the cradle.  America gave no aid, whatsoever, to the Jews.   Russia, however, supplied Israel with oil and the communist block, particularly Prague, was for the most part Israel’s only source of weaponry.  Until 1967, the membership of the Soviet Academy of Science was two-thirds Jewish.

The Jews, very simply, had an alignment with the left that lasted for almost two-hundred years.  Such old friendships do not die overnight.

5)    Alfred Kazin’s  unmerited happiness

 

Many people in your generation looked at the supposed savagery of the Jewish Radicalism of the 60’s, which is still with us although to a markedly muted degree, and concluded that younger Jews had an almost animalistic, primitive radicalism.  You guys felt revulsion towards the social as well as the political radicalism of the hippies and the yippies, the drugs, the long hair, and the student strikes that started in Berkeley and sooner or later spread to every good university in the nation.

 

Many of these young leftist Jews may have seemed anti-Semitic because their exultation of youth was like a kick in the shins to our elders, who were of course Jewish.  And some conservative Jews were horrified, noting that such anti-semitism was especially grotesque so soon after the holocaust.  However, the holocaust is precisely what made younger Jews so radical in the sixties.

 

We looked at our American elders and all we could think of was one thing:  What did they do to try to stop the Holocaust.  We found that in most cases, they – with the exception of Jewish men who fought as soldiers —  did absolutely nothing.   They were far too busy trying to make it in America, trying to conform to White Protestant norms, trying to kiss the asses of the goyishe teachers in school, trying to get good grades, trying to become part of what William James called the American National Obsession, worshipping at the altar of the bitch goddess success, to care about anyone but themselves.  And this was conservatism and this was capitalism, caring about no one but yourself, and it was conducive to the Holocaust because if Jews had devoted less time to their financial interests, and more time toward their European brethren, more Jews would have been saved.   And we hated our conservative elders because they seemed so self-satisfied with things that were immaterial, they would eat kugel and look at younger Jews and plead for inactivity and passivity and we had contempt for their passivity, which, we reasoned, is why six million died.

 

I remember when I was very young I, like many other little children, showed in inordinate interest in the oddities and differences in strangers.  At times, I spoke about what I saw.  My Grandmother used to respond to me by saying, MYOB, mind your own business.  But I thought that minding one’s own business was the primary problem with life.  That was why my Father had died (He reputedly was choking on his food in a restaurant for several minutes while no one intervened) and that was why six million had died.   And so I wanted to shun and shuck all  the conformist and conservative behaviors that one might associate with the MYOB mode of behavior.

 

But I by no means saw this lack of sympathy only in my relatives.  This was reflected, for example, in Philip Roth’s novel “My Life as A Man,” which revolves around, in its opening scenes, a Jewish hotel in the Catskills in the 1940’s.  The author shows us a bunch of Jews having a fun-filled time in the Summer.  And I wonder:  What the fuck is so funny if it is 1943 and millions of Jews are facing extermination.  And why do the Jews of the novel have such a tolerant view of the Jewish guy who allegedly got out of army duty for fraudulent reasons when it seemed clear that every Jew should have done his duty toward Judaism, and the United States, by willing to fight for Uncle Sam.   And I find this lack of care evident in Alfred Kazin’s autobiographical book ‘New York Jew.”  This book, in large measure, is one prosaic Ode to the intellect of Alfred Kazin.  At the beginning of the book, Kazin recounts his ecstatic happiness in the early 1940s:  A great work of his is published and received great criticism, he moves from parochial Brooklyn to cosmopolitan Manhattan, and he is invited to all the really right cocktail and dinner parties where the pampered and erudite guests ferociously argue about Communism and Fascism all hours of the night.  And upon reading this, I want to stab Kazin:  What was left to be argued about after the Wehrmacht.  There was only one think to do, join the marines, or the royal air force or the red army. The extreme radicalism of young, leftist Jews can be traced to an overwhelming revulsion for complacency and passivity in the face of evil.

 

And so I always wondered what you guys were doing in 1942.  And this is why I became contemptuous of you and this is why I became radical.


[1] I have a weird idea:  I have often thought that a staple of Pesach, Kenadelah, or matzho ball soup, violates Pesach dietary laws.  During Pesach, we are not supposed to eat leavened products, or products that have risen (e.g., bread) in the process of cooking because when our ancestors fled from Egypt they had no time to bake bread, which of course rises.  However, Matzoh balls grow, or in other words rise, in the process of cooking.  They double in diameter after being cooked in boiling water.  Actually, I think they may contain baking soda and baking powder, the classic leavening agents of cakes.  Matzoh balls are thus a leavened product and should not be deemed Kosher for Pesach. I have been told I am wrong.  I would like to know why.


Where were the Helicopters?

 

 

 

WHERE WERE THE HELICOPTERS?

 

As we all hail our recently departed Mayor, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, a man almost uniformly decreed as the greatest thing since sliced bread, we might wish to pause and ask one nagging, little question:  Where were the helicopters?

 

In 1993, at time of the first attack on the World Trade Center, I distinctly recall that helicopters were summoned to remove people from the apex of Tower One.  At the time of the second assault, the need for such imaginative measures were infinitely greater. And, at the time of the second strike, the use of helicopters would not have taken such a great imagination since they had already been employed in 1993, when Mr. David Dinkins was Mayor of New York.

 

Usually, I think there is something masochistic or at least plainly pathological in compulsively viewing film footage of horrid occurrences, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the wasted bodies of Nazi concentration and death camp victims, and the starving children of so many sites in the world.  However, I think it is time, perhaps, to look again at the World Trade Center video recordings – hopefully without soundtracks of commentators waxing hysterical with hyperbolic, hagiographic exaltations of Giuliani – and  to think.

 

Very simply, the film footage shows that many of the floors of both towers, which were above the areas of impact, were not engulfed in flames. The people situated in the upper reaches of the Towers suffered deaths that were far from instantaneous and perhaps, in many cases, avoidable.  For example, in Tower Two the area of impact extended, I believe, from the 78th to the 84th floors.  Most of the people above the 90th floor, or at the very least above the 95th floor, were not immediately convulsed in heat and smoke and holocaust.  There was time.  They could not descend the stairs (One small exception existed in Tower Two where, I believe, about eighteen people were able to traverse the floors that were hit by the plane) because they could not walk through horrific fire.  But they could have risen to the roof, and the City of New York should have risen to the occasion.

 

Of course the victims could not have been expected to ascend to the zenith of the Towers unless they had some reason to believe that helicopters would come to secure their rescue.  But the City of New York, armed with historical memory, of what it had done in 1993,  should have sent helicopters to the roofs of the Towers, and perhaps to the upper windows of the Towers. The Towers could have been transformed from an immense crematorium to an edifice of salvation, festooned with helicopters in the sky like a Christmas Tree in lights – and then, perhaps, I would have been able to celebrate my allegedly infinitely ingenious and brilliant City this past Christmas.

 

Perhaps my metaphors are somewhat misplaced and fanciful.  But I fail to see the flaw in the fundamental idea.   When I have voiced this idea, some people, wedded to the doctrine of mayoral infallibility, speculated that only a few helicopters would have been available for rescue.  Other people told me that there “wasn’t enough time” to assemble helicopters.  Such ruminations are absurd:  New York is the greatest City in the only Superpower in the World; I know of at least one heliport that was less than two miles from the World Trade Center; and the Towers were standing tall well over an hour after they were struck.  There was ample time to amass our ample strength and to send squadrons of helicopters to the Towers.  Some people have told me that the idea of helicopters in the sky – at times engulfed in billowing smoke, besieged with too many fleeing and clinging office workers, and perhaps occasionally charred by the outreaching flames – is a picture of chaos and mayhem and disorder.  But rescue situations are, by definition, somewhat messy.  I do not think they are ever easy.  I do not think the element of danger can ever be avoided.

 

And indeed the men of the uniformed services of the City of New York never shirked their duty; they walked bravely into danger.  And hundreds of them died.  I feel only grief for the privates in this army who are dead.  They followed their leaders with all the elan of European  soldiers in 1914.  But their leaders seemed to have had all the hubris and mental mediocrity of those leaders of 1914.  Instead of sending so many men into the buildings and the very clutches of death, they should have been putting helicopters into the air.

 

But I suppose my reasoning must be deemed fallacious.  After all, Giuliani is a pugnacious and pragmatic Republican with a knack for anything relating to Law Enforcement.  And  although we witnessed a decline in crime, in New York, in the last two years of the administration of David Dinkins, we all know, just intuitively know, that since David Dinkins was a liberal Democrat, and a black and bland liberal Democrat at that, he must have had some congenital inability to grasp anything in, or remotely related to, the field of law enforcement.  And so with this facile and racist generalization, my starry idea of helicopters in the sky will, I suppose, flicker away and be forgotten.

 

Copyright, David Gottfried, 2001

 

 

 


The Brutality of the New Testament

 

 

 

According to Christian theology, Jesus died for our sins.  His suffering and death supposedly satisfies some moral calculus that commands that sin be paid for with blood and guts.

 

At the same time, Jesus was the quintessence of innocence.

 

And so Christian Philosophy implies that God is a brutal mad man:  He requires the spilling of blood, but he will be perfectly satisfied if innocent blood, in the form of his son, is spilled.

Very simply there is no reasonable, logical reason why an innocent person, namely Jesus, should be crucified because of the sins of others.  Christianity would make sense to me if it said that the way to heaven was good works on earth.

Of course the idea of spilling guilty blood is completely alien to Christianity.  Only innocent people are bludgeoned. And so  the Roman conquerors are not to be disturbed.  Jesus counsels that we render unto Ceaser that which belongs to Ceaser, which is apparently just about everything.  This is a philosophy that is made to comfort and buttress the reigns of all Kings, Emperors and tyrants.  And so Europe gave us the divine right of kings and the letter de cache, and imperial Courts horded wealth, the peasants starved, and the Jews were made to bear the guilt of the imperious nobility.

And so what do we do when evil rears its head.  We must exact punishment.  But we needn’t attack the guilty party.  Any innocent will do.  And so Jesus dies, although he is innocent, and this gratuitous act of violence supposedly does the trick.  And years later Europe will simply kill Jews, to kill additional innocents to make their murderings in sync with the death of the first innocent, Jesus.  And so Christianity inculcates a yearning to find scapegoats because, it believes, that if an innocent is debased and punished — and we accept the idea that he dies for our suns — our sins are expunged.

 

Copyright, David Gottfried, 2012


Murder and the Bible

The old testament is a fantastic, mad story, but in its evocation of the most incisive and pitiful truths, it is like a mad shaman who screams with psychotic ideation ala LSD while glimpsing the stellar hells of our lives.

The second major story in the Bible, in which humans interact, is the story of Cain killing Abel.   It is the story of murder.  All the sins ensue from this murder.  The bible is primarily meant to tell us this:  Do not kill your Brother.

The primacy of murder in the order of events in the bible is meant to reveal the primacy of hate and aggression and murder as our moral culprits.