Saturday, June 06, 2009

"I don't believe in western morality"

The previous post contains a link to this page, which contains what I consider to be reasonable discourse from various rabbis. When I posted the link, I had not yet read down to the final offering, from a Rabbi Friedman of Chabad. These words are all very striking, especially the opening sentence:
I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.

The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).

The first Israeli prime minister who declares that he will follow the Old Testament will finally bring peace to the Middle East. First, the Arabs will stop using children as shields. Second, they will stop taking hostages knowing that we will not be intimidated. Third, with their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that G-d is on their side. Result: no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.

Zero tolerance for stone throwing, for rockets, for kidnapping will mean that the state has achieved sovereignty. Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.
Rabbi Friedman later published a semi-retraction, no doubt because someone clued him into the fact that he had posted his monstrous words in a public place, where the goys might read them. But I think that his original statement reflects his truest self -- the toothpaste cannot be re-tubed -- and that his sentiments do indeed represent the feelings of many other Jews. Not all, not most, but many, and a growing percentage.

Increasingly, I see a distinction between the Judaism I knew growing up -- the Judaism which produced Albert Einstein, Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud, Stanley Kubrick, Will Eisner, Arthur Miller and many other exemplars of western culture -- and a vicious new Judaism. This new Judaism never has and never will produce an Einstein or a Mahler. This new Judaism despises western culture.

Look again at the opening words of the Rabbi's statement.

Look again at those earlier posts which discuss Israeli writers who use the term "western culture" derisively.

For many years, we've been told that Israel represents an outpost of "the west" in a region inhospitable to American and European cultural values. But is it? What I call "old Judaism" was perhaps the finest thing to be found in the west -- the conscience of the west. What I call "new Judaism" is, as the Rabbi himself admits, not western at all. It is something alien. It is Other. An Israel suffused with the spirit of New Judaism bears much less resemblance to European values than does, say, a cosmopolitan city like Beirut.

Hitler had dissociated himself from traditional Western morality. When Rabbi Friedman says that he does not believe in Western morality, he is saying that he despises what Hitler despised, and that he embraces the vile new "morality" that Hitler sought to impose upon the world.

Friedman: "The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children..."

Change the words "Jewish way" to "German way" and you have here the distillation of Hitlerism.

Rabbi Friedman may now want to suggest a difference between his views and Adolf's, but any attempt to do so at this point amounts to ex post facto sophistry, an attempt to talk his way out of an inescapable damnation. Sorry, Rabbi: You said the words and you cannot un-say them. You are, by your own declaration, not moral.

Compare Friedman's words to these, written by Ludwig von Mises back in 1940 -- and note, once again, the distinction between traditional western morality and a new morality which, unfairly, is here called eastern:
Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini constantly proclaim that they are chosen by destiny to bring salvation to this world. They claim they are the leaders of the creative youth who fight against their outlived elders. They bring from the East the new culture which is to replace the dying Western civilization.
It is a law of nature, they say, that great historic changes cannot take place peacefully or without conflict. It would be petty and stupid, they contend, to overlook the creative quality of their work because of some unpleasantness which the great world revolution must necessarily bring with it. They maintain one should not overlook the glory of the new gospel because of ill-placed pity for Jews and Masons, Poles and Czechs, Finns and Greeks, the decadent English aristocracy and the corrupt French bourgeoisie. Such softness and such blindness for the new standards of morality prove only the decadence of the dying capitalistic pseudo-culture.
Von Mises sounded many of the notes that I am trying to sound. Hitlerism pretended to defend the west even as it betrayed every decent thing to be found in western culture. We see a similar dichotomy between what I have called New Judaism (anti-western) and Old Judaism (pro-western.)

One factor differentiates the evils of the 1940s from the evils afflicting our present society: Religion. Rabbi Friedman believes that
Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.
This sounds like Nietzsche. The only difference is that Nietzsche categorized that "disastrous morality of human invention" as Jewish, while Friedman would use the word "Jewish" to describe his proposed alternative (pseudo-)morality. But that distinction is a matter of mere semantics; otherwise, both men are alike in condemning what Nietzsche called "slave morality." Might makes right, and violence is an absolute good. Anyone who preaches anything else preaches weakness.

Friedman differs from Nietzsche in one major way: The Rabbi claims that his "might makes right" weltanschauung has God's stamp of approval. This appeal to the supernatural distinguishes 21st century barbarity from the varieties predominant in early 20th or the late 19th. Like Friedman, the vile Christian Dominionists and Islamic jihadists argue that their disgusting philosophies have divine sanction.

Well, if we must confront the topic of religion, then let's do it.

"New Jews" (as I have defined the term) like Friedman spurn western morality by dictate of their tribal war god, whose name they are forbidden to utter. Of course, a restriction which Jews may fairly apply to co-religionists does not apply to me. Their god bears the name of yod-heh-vav-heh, which was probably pronounced Yahu. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Think of that name as "Ya-HOOOOO!" -- a war-shout which will be remembered fondly by any kid who grew up reading Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (which was created by a couple of wonderfully talented Jews, I might add).

For the ancient Hebrews, that name served pretty much the same function it held for Sgt. Fury: It was a battle-cry to be uttered while shedding blood.

A close reading of the Bible demonstrates that the Hebrews were not originally monotheists (although some modern rabbis may pretend otherwise) but monolatrists, as defined here. Yahoo (my preferred transliteration) was not originally conceived as a transcendent, mystical entity. He was basically a brutish, ax-wielding killer-god like Ares, only stupider. Over time, Jews redefined Yahoo, spruced him up, made him look presentable in mixed company. The retarded brother of Ares became, at first, a God-in-chief like Zeus. Later still, the name Yahoo was dropped, and the Jews embraced the concept of a God who was an Inconceivable Something, immeasurably greater Zeus.

The Bible stitches together those very old tales of Yahoo and later writings about that transcendent Inconceivable Something. The stitches are pretty obvious when you look for them.

Alas, the old tales of Yahoo the Bloodthirsty Brute remained codified in scripture and sacralized by tradition. See, for example, the book of Joshua: That, more than any other, is Yahoo's book. As long as that disgusting scripture is considered holy, the spirit of the primeval war-god will continue to haunt us all -- Jew, Christian and Moslem.

Every time a warrior smiles as he guts an enemy, he does so at the behest of Yahoo.

Old Jews (again, as I have defined that term) have always seemed to view those gruesome ancient tales of Yahoo as vaguely embarrassing holdovers from a hazy past -- as folklore. Old Jews prefer the impossible task of trying to find words to describe that Inconceivable Something. New Jews don't bother to make the attempt: They worship the old god, the original god, the tribal god, the god of the book of Joshua, the god of gore.

As long-time readers know, my own religious inclinations come from that strange realm between agnosticism and Gnosticism. (Those who would accuse me of anti-Semitism should keep in mind that the inventors of Gnosticism were Alexandrian Jews.) To the Gnostics, Yahoo was the god of evil, and they were not afraid to rewrite or to toss away those ancient writings which still bore his taint. In Gnosticism, the transcendent entity -- that Inconceivable Something Above Everything Else -- was not Yahoo, was nothing like Yahoo. In their legends, Yahoo had pretensions of transcendence, of being The Only One. But he was kidding himself.

To the Gnostics, Yahoo was a pre-moral brat who (unfortunately) possessed great power. Remember the nearly-omnipotent kid played by Billy Mumy in that old Twilight Zone episode? The one who would blink you "into the cornfield" if you thought bad thoughts about him? That is Yahoo. Or at least a version of him.

Yahoo is the vile deity worshiped by people like Rabbi Friedman and Jerry Falwell and Osama Bin Laden. Yahoo is the god of all fundamentalists. Yahoo is the reason why fundamentalists of every stripe -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim -- have set their faces against everything considered decent in the western tradition.

The Gnostics rejected Yahoo, preferring the goddess Sophia. The name means Wisdom. She was once popular among the ancient Hebrews, and you can still spot her spirit floating through various Biblical texts, if you know where to look. Great Jews like Einstein and Mahler never had anything good to say about Yahoo. But they seemed to have great respect for Sophia, even though they did not use that name.

You may know this deity better under another name: Athena. The goddess of Wisdom.

She has also been called a goddess of war. Actually, her metier was not battle (although she always fought in the forefront, when fighting was necessary) but strategy. Planning. She was, more importantly, the goddess of the arts, of craftsmanship and culture, of the olive tree and all that it implies.

Democracy was invented in her city.

According to legend, she planted the first olive tree on the Acropolis. As long as that olive tree survives, democracy will survive. Many tyrants -- including the Nazis -- have tried to uproot that tree, but the secret worshipers of Athena have always managed to replant it, using an offshoot of the original. It's still there; you can go to Greece and see it for yourself.

The temple of the war-god Yahoo, built by the evil Herod, was destroyed long ago. Do not mourn for it. Athena's temple, the Parthenon, still stands on the Acropolis. It has taken quite a beating, but much of it is still there. It provided the architectural and spiritual model for many other fine buildings, including our Supreme Court and the Madeleine Church in Paris. The city of Athena is the shining city on the hill.

I am a disciple of Athena. Although I may not believe in her literal existence, I can -- paradoxically -- feel her presence, at least when I am my best self.

I believe that the Parthenon is the cradle of the west, the birthplace of democracy, the temple of Wisdom. The culture of Athens gave us Phidias, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pericles, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Agatharchos -- the founders of our culture, the forebears of all that is civilized in the western tradition.

The elected leaders of Athens were ceremonially brought into the Parthenon, where the priestess of Athena (it's worth noting that Yahoo had priests, while Athena had priestesses and arrephoroi) told the politicians that they would lose all power if they ever lost respect for the rights of the citizens. I think we should have a ceremony of that sort nowadays.

I believe that all of the many sins of the western world -- the tyrannies, the mass murders, the racism, the enslavements, the long periods of ignorance and darkness -- were brought about not by men who worshiped the Goddess of Wisdom but by those who held her in contempt.

I still believe in her. And unlike the acolytes of the bloody Yahoo, I believe in western morality.


Snowflake said...

I personally am intrigued by Buddhism-which is also anti gay-hard to get away from that huh.

One of the observations of the Buddhists is that people tend to overreact. Without a balanced calm mind you can't begin to see reality.

Righteous indignation can easily become indignation which can easily become rage and then blind hate.

I dont think you are anti Semitic-I think you are motivated by a sense of justice. But you lose credibility by being all angry and not at all respectful for the good things Israel has done.

As far as cosmopolitan Arab countries-

Death as far as the eye can see.Cosmopolitan? Maybe. What cosmos are you referring to?

Anonymous said...

If you merely defeat rather than destroy your enemies you are just creating problems for the future. The most efficient way to resolve conflict is to gather your enemies into one place and dispose of them en mass so that you may take advantage of "economies of scale."

Poisons are efficient at killing in quantity without permanently contaminating the environment Gas formulations are both efficacious and easy to use.

I recommend Zyklon-B for accomplishing your final solution.

Adolph H

Anonymous said...

[Snowflake said...
I personally am intrigued by Buddhism-which is also anti gay-hard to get away from that huh.]

It might be hard to get away from it, if it were in fact true...but it's not. Some ects of Buddhism became "infected" (as it were) by the established laws, social norms and/or prevalent religions of the countries where those sects sprung up. However, as for Buddhism per se:

With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, primarily by the intention (cetana) behind them and the effect they have.

A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third precept, although this is not always understood in traditional Buddhist countries*.

Ven Shravasti Dhammika

Sergei Rostov

*(for example, this is commonly misunderstood in China or Tibet - SAR)

Zee said...

Joseph, a while back I almost posted here that we need terms to distinguish the extremists from the mainstream of the, Hasidics vs Jewish, Opus Dei vs Catholics, jihadists or taliban vs Muslim, constructionalists vs Christian, etc.

I was trying to think of a way to denounce and differentiate the fanatics, extremists and fundamentalists from the mainstream. I recently rethought this, and decided, no, the mainstream deserve to be tarred along with their extremists because they need to be the ones to speak up against their own kind...or else suffer being lumped along with them.

However, I think you do a huge disservice to yourself for not distinguishing this. And...I think you're being swept up into something that very much is going to become anti-Semitic and that it's going to be a mainstream media-driven frenzy not unlike Obamamania. The Widdershins has been tracking this...not in their posts but in some of the comments. Following odd slants and omissions in AP, CNN, etc.

Meanwhile, here:

It's a Jewish commentator lamenting that Friedman has any following at all amongst any secular Jews, and compares him rightly with Rush Limbaugh. Hasidic Jews are like the Taliban faction of Islam. They are not "new" and this is nothing "new"--- there is no "new Judaism" and it is horrifying to see this suggested. Hell, I've detested Hasidic Judaism for ages, from the minute I knew about it. What's not to detest? They make women sit separate from them, and are not supposed to touch an "unclean" (menstruating) woman etc. I hate that crap and for years fantasized about touching the bearded creeps when I was "unclean" --- but, haha, I chickened out when fate put three of them within arm's reach at the perfect time!

Maybe the entire world would be justified in denouncing all of Americans for the actions of Bush-Cheney and the words of Rush Limbaugh. Maybe they would be justified in saying "this is a vicious new America" which despises justice and relishes torture.

If you think so, your column here is in line. And you should write, "This new America will never produce another Jefferson, another MLK."

But since Hasidic Jews are the ones that the "new" Jews, the secular Jews, broke off from ages ago, it is absurd to say "this new Judaism" won't produce another Einstein or Mahler or Kubrick. Of course. Because they are the Old Judaism, not the new. They never did produce the Einsteins or Kubricks and it stands to reason they aren't going to start now.

What's "new" is this cherry picking of drunk college kids and bearded Old Torah types and saying "look what the Jews are turning into..."

Actually...that's not new, either. But it's a pernicious meme and I would ask you to take a step back and another look and I hope, also, that more Jews speak up against any rising tide of extremism...but given that our own voices and our own protests were drowned out when the Bush-Cheney regime took over (and again more recently, against Obamamania), I'm not going to say that the equivalent didn't exist over in Israel when their right-wingers took over, and the same here. Because I never looked into it. The one link I found and posted here may represent an entire community of Jews who follow this and denounce their own Rush Limbaughs. Why not aid and amplify those voices instead? Or at least, also.

In other words, stand with and help amplify those who deplore the rightwing rise instead of lamenting that they're doomed and the loudmouth whackos mean they'll never produce any more greats!

Yeah, it sucks that they included the loudmouthed old school whackko in the line-up of discussion by other rabbis...but if that means the rise of a "New Judaism" that will never produce any more great citizens, how does that bode for Americans in general when we have the likes of Joe Scarborough, Glenn Beck, Olbermann, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, etc., on our airwaves daily?

Joseph Cannon said...

Zee, in part when I drew the distinction between New Judaism and Old, I really meant new to ME. I mean, I always thought of Jews as being like the guys I knew growing up. I didn't know that creeps like Friedman existed -- at least, not until Kahane was thrust into the spotlight.

But I do think that the spirit motivating both Friedman and Kahane represents a growing force within American Judaism, and within the Israeli body politic. There's lots of evidence to support that notion.

Anonymous said...

I followed the link to In the Moment and the "retraction" by Rabbi Friedman. It was the comments section that provided the real eye-opener. Whereas there were many who expressed outrage at what the Rabbi had said, supposedly on behalf of Chabad, there were a goodly amount of comments that enthusiastically embraced his statements, especially "Larak" who recommended among other things, painting Moslem holy sites with menstrual blood.

I'll have to go with Mr. Cannon on this - this is "New Judaism" (meaning new to me!)


Snowflake said...

I like the Tibetan form of Buddhism and I like the Dalai Lama. I dont feel threatened by him on this issue the way I do by Pat Robertson but I do feel sad about it.

I do view Buddhism as largely a positive force and can separate out portions that disappoint me.

Anonymous said...

I always found the Jews I knew/know to almost always be pleasant, reasonable, tolerant, patient, accepting of human foibles and much more relaxed/less uptight than say, Lutherans (compare your average rabbi to your average Lutheran minister - oof!), or anyone else except Catholics (for many years I was the only non-Catholic in my neighborhood).

As far as the mainstream vs. extremes (or leadership), a good friend of mine says that "if the Vatican were to disappear, the Church would become way more liberal". Mainstream Catholics (in my experience) do speak out, but in the way Christians were commanded to by Jesus: do not judge (that is only for God to do), but instead, live your life
according to your beliefs, in other words, speak out by example.
Seems to me a lot of people (Christians or otherwise) do this.

Sergei Rostov

dragoneyes said...

Love the way you play with spiritual symbolism and philosophy... and your references to the various gods and goddesses... I also have great admiration for the "qualities" of Athene and have a Statue of Liberty in my garden as an aspect of her for America.

Yahoo is too funny... I always thought it was Yahweh, pronounced yah-way. Like your pronunciation better ;-)

What are your thoughts on the Shekhinha as a type of goddess in some sects of Judaism?

Zee said...

Sergei, really? Lutherans? No clue...I have not read up on them, not do I know any, but there is a Lutheran church near me and they have the darned CUTEST messages out in front on their lit up bulletin board. So, I'm a little surprised and dismayed to hear they might be hard liners.



"...represents a growing force within American Judaism, and within the Israeli body politic. There's lots of evidence to support that notion."

Joseph, agreed. Totally. In fact, it's something that has horrified me about Israel for a long while...and it has horrified my Israeli relatives.

My point is that there are plenty of Jews horrified by this...just as there have been Americans horrified since 2000 by the rightwing, corporate, neocon takeover here. And that while none of us make sweeping condemnations of "new Americans" because we *know* some of us have been fighting tooth and nail and protest body and blog word ---we simply do not know if the same unsung effort has been made in the Jewish community.

The link I provided had one such sotto voice, lamenting that any secular Jew would give a platform to that Old Torah creep.

And since I am not the only one who has noticed an actual media campaign to blur this distinction and to rewrite history, I finally spoke up to give you a word to the wise. If it is not sufficient I will blame myself for lacking the sophistication to explain what I mean.

But I have a feeling you will explore on your own some of the directions I mentioned. Because you can do nuance as well as broad strokes of truth and because it matters to you to grasp all the undercurrents.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me for you, in short order, to be able to articulate what it is I wish I could now lay out in indisputable detail.

It definitely has caused me to rethink my stance on blaming the mainstream for the excesses of the extreme/fundamentalists.

But if the meek are going to inherit...or save... the earth, they need to speak up, as in yesterday!

Joseph Cannon said...

drogoneyes, if you're reading this...

The Yahu pronunciation is not just my idea of humor. (But the spelling "Yahoo" IS.)

As you surely know, YHWH was spelled without vowels in old Hebrew, and the Jews lost the original pronunciation.

But what many people don't know is that there was a Jewish colony established on the island of Elephantine in Egypt, on the Nile river. A temple -- not a synagogue: A second temple -- to YHWH was built there. The thing was probably built before the Babylonian captivity.

This means that Elephantine was home to a very old form of Judiasm. Much of what we call the Old Testament was written, or at least codified, during the period in Babylon.

There was much interaction with non-Jews and non-Jewish religions on Elephantine. Thus, there were -- and are -- ancient documents written in languages that had actual vowels.

These documents refer to the temple as the temple of Yahu. He shared the place with the goddess Anath. There is even a suggestion that Anath was Yahu's main squeeze.

Yep, Judaism was REAL different back in the old, old, old days. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Yahu might have been a shortened form of Ya-hoo-wah, something like that. You can see how that might have functioned as a fearsome war cry, something screamed by the ancient Hebrews as the soldier poured down onto their enemies.

As I said: Yahu was just a stoopid version of Ares.

Check it out: Go to Google and type in "Yahu" and "elephantine" and maybe "Egypt." You might also want to look up a book called the Hebrew Goddess by a guy named Petai. (I think that is the title. It's been a while since I looked this stuff up.)